The east-central African festival has become a global beacon for adventurous music lovers. But this year, you can virtually teleport to Kampala and take in some yourself – right now.
Indian cultural activist Aneesha Kotwani documented last year’s edition, for some small window into the festival. (Pictured at top, 2019 edition crowds – for a little bit of the feeling of that energy.)
Kampala is contending with COVID-19 like everyone else – and this exposes the sorts of inequities exposed in every country this year. But as both Uganda and your neck of the woods cope with the twin challenges of social distancing and disease, we are at least treated to a virtual trip to Uganda for a mental and musical escape.
And yeah, this is 2020 – they’re proceeding to put this on, evidently even with a highly limited, socially distanced secret party on the location. For the rest of us, though, there’s musical inspiration:
And yet again festival organizers treat the world to a rich survey of both local talent and connections to experimentalism from other corners of the world.
So for instance, there’s the rapid-fire collisions of obscurities and futuristic grooves in NSASI’s playing:
These live, fabulous “tribal afro-futurist” performances from Faizal Mostrixx:
For some more soulful playlists from Kenya, there’s Nairobi’s Nabiswa Wanyama:
You also get more traditional selections like Kalalu cultural group, highlighting the musical practices of the Basoga people:
This year that has also included performances recorded in other spots, collected in a virtual assemblage as a kind of ceremony of faith, in this year of isolation, that events will gather together again.
Anyway, it’s all on now – live-streamed but also available on demand, so that either way you can stumble into unexpected music, just as you would at a festival.
There is a ton, a ton of programming from across the full length and breadth of the African continent, as well as Europe, the Middle East, and… um, Canada and the USA, even – and a bunch of Afro-centric collectives.
I can’t complain, as even though I’m in gray shut-down Berlin now, we had the joy of beginning 2020 with the incredible Nakibembe Xylophone Troupe, who got their break at Nyege Nyege. And for all the darkness of 2020, it felt like a miracle to watch this ensemble onstage at Berghain together with Indonesia’s Gabber Modus Operandi – an explosion of pure musical energy, like standing inside a warp core reactor.
Screens are certainly not the same, but I do hope these screens mean we can send some energy to wherever you are – and plant seeds that bring us all together soon. Check out the festival at:
Ha, and they have some kind of double-elimination bracket: