Bayimba Festival 2019 – The Long Story Of My Weekend At Uganda’s Carnival Of The Arts

“Nsaze akaviiri nze nenyuma. Sitera golola ngolodeko. Mpakinze nemiwula jafene bambi olyeeko. Engeregeze nazinabyeko leero. Ebijanjalo kumanyo nabijeeko… Naki aah please be my lover”

These are the first few words from Naki, a song that narrates a love story in the Ugandan countryside.

The song, which features a simmer of African folklore and percussion presents “Love Made in Africa”, way before the modern times’ romantic setups with dimmed mood lights. Way before love was defined by a lady clad in a long expensive red or purple dress with her pursuer seated across a candle-lit table tightening the bowtie on his deep black tuxedo and offering a glass of wine to the fine lady.

It speaks of a type of love that is meager of iPhones, selfies, makeup, and flashy jewelry. It is a love raw, innocent, and real. A story of a man who (in previous times) had attempted to please the love of his life in vain but would give it one last shot.

The lyricist’s words loosely translate: “I just trimmed my hair and I’m looking very smart today. I would normally not press my clothes, but for you I did. I also came with a fine present; some fresh jackfruit. I washed my face today and brushed the usual ugly plaque of beans off my teeth. I first fell for you many years ago when we were young and ate guavas but I didn’t have the courage to tell you back then; my fear for your mother was profound. I, however, return ready, dressed in my cheap new crisp shoes. Naki (the girl’s name) please be my lover.”

This song is by Afro-soul vocalist and guitarist, Kenneth Mugabi, who among other lively artists had revelers pacing musically and over the moon, in an unforgettable concert last Saturday at the just concluded Bayimba International Festival of the Arts.

Bayimba 2019
Kenneth Mugabi put up a spirited performance

The journey to Lunkulu, an island overlooking Lake Victoria

That morning, I was up before the hour of five o’clock to get ready, but to also confirm that I had everything I needed before ordering for a motorcycle taxi (Boda Boda as we call them in Uganda) at 7:30 am to ride me to Namboole, where I would board a 45-minute taxi to Mukono taxi park (a journey much shorter on a good day without heavy traffic).

Bayimba 2019

From this point, I enjoyed a 25-minute matatu (taxi) drive along the Mukono-Katosi road, to a roundabout in a little town called Kisoga.

As I disembarked the taxi I was greeted by a team of Boda Boda riders. “Bayimba Lunkulu tugende senior?” they asked as two guys scrambled for my bags hoping to win the chance to ride me along a dirt road through a tea plantation, to Namazina landing site. “5000 shillings only sir”, they said with a grin.

Bayimba 2019

An obvious pick, wasn’t I? My tripod was visibly laced to the side of my backpack, and a vintage metallic mug sagged from the other end. There’s no way I would just be one of the locals.

They could easily tell I wasn’t from around (as the contemporary saying goes) and with the branding around town they certainly knew to expect groups of people jetting in from Kampala to camp at Lunkulu Island for the 12th edition of the Bayimba International Festival of the Arts that took place between 1st and 4th August 2019, a busy time for them to make a kill.