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MOSES SERUGO: Of Harry II Lwanga’s Bayimba Festival rant

For the likes of Harry II Lwanga, the 2010 Bayimba International Festival of the Arts failed the infallible test of an authentic Ugandan cultural event because “non-deserving” artistes like Rachel K, The Uneven Band and Hytham Ssali Muserebende were on this year’s festival bill.

According to Lwanga, it was odd that these artistes were sharing the same stage with more deserving artistes like Sarah Ndagire, Suzan Kerunen and “other real artistes”.

He followed this with a tirade of abuse against Rachel K who he said did more shouting than singing to festival patrons on top of “wearing close to nothing.”

He closed it off wondering if “the market forces had taken over and forced festival organisers to succumb” thereby derailing the festival from what it initially set out to do in getting us into “understanding who we are”.

His parting shot; “I pray that Bayimba is not forced into becoming just another loud, open space, albeit free entry kiggunda!”

Lwanga only had to look at the branding of the stage and venue as proof that the market forces had not taken over. I was knee-deep in the thick of it and not just watching sulkily from the sidelines.

None of the so-called “big advertising” corporate entities that were approached to sponsor and help offset the festival expenses came through for the organisers.

One actually pulled the rug right out from beneath the festival organiser’s feet at the last minute even after their company logo had been splashed all over the festival publicity material.

For Lwanga to delve into his sewer of expletives and rant and rave about the presence/performance of one artiste out of the 40 on the festival bill was sheer ingratitude.

It may have had more to do with Lwanga griping about being programmed to perform in the National Theatre auditorium and not the [better-patronized] main stage.

For so-called “purists” like Lwanga, the months of intense planning, worry, risks, cancelled bookings and desperate fundraising the organising team of an African international arts festival go through do not count, hence his endless carping.

In as much as Bayimba Cultural Foundation set out to be a platform for Lwanga’s culture and voice, the economic fundamentals of putting on an international festival make this quite a juggling act.

I doubt the three “odd” festival artistes Lwanga is bothered about stole any thunder from the over 30 so-called deserving ethno-music artistes that, according to Lwanga, perfectly fit the bill of “understanding who we are”.

I am not a sucker for rock music but I didn’t see anything wrong with Bayimba being a multi-genre/cultural playground where The Uneven Band, Simona Abdullah, Bax’mba Waves, Suzan Kerunen, Alesh, Makadem, Mbikko Brass Band and Albert Sempeke share the same stage if anything to build some sort of camaraderie.

Whether it is about identity, market forces or fun, the fact is each of the 42,000 patrons at this year’s Bayimba International Festival of the Arts will have their own memories of what thrilled, moved, delighted or just plain bored them.  Lwanga needs to appreciate those dynamics and be less of a festival killjoy.

The author is the Bayimba International Festival of the Arts spokesman