We were all very excited that Monday morning to journey to Kisoro. So Joshua our trusty photographer, Ian the driver and I braced ourselves for quite the adventure. We left
For four years now, Milege Afro-Jazz Band has held an annual concert named, Repainting Uganda. This year though, the concert that was held at the Lake Victoria Serena Resort on Saturday (30th November 2013) and the perspective to it was different. Unlike previous concerts that featured just Milege, this one featured new and upcoming bands on the Ugandan traditional music scene along with Milege Afro-Jazz Band and it’s no longer a concert anymore but an annual World Music Festival. The fundamental purpose of this year’s theme was to promote new and fresh unconventional talent, traditional Ugandan cultural music elements and upcoming artists.
For those not very familiar with Milege Afro-Jazz Band, they are a band that celebrates its Ugandan Heritage. Formed in 2009, the band comprises of six members namely: Manana Francis Birabi as the lead guitarist, Nalwebe David who plays rhythm guitar, Paul Owembabazi as the bass guitarist, MuhweziAriho on Keyboard, Nkalubo Peter on drums and Akugizibwe Gloria as the lead singer .
The name Milege was specifically selected as it is a Luo word from the Japhadola tribe in Eastern Uganda. The name has a unique story behind it; in the Japhadola tribe, a Milege is an ankle rattle. Worn for traditional dances, it symbolizes the coming of a chief or king. So in the Japhadola culture, when a king was approaching, the sound of the Milege paved the way for him.
Milege’s music incorporates well-crafted ethno/contemporary jazz with traditional Ugandan folklore music. They have explored beauty from different ethnicities from all parts of the country to help Ugandans realize and appreciate the beauty of their diverse cultures. Their other goal is to promote national unity which they say has declined slowly over the years.
“Milege as an organization always features raw indigenous talent” and at the World Music Festival they displayed that very well sharing the stage with four other performers namely: The West Nile Band, Joe from Qwela Band, Saba Percussions and Nawan the Karimajong singing sensation.
The festival that was slated to kick off at midday started a bit late and kicked off with an outstanding performance from The West Nile bandthat sang various songs in Lugisu and Luganda languages, followed by Joe of the Qwela Band in a one person show. Joe performed three songs dedicating the second song to “his girl Racheal” as he called her.
Next on stage was the Sabar Percussion, a seven man drumming group with one woman and headed by the Senegalese Mame N’diack. He explained why Sabar chose the drum as their favorite instrument to play on stage saying that in the early African culture, the drum was the early mode of communication used to call people for gatherings and they now play the drum to carry on this African cultural element. Saba was lively with their drumming and received loud applause from the little crowd that was present at the Festival.
There was an interlude from the Open Mic Poets followed by last year’s winner of the Talent Quest competition,Nawan the singing sensation from Karamoja. Backed by the Milege band, she performed two songs in her native language after which the stage got graced by Milege Afro-Jazz Band as the last performers of the day.
Although not up to par with other World Music Festivals like Glastonbury Festival in the U.K, the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California or even our very own Bayimba Festival of the Arts, you wouldn’t be hanged on a cross to think that the festival wasn’t very successful if you judged it solely on attendance. For a World Music Festival whose goals are to promote new, fresh and upcoming talent and selling traditional music, you wouldn’t be wrong to think that either Ugandans don’t appreciate their own traditional music or perhaps the organizers didn’t market the event very well. Although various other factors could have led to people shunning the event altogether. Things like the unavoidable traffic jam along Entebbe Road on weekends made it quite hard for someone who didn’t own a car to get to the Lake Victoria Serena Resort. You see, if you don’t own a car or if you couldn’t hitch a ride to the event, the stretch off Entebbe Road (Lweza) to the Resort is quite far and it’s a dirt road. A bodaboda from Entebbe Road to the Resort ensures that you reach the venue when you have consumed enough kilos of dust. These are all factors the organizers should consider for next year’s Festival.
To his defense about why the attendance for the Festival was low, Manana Francis Birabi who doubled as the MC for the event was quick to remind everyone that many people in Uganda would rather pay a lot of money to watch the likes of R. Kelly than support their own local talent. He further went on to caution the crowd that they should strive to create ‘big names’ for themselves than associate with them.
Overall the festival was held for a good cause as all proceeds from the show went to promoting and discovering new Ugandan unconventional artists with raw talent. For more information about Milege Afro Jazz Band or to listen to some of their music visit their website;
Phone: +256 775 44 14 48/ +256 712 34 35 64
By Martyn LinkynTumwesigye