Often, many city event organizers have been blamed for ignoring upcountry artistes and deliberately promoting Kampala-based talents.
And rarely would one expect to see a celebration in Kampala where an artiste from Jinja or Lira is programmed to be one of the key acts. Yet, this is what Bayimba International Festival of the Arts did while opening their seventh season at the National theatre last Friday. For instance, they chose not just a little-known but a relatively-new reggae and soul artiste, Sandra Namulindwa from Jinja to open the highly-billed three-day show.
And she was not alone. The festival-goers were entertained to many first timer bands like Unit 446 and Sifa Kelele. The two bands had two things in common: they are commanded by ladies and had amazing vocal ranges. Unit 446 had vocalist Jemimah Sanyu while Sifa Kelele had Eva Sebunya and Elaine Driciru.
“What on earth is Unit 446 and who the hell is Sifa Kelele?” one of the revellers wondered.
And very few people could answer such a question. But when they got their chance on stage, they sang and we were conquered. Sifa Kelele, a predominantly girls’ band, use their male members’ talent on the bass guitar and the drums to thrill the crowd. Their diva Bridget Kitimbo conquered on the keys. And they serenaded such songs as Obulamu Bwa Kiseera, Here We Go, Beautiful, and Boogie Woogie.
“Music is a very important part of my life and that’s the reason we write some of these songs,” said Driciru, before setting the National theatre’s packing lot on fire with Niwe Weka.
The song about a girl’s love for Jesus, but it is the slow ballad that is infectious with an acoustic feel from the traditional instrument – fusing beautifully with the xylophone that left everyone yearning for more. Then there was Naalinya Guuma, the lead single from their upcoming and debut album – Nankasa and Bakisimba drumbeats, marrying pop music.
Jemimah was amazing, but her co-lead singer Joshua overshadowed her prowess. Armed with a guitar, he made girls fall over each other with stripped versions of Twetolola, Akaweta, and Jangu Ewange. Hajji Haruna Mubiru, who was definitely not the best performer of the opening night, was a shocker. No one expected him to sing at the festival. Nonetheless, he was on point – his vocals, band, and timing were right as he did Yegwe, Ticket, Mbeera Nkola, and Binyuma.
“Haruna has surprised us,” said one festival fanatic.
Bayimba is not only about music. Other groups, such as the Kyoto, celebrated culture with local brew and local drums. Bukedde’s famed Zubairi Family shared a stage with kadongokamu veteran Matia Kakumirizi. Over 100 artistes from different African countries performed at the festival, which ended yesterday.