What is Nyege Nyege? That was the big question ahead of the four-day festival at the Nile Discovery Resort in Jinja, which ended on Sunday. This all began on October 16, 2015. The festival, that had been advertised as Jinja’s début festivity of music, was finally on. For many people, this was a chance to take the fun out of town. Nyege Nyege has become an enigma, because even the word itself has different meanings depending on the language you choose to use in translation! In Luganda, ekinyegenyege means ‘the urge’. Unlike other festivals, Nyege Nyege is different for its non-stop party attitude; the party kicks off on the first day and goes on until the final day. By mid-2016, the adverts had been rolled and the crowds grew, in 2017, with more press and interest from sponsors, socialites too started flocking the Nile Discovery.
The festival is in its fifth season already this 2019, but had not attracted as much attention before as it did this the previous year, thanks to a now-banned, now-not-banned communiqué from the state minister for Ethics and Integrity, Fr Simon Lokodo. Nyege Nyege became more popular as the Ugandan government became its largest publicist adding that for a festival it was abhorrent because it ostensibly endorsed promiscuity and homosexuality. The previous year 2018 Nyege Nyege turned basically a very silent town into the talk of the nation. We are waiting what is going to happen this year because last year many first timers changed what is know to be a silent town into buzzy town. Organisers call it a cultural festival; some think it is an escapade to loosen up and spend at will. Critics label it as short on morals.The crowd was mostly Kampala’s art tourists, the faces common at Bayimba International Festival, Writivism, World Music Festival in Entebbe to Doadoa Performing arts market, but Nyege Nyege seemed like their chance to loosen up, dance in the mud and indulge more.
This year there are so many people [an estimated 40,000 attended over the four days], fun activities and subplots; right from boat cruises, brand promos, the silent disco, stage performances or even playing on the swings. There were also many expatriates – in the past they have been the dominant group – Rastafarians, clowns and, of course, Kampala’s socialites and notable show-goers. People converged in groups of five to ten and several interracial couples flaunted their love for everyone to see. They enjoyed themselves with abandon, some kissing openly – stuff that could have made the good former priest manning the country’s ethics, faint. For the brave, it was a perfect occasion to make fashion statements, especially with African batik and flashing tattoos for admirers to have a good look.
Some female revellers wore outrageously-skimpy outfits it was hard not to look more than once. Yet amidst all this, everyone minded their own business. Meanwhile, the police keenly watched the crowd’s movements from the background with little interference. Drinks were aplenty and it was difficult to find one without a beer or glass of hard liquor. The venue is such a large swath of land with scattered activities and camping spaces, it was hard for one to do everything; you had to pick your interests. Unique last year’s Nyege Nyege was the opportunity to walk into a recording studio with a production team led by Benon Mugumbya and be able to walk away with a song recording of your choice.The studio was a major attraction with revellers testing their vocal and lyrical abilities. For those who got cold feet, they danced to mixes by DJs Ali Breezy and Bank Robber while they waited for their friends.
Last year Nyege Nyege there wall for expression of ones feelings in Uganda everyone has a loud opinion about everything, and organisers thoughtfully put up a wall of expression for people to express their views. Anyone was welcome to write on the blackboard and slogans such as ‘People Power’ and other not-so-loving messages aimed at Fr Lokodo were the order of the day. Some had been at the venue since Thursday and for Shs 200,000 for the full festival pass, it seemed like worth every penny. Vendors for nyama choma, mobile money, snacks, ice cream and more made their kill, but what stood out for me were the masseuses, whose massage services attracted the attention of several tired legs. That was a lucrative venture. Vendors, mostly those selling food were increasing but it was mostly those making rolex [chapatti rolled with eggs] that were making a killing since other foods were more costly. Last year, it is said the festival was attended by more than 15,000 people with over a dozen buses coming from Nairobi in Kenya, Kigali in Rwanda and as far as Lilongwe in Malawi. They usually leave on Monday morning and stop partying when the sound stops at 8am and refer to themselves as the true celebrants of Nyege Nyege because they respect the urge, which is the Luganda derivative that gives the festival its name ‘ekinyegenyege’
Oh, there were some suspicious-looking ‘cigars’ and shisha pipes, which were later confiscated by police even though it seemed it was just done to appease some individuals. Put simply, this was organised chaos; no scuffles or controversies. Even the knocked-out individuals [by booze, what else?] ‘safely’ lay on the ground without a problem. Word on many people’s mouths was the weather with the sun bathing the venue in sunshine, even as it rained elsewhere. Last year revellers had to stomp through the mud, as it poured relentlessly.The most valuable asset in Jinja was a power bank; I cannot recall how many times complete strangers asked to borrow mine, some even willing to pay for a few minutes to charge their phones.
On one of the five different stages, cultural troupes entertained although the revellers there were predictably mainly white. At the main stage the previous year had DJs Slick Stuart and Roja thrilled revellers in the afternoon hours, putting the Nyege Nyege partygoers in the mood. As the party mood picked up in the evening, many showgoers could be overheard making phone calls to their friends on the way to hurry up, lest they miss it.As some revellers retired and signed out, others were waking up to continue the fun. After a bath in the river, it was party time yet again on Sunday morning.Nyege Nyege officially wound up on Sunday evening, leaving many first-timers still wondering what that really was!
Nyege Nyege, from my observation, is like joining popular outdoor events such as Roast and Rhyme with Blankets and Wine, with a wild, camping scenery. If Lokodo’s intention was to discredit the event, organisers could not have wished for a better endorsement; the festival is now considered the biggest in East Africa. The Nyege Nyege patrons came from neighbouring Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and further beyond to watch the hundreds of artistes from all over the world perform each day. Zanzibar and its huge Sauti Za Busara festival had better watch out; all festival roads now lead to Jinja, Uganda. For your transportation and hotel/tent/ back packing call or whats app us in advance so that we can arrange the need you might require without getting disturbed! Info@jelanitours.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org or +256781924087 for your needs