The Nyege Nyege festival which is currently the biggest festival in East Africa took place on the shores of the River Nile from Sept 6 - 9th at the Nile Discovery Beach in Jinja. The annual event in it's 4th year, attracted thousands of locals and tourists from all over the world and was a massive success enjoyed by all that attended to watch several musicians and artists perform on various stages around the festival site.
Blogkla was on the scene to review the event from Sept 7th - 9th.
Starting off with a little controversy, the festival goers got an early scare due to objections from the local Minister of Ethics who cited that due to the "hedonistic" nature of the festival, he would be cancelling it. This decision was met with ire and a myriad of complaints from Ugandans and multiple sponsors that had already invested in the festival. In the end the minister had to bow down and the festival was given the green light.
Getting There (Friday)
Jinja town is only an hour and a half drive away from Kampala City but thanks to the traffic on the Kampala - Jinja road, the journey usually takes about 2hrs or more.
After what felt like an eternity, we arrived Njeru, a small town on the outskirts of Jinja town (about 8km from the downtown area of Jinja Town). The festival area is a 5 minute drive off the Kampala - Jinja highway from Njeru town along the shores of the nile.
Once we arrived at the site, we went to receive our wrist bands after being heavily searched by security at the entrance. Wristbands clasped on, we proceeded to the festival area to start the experience.
Time Check: 2pm
Festival Area Overview
As we walked along the shore, we saw the camping area where tents were already up and ready. Vendors strewn all over the site had already set up their merchandise and were ready for business. Food and alcohol were reasonably priced and you could enjoy a beer for a mere UGSHS 3000/= and food for as cheap as UGSHS 5000/= and many more. Many activities were taking place like painting of murals/canvases, face painting, games etc. The area was split into five stages namely; Main Stage, Dark Star Stage, Spirit Of UG Stage, Eternal Disco Stage and Ndiku Stage. The music played on the different stages ranged from hiphop, dance, traditional, EDM, Afropop, afrobass etc.
Time check 2:30pm
Once we bought some food and found a spot near the main stage, we sat down and enjoyed the chill festival vibes. A few acts were performing on stage and entertaining the discerning crowd gathered near the stage. At times we walked among the different stages to see an act that we were interested in seeing thanks to the helpful maps that were distributed on entry that acted as a guide/line up menu.
Time Check: 4pm
As the sun set and the night creeped in, the number of festival goers increased massively and before we knew it, people were moving from stage to stage, dancing, yelling at the top of their voices, making new friends, singing, enjoying performances by musical acts and Djs, having the time of their lives and a merry time all around.
The paramedics and security were on deck to take care of exhausted and heavily inebriated patrons which was a bonus.
By dawn, we stumbled to our hotel room to rest (no we weren't camping), slept for a few hours, woke up, had breakfast and drove back to the festival site for our second day (Saturday) at Nyege Nyege festival. ANNNND REPEAT!
Time Check: 5pm - 6am
By Sunday evening, we were ready to return to Kampala and our normal lives. However, we left a large number of festival goers in Jinja still going hard since the event was ending on Monday morning at 7am! Most were tourists.
In conclusion, we were impressed by the event overall. It was well organized with emphasis on security and ensuring that revellers had a great time.
Despite a few hiccups like pick pockets that nicked phones of unknowing patrons, people complaining about the congestion at the camp site and the loss of a few personal items as is the norm at most music festivals, the event was a success and we would definitely go back again.
Our most important take away was the observation of the diverse crowd exhibiting zero discrimination of age, race, gender, size, tribe and religion. For the 4 days we were individuals that shared a common love for music, art and freedom of expression. Till next year...