The first edition of the Mizizi Sounds of the Nile Festival in Kiryandongo last week happened just a fortnight after the Uganda National Cultural Centre held its first annual arts festival. Ergo, both festival management and the 16 groups of performers had much work to do to save chronic festival goers from getting aural and visual fatigue.
And for the most part, they succeeded in providing an overdose of good things. For example, an evening where Malian guitar maestro Habib Koite and Ugandan guitar maestro Myko Ouma shared a stage could only have one possible result; aural heaven.
Yet even that paled in comparison to Moroccan outfit HobaHoba Spirit’s performance on Saturday night. They had the audience dancing and shirt-waving till they were drenched in sweat, and singing along till their voices were happily hoarse.
Wet-blanket moments, at least on stage, were few and far between. One of those was Ykee Benda, whose DJ-play-the-CD show felt and sounded a lot like an anti-climax, considering he followed HobaHoba Spirit and their energetic, live-band awesomeness.
They were outnumbered by the really magical ones, like Habib Koite’s adlibbing his way for a few minutes as Turbo Rays Entertainment sorted out a sound glitch. He used the moment to remind us of how art and culture define us.
“We all have a National ID or passport, but our music, languages and dances, those are our cultural ID”, he said. Indeed, the festival had plenty of such cultural ID’s, ranging from the esotericndara/mbaire (oversized xylophones) from the Alur/Basoga, to interesting contraptions like MzeiEkuka’s percussion-effect foot pedal.
The xylophones were a highlight for even the Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon. JanatMukwaya, when she graced the occasion. “This ancestral technology is both eye-catching and marketable, and therefore we can exploit them to define our Ugandan-ness even as the world is ever globalising”, she remarked.