Jali Festival; our stories our voices refers to the rather brilliant offspring of the Jali Sustainable community outreach initiative. Proceeds from the event see that the people of the disadvantaged Buusi Island on Lake Victoria have a better life.
Jali took an interesting spin to festivals as we have known them in the past by bringing a fresher and more potent African energy to all the programs that spawned the two days. MishMash was alight with delightful presentations, performances, poetry recitals, workshops and enchanting stories from sundry storytellers collected from all over Uganda.
The Jali lineup was in itself a spectrum of varied talents; we had Ruyonga, Patrobas, Mister Deejay, Xenson, Sosolye Undugu Dance Academy, Michael Musoke, Subzy, Luga Flow Army, Timothy Code, Workshops by Kemiyondo Coutinho, Beverly Nambozo of Femrite, Break Dance Project Uganda, we had Mr. Jason Ntaro representing the Lantern Meet of Poets, open mic Uganda, the soulful and Quirky Ife and the Urban Chillaz band, Keko, Slim Emcee, Ronnie and the boys and Mr. Isaiah Katumwa who brought down the house with a particularly evocative saxophone session.
The first day started off at around 7:00pm, with a drumming parade by the Sosolye Undugu Dance Academy, who took to the stage with quite a large assortment of drums. They delivered an energetic medley of African traditional rhythms with just the right moves to crown it off. They cleared the stage for Ugly Mc (who actually does call himself that) with the Bonfire band. At this point, the MishMash compound had only a few empty seats left, owing to the enthusiastic turn up of revelers.
Throughout the venue, stalls had been set up by different companies for instance; we had a smile telecom stall (supplying free Wi-Fi to everyone), a cupcake stall and yes, even a Ruyonga stall. There were tonnes of dynamisms within this festival.
The aim of Jali had been to emphasize the power of ancient African storytelling and recognizable effort had been made towards achieving that; Even though the Jali sustainable team was mostly comprised of foreigners. At around 7:49pm Ugly MC returned and started a brief open mic session on the stage from which we were treated to a catchy poem in Swahili and a young man named Hakeem who emoted through a poetic rap with emphasis on good politics, he even did a rendition of the all school’s anthem which got the audience excited.
Xenson Senkaaba’s powerful poetic recital was mostly done in Luganda but even the largely foreign crowd could not resist hoping onto his rollercoaster. He later left the stage for a Lusoga rapper named ‘Maneater’ who did what he referred to as the ‘Lusoflow’ routine.
At around 8:30pm, we had another high point in the festival, coming from the lovely Miss Price Love who performed her own rendition of Jordin Spark’s ‘God Loves Ugly’, with an Adungu! Price Love was clearly a crowd favourite; she had one of the more energetic applauses of the night. You will be able to catch Price Love, live in concert on the 22nd of September at the Serena Lake Victoria hall. At around 8:50pm we had the first live storytelling session from Michael Musoke of Percussion Discussion and pioneer of Ugandan World Music. After an active folk story recitation laced with African drums and background acoustics, he moved the audience with a strong, raspy and mature ballad.
So far, I had been rather impressed with the evening’s proceedings. Looking at the elated and animated audience, I was not alone in that area; a few people had even abandoned their seats and opted to sit in the grass at this point.
At around 9:00pm the Sosolye Undungu Dance Academy took us through what would be the headline performance of the first day; the play titled ‘Karaagwire becomes a queen’ written by Engineer Hans Mwesigwa. It follows the story of the heroine Karagwire and her ascent to the throne as Queen as well as the first female leader of her village dubbed Bwizibwera.
Engineer Hans came out to briefly talk about his play and how it was inspired by a story he knew as a child. At around 10:40pm, we went into the last segment of the first day’s show, which were performances by Timothy Code and the Lugaflow Army over by the MishMash bar. The evening wrapped up with mixes by Deejays Ivo and Mister Deejay.
The bulk of the storytelling, poetry, open mic sessions, and two much anticipated performances from Isaiah Katumwa and Keko had been reserved for day2. The festivities for day 2 promptly kicked off at around 1:00pm with mixes from the Jali sustainable deejays. I arrived at around 2:30pm bumping into a performance by the Break-dance project Uganda. They busted a few energetic moves for the audience.
The place had been setup in such a way that one end of the MishMash compound had been turned into a mini market place because stalls selling African style clothing, jewellery and several ornaments had been erected. Other stalls included the cupcake stall from the previous night and a new stall selling novels and books at UGX 6000 each.
From observation, day 2 had been organized to have more of an intimate, interactive session. At the MishMash Chessboard stage (the stage actually is designed like a life-sized chessboard) we had riveting storytelling sessions from the likes of Sanaa Gateja, a Ugandan artist who spent the bulk of his youth painting in the Italian town of Florence. He is also said to have invented the paper bead, which is a quintessential element of the feminine Jewellery of contemporary times.
An enchanting story was told to us by a lady named Pam, who had been forced to grow up in the UK due to the military unrest of the Amin era. She liked to call herself a ‘cultural bastard’ for she had known very little of her own culture. Pam, along with a few of her ‘cultural bastard friends’ who had been pushed around the world; Australia, New York made for very interesting listening.
View all the photos in the gallery here
Another highlight of day 2 came in the form of the workshops run by various people. We had the break-dance workshop, the HIPHOP work and the workshop ran by Kemiyondo Coutinho titled “turning your life into stories” which I personally participated in. (Apparently I was a hit, but that is a story for another day). Probably one of the more unforgettable performances was by the band of the elderly named ‘Ronnie and the boys’ and their temunywanga omwenge (never take alcohol) song which had people giggling long after it was over.
Day turned into evening; we had intense poetry moments with Beverly Nambozo, Kemiyondo Coutinho, Jason Ntaro of Lantern Meet, and a few others. We had a few more performances, one particularly memorable one from Ife and the urban chillaz. At 10:13 the entire arena lit up under Isaiah Katumwa’s Saxophone that when he had to leave the stage for Keko, the public demanded for more. Keko got on stage with the Jali All-stars band at 10:39 apologizing for being late since she was supposed to have performed before Isaiah. The evening concluded with mixes from Deejays Baby Love and Kasumali.