Mixed feeling as Sheebah dares the Bayimba stage

01:27 by Kaggwa Andrew


At the beginning of the year, Kanye West was announced as a headlining act for the 2015 Glastonbury Festival in the UK.
Only days after the announcement, a British paper ran a story of how the ‘untalented’ Kanye wasn’t needed at a festival that has been celebrated by acts like Foo Fighters, Florence and the Machine, Cypress Hill, Muse and Lionel Richie among others.
What followed was a petition signed by over 130,000 music fans asking the festival to cancel Kanye West’s performance for a rock band, at one point, organizer Emily Eavis even received death threats  – of they stuck to their guns and let him perform.
It’s since been described as the mad, infuriating and electrifying.
Yet in Uganda, it’s almost the same stigma pop artist Sheebah Karungi is facing from some artisan circles since she was announced as a performer at this year’s Bayimba International Festival of the Arts that’s starting today at the National Theater.
Having featured acts like Serabi Band and Anto Neosoul from Kenya, Suzan Kerunen or Myko Ouma, they felt the festival was losing it programming her as a performer.
One of the critics in fact argued that an artist that has never performed with a live band has no business getting anywhere near any festival stage, lucky for Sheebah, her detractors didn’t have petitions to sign her off the mainstage she’s poised to take on Saturday night.
Festivals in this part of the world have always had a different energy, for the loyal attendees, these are the places they got initiated into ethno contemporary pop usually classified as world music and for some reason, they’ve come to believe the music there should sound like that.
That’s why the backlash that the Team No Sleep artist is facing doesn’t come as a surprise.
Joan Kisakye, a music fan that attended the festival for the first time in 2014 was inquisitive if Sarabi band would be coming back for another performance. On learning that they were not coming but there were others like Sheebah, with a grin she wondered if acts like Sheebah do perform at festivals!
But it’s not the first time, and Bayimba is not the first festival that has been criticized for having ‘unworthy’ performers, last year, Pearl Rhythm was taking the lashes after Jackie Chandiru’s closing performance, not that she was awful, a click of naysayers thought she didn’t represent what the gig stood for.
And so was Bayimba’s choice of Coco Finger to close the festival in 2013 – apparently Coco Finger put up a show better than many artists that have always believed to be of a festival quality.
Herman Kabubi, a coordinator of Doa Doa, one of the programmes run by the Bayimba Foundation notes that the main stage at the festival is not reserved for foreign acts or certain genre artistes. He says that the main stage is an opportunity for all acts to test themselves and try out new things.
Faisal Kiwewa, Bayimba Foundation’s director notes that artistes are briefed about the values of the festival. He says that art festivals usually look at taking different disciplines to a direction; changing art for the better.
Talking to The Observer, an excited Sheebah says she’s quite nervous knowing that festival goers can be demanding though says she’s ready and will be attending the do both as a performer and part of the audience.
“I think we need more of such shows for people to see the different forms of art that Ugandans can offer.”
Other performers include Maddox Sematimba, Levixone, Joel Sebunjo and Kenneth Mugabi among others.

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