Surprises at this year’s Bayimba arts festival

04:14 by Kaggwa Andrew
For a long time, many city event organizers have been attacked for deliberately promoting central based talent at the expense of those in regions outside Kampala.
For instance, it’s basically unheard of to see a national celebration in Kampala where an artiste from Jinja or Lira is programmed to be one of the key acts.
Yet, it’s what the Bayimba International Festival of the Arts did while they debuted their seventh season at the National Theater on Friday.
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 extravaganza.
But it wasn’t just her, the festival goers were serenaded by many first timer bands like Unit 446 and Sifa Kelele.
The two bands had two things in common; both commanded by ladies and their amazing vocal ranges.
Unit 446 had freelance vocalist and tourist Jemimah Sanyu and Oh! Sifa Kelele had Eva Sebunya and Elaine Driciru.
“What on earth is Unit 446 and who the hell is Sifa Kelele?,” was the question by a reveler about the two bands.
And there was no better way to answer such naysays than with two thrilling performances.
When they got their time on that stage; they came, they sang and we were conquered.
Sifa Kelele a predominatly girl band this time exploited their male members especially on the bass guitar and the drums.
Their had been a lot of anticipation that they would bring the full diva force on the entire band because it’s their biggest X factor, but they instead only had Bridget Kitimbo on the keys, none of the organic instruments was on set too.
But this didn’t deter the music, from the beginning, it was an onslaught with Band Anthem, Obulamu bwa kisera, Here we go, Beautiful and Boggie Woggie.
“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 Theater packing lot on fire with Niwe Weka.
Originally done on a bow lyre, Niwe weka is a song about a girl’s love for Jesus, the slow ballad is infectious with an acoustic feel from the traditional instrument, it fuses beautifully with the xylophone whose sound weaves through the music to create a wonderful smell of the rhythm – on stage however, it was done on a solo guitar.
Then there was Nalinya, 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 over shadowed her prowess, armed with a guitar, he made girls fall over each other with stripped versions of Twetolola, Akaweta and Jangu ewange.
But Hajji Haruna Mubiru, not the best performer of the opening night but indeed a shocker; most festival goers tend to look down at such artistes, in a stareo type of thinking; they believe they can’t handle such a stage.
Haruna however didn’t disappointed, his vocals, band and timing were right as he did Yegwe, Ticket, Mbela Nkola and Binyuma.
“Haruna has surprised us,” said one of the revelers.
Bayimba is not just the music though, other spaces like the Kyoto celebrated culture with local brew and local drums, yet Bukedde’s famed Zubairi Family shared a stage with Matia Kakumirizi, a kadongo kamu veteran.
The festival closed yesterday with more performances and showcases by over 100 artistes from different African countries.

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