Festivals are in trouble but Bayimba must go on!

07:05 by Kaggwa Andrew
It has been a muddy ride for different festivals in Africa the past few years; with financial hardships, lack of support from many governments, to little belief in the arts from the cooperate Africa, most of the shows are generally at the brink of extinction.
For instance, East Africa’s most known festival Sauti Za Busara won’t be happening in 2016, after the organizers noted that they are having a shortage in the funding, earlier last year, Lief Music festival in South Africa had to postpone their 2014 edition to 2015, in 2014, the Festival au Desert in Mali was cancelled and the same year, another big festival where Uganda’s Naava Grey and Keko were slated to perform, Tribe One, was cancelled only months to the show.
Thus, as we went into the eight edition of Bayimba international Festival that started on Friday and ended last night, there were lots of speculations as to how it was going to play out.
Faisal Kiwewa, the director Bayimba Foundation says that festivals in Africa are not only suffering because of inflation but rather a fact that people have never thought about financing arts.
“In Africa, governments and foreign partners have not looked at festivals with a keen eye, for them such things are more about monetary returns and they see non,” he says.
Bayimba is a multidiscipline festival where revelers come to experience things like visual art, poetry, with a larger extent of music.
The programming for this year’s festival attracted a number of ethno contemporary acts like Joel Sebunjo alongside Aly Keita, Bado from Kenya, Daniel Okiror and Saba Zibula among others, but there were also some crowd pleasers from Uganda’s pop culture that included Radio and Weasel, Sheebah Karungi, Maddox Sematimba and gospel artist Levixone Lala.
National Theater, which has been the festival’s venue since the second edition was a hive of activities from 9am in the morning as the Foursum Drama group entertained Literature students with John Rugunda’s The Burden.
Much of the action started at 5pm when the likes of Kenneth Mugabi, Sirajhi Islamic Mataali and Maddox took to the stage.
Of course the numbers were not bad considering the fact that Maddox has a following and Mugabi is the kind that will force you to pay attention. But it was hard knowing whether many of these people had an idea of what the festival was about.
As Kiwewa puts it, arts is only picking up in Uganda though the situation is much better than when they started eight years back.
That time, the festival organizers had programmed acts like Didier Awadi, Papa Wemba, Baximba Waves and Percussion Discussion among others, with the ticket value at shs10,000/=, the festival was attended by merely 20 people, even the move to make the entire show free of charge didn’t save the situation.
Today, Bayimba is not really doing bad, people know the festival exists and over the years they’ve gone from being a free of charge event to at least changing shs5,000.
Like all festivals, Kiwewa says Bayimba has a direction and in this case, it was more about promoting different art forms, acoustic and live music.
But since festivals are hitting rocky times, programming an artist with his band becomes expensive and even tricky if they are not Ugandans, thus to survive with the available means, the festival this year curated a good number of performing DJs, another entertainment genre Kiwewa says they want to popularize.
On Friday in fact, the mainstage was closed by DJ Rachel yet the upper stage wrapped with the Santuri Djs from Kenya for the three days, he says DJs are trendy but programming them as performers is to present them to people as artists who they really are.
Grace Mbabazi, a Makerere University first year student that was attending the festival for the first time noted she had only come out of curiosity though was enjoying herself; “But I don’t really understand many of the things going on so I will just dance to the music.”
Festivals are necessary to preserve our culture and art, says Sheebah karungi, one of the acts at the festival.
Kiwewa says that the art festival concept is yet to sink into the minds of financers in governments, and corporate companies, because of this, many of them for the future have to survive by diversifying the funders and the little budgets – more like, the times are hard and there’s no budget, but the show must somehow go on.

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