What you need to know:
Late last month, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja announced that he will be introducing an annual festival in Nairobi
One event I had been looking forward to since my first attendance in 2019, was the Nyege Nyege (that irresistible urge to dance) Festival in Uganda. The annual four-day international music festival is a flare-up of fashion, art, music, and culture from all over the world. It is Africa’s Tomorrow land or Coachella festival for music lovers.
This year, the event was taking place at Itanda Falls in Jinja, Uganda from 15th to 18th September 2022, and as die-hard fans, we bought our event tickets and booked our accommodation as early as June to avoid the last-minute rush and price increment. So, you can imagine our disappointment when news came in that the event had been banned a week before D-day alleging that it will be a breeding ground for sexual immorality. Luckily, after two days, the event was cleared to proceed under strict guidelines and our plans were back on track.
I am sharing my experience, as Nairobi prepares to host a premier festival later on in the year. Late last month, Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja announced that he will be introducing an annual event in the city held every December, after Jamhuri Day, to display and celebrate the “vibe of the city”. The event will display culture, food, creativity and have the Nganya awards for the best-done matatus, have rugby, football, and basketball tournaments among many other activities,” he said.
Here is my take on how to organise a successful and exciting festival.
One major thing which contributed to the success of the Nyege Nyege festival was the relentless marketing. The event was well promoted on all social media platforms as early as April; five months before the actual date and the artist line-up was composed of artists from different countries. The tickets were fairly priced with discounted rates for die-hard fans like myself. I paid Sh3,500 for the all-festival pass instead of the last-minute Sh5,000.
My first delight was experiencing no traffic during the festival period. That is unheard of especially with Kenyan events where one can spend 30 minutes getting to the event but spend an hour or so at the entrance due to traffic. During the WRC Rally at Naivasha, fans slept on the road due to ungovernable traffic but at the Nyege Nyege Festival, all vehicles had a designated parking area away from the venue and there were motorbikes available to complete the journey. They also had designated vans to pick up and drop off people at the venue from Jinja town to reduce the number of cars accessing the area.
Their ticketing process on arrival was seamless. They had enough ticketing officers on the ground and the process took less than a minute. All you needed was the payment confirmation QR code scanned and your ticket would be issued to you.
The venue at Itanda Falls was huge and five times bigger than the previous location and with seven different stages playing different types of music. Tourists from different countries and continents had flocked in for the event.
The crème de la crème of the event was the food, drinks, art, and music.
Food vendors brought their A-game with affordable meals; from the local traditional foods to Ethiopian, Chinese, Kenyan, and Indian cuisine to live cooking. There was food everywhere we went as well as affordable drinks which were being sold for as low as Sh120 for a beer. My favourite food vendor was “The Meat Guy” while the drinks master for cocktails was “The Thirsty Barman”.
For the four days, the numerous food vendors came in handy as there was a lot of walking involved as we moved from one stage to another. Kenyans had gathered in large numbers and on every stage we went to, there was a group flying our flag high. The “Hakuna Kulala” stage was where all the artists were performing and it lived up to its name. The stage was full of electrifying performances from over 300 artists and deejays during the festival duration. The “Bell” stage located at the shores of the River Nile was the second largest stage playing Ugandan music and a cloud-puller. It was sponsored by the Ugandan local beer (Bell) and had activities in which revellers would participate and win goodies.
Apart from attending the festival, other activities that were available at an extra cost were white water rafting, bungee jumping, river bugging, roller coaster rides and boat rides across River Nile. By Sunday evening, my feet were too tired to pull an all-nighter.
My highlight from the event was the diversity in art, people, music, food, fashion, high security, and the killer sunsets over the majestic River Nile.
The venue was incredible with vantage points to watch the sunset over the Nile River. Patrol officers kept everything calm and in order. For the extreme party lovers who didn’t want to stay far away from the venue, accommodation in form of camping was available on site.
What could have been done better
What made the event hilariously trend on Twitter were the swanky self-contained wooden cottages they had promised to offer guests but “Kwa ground” they looked like dog kennels and beehives. The organisers had overpromised on the accommodation but they underdelivered. The shambolic cardboard huts with thin walls, mabati roofing, and tiny beds had no private showers as promised and guests ended up sharing open bathrooms or showering in the river.
The event lacked proper hygiene controls. In as much as they had hand washing areas, they did not have enough dustbins and by day three, some sections had become dumpsites, especially near the food vendors. The washrooms were insufficient and had long queues.
Despite the event being held at an incredible and scenic location, it was very far from the major town making the daily commute expensive for the revellers who were not sleeping at the venue. The parking provided was at a fee.
Despite all, the event was a success and I hope that our Kenyan event organisers will learn a lesson or two from the Nyege Nyege experience. I am looking forward to attending the “vibe of the city” in December.