Nyege Nyege means different things in different countries. In Uganda, it’s the irresistible urge to dance when the music hits you. In Kenya and Tanzania, well you don’t even wanna know.
The first time I heard about Nyege Nyege Festival was 2017. I had never been to a music festival before so I was curious – this was before I discovered Kilifi New Year.
Since 2015, the international music festival has been held at Nile Discovery Beach Resort in the quiet tourist town of Jinja. The mission is simple: to celebrate the spirit of Uganda and party on the shores of the Nile, thanks to a world-class lineup of underground musicians and DJs.
In 2017, it was voted as Uganda’s event of the year, and I could see why. It delivered the underground music, the uninhibited fun and most of all the Nyege Nyege. However, as my first music festival (in Uganda), I wish someone had prepared me for what was about to go down. Let me save you the trouble and share 5 things I wish someone told me about Nyege Nyege.
It might rain
I was not ready for this. September is usually not a rainy month, but with global warming, you can never be sure of anything anymore. For 2 out of the 3 days, Uganda’s water broke and the heavy skies poured showers of blessings on us while the live performances went on. This didn’t stop the party people from dancing in the rain. One simply cannot resist the Nyege Nyege.
The after-effects however were quite… muddy; you had to walk carefully otherwise you’d slip into the endless void. But don’t let the rain ruin your fun. Carry your raincoat, gumboots, whatever. And if you carry a tent, pitch on sloped ground.
You don’t want to come back to narrate stories of flooded tents and sleepless nights as some did last year.
It’s one long lineup
Nyege Nyege Festival is known to have one of the longest artist lineups of underground musicians and DJs. This year there will be over 200 artists from 30 countries, from the busy streets of Kampala to the dank clubs of West London. So be prepared to hear dancey underground sounds from around the world; some you never even thought existed.
As a Kenyan, it only makes sense to support our local stars on this international stage. On the DJ lineup will be the wavey Ukweli of EA Wave (who produced the sultry Roses by Karun) and Dread Steppa of Umojah Sound System aka the king of dub music.
Have you ever heard of a live electronic set? Well, DJ Raph and KMRU will bring this experimental vibe to Uganda. As for the live performances, Orchestre Les Mangelepa who have been making classic music since 1976 will show us how to dance rumba style. And this will be a first for Shrap kings AD Family who absolutely killed it at Mookh Fest.
If there’s one thing I learnt from the previous edition, it’s to always have the festival artist schedule with you. Whether on your phone or in print. That way you’ll know where to be and at what time.
You don’t miss any of these epic performances just because you were busy looking for a rolex.
You’ll eat rolexes everyday
Speaking of rolexes, you need to have at least one (or ten) at Nyege Nyege Festival. It’s the staple meal in Uganda, alongside matoke. Last year, there were at least 50 different vendors on the festival site cooking chapati and rolling omelettes in them. It didn’t matter whether it was midday or 3am.
Being the cheapest meal, you can survive on rolexes the whole festival. Thankfully there’s variety; some have guacamole, others come with fries.
My favourite was the eggless variety: chapati spread with Nutella and sliced banana. Talk about an explosion of sweetness on your tongue.
It’s 4 days of partying nonstop
When Nyege Nyege says it’s 4 days of partying they are not kidding. This year, the crazy party will officially start on Thursday 6th September at 7pm and end on Monday morning at 10am when the music finally stops.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sleep. There’s a break every day between 8am and 1pm to take a power nap and cold shower. Eat. Sleep. Rave. Repeat.
The beauty about Nyege Nyege is the diverse music stages you can choose from. Last year eternal disco was my favourite – as the name suggests. It was always a wild party with underground electronic dance music from Africa to the world. And you could spot the magical River Nile glimmering in the dark.
This year there will be 5 different stages. The Bell stage is for live performances, Darkstar will house underground electronic DJs, Tropical Disco for tropical sounds while The Spirit of Uganda stage will give us a taste of traditional Ugandan music. As for the fifth, you’ll just have to come to Jinja to find out.
Outside food is not allowed
Not even water. I had to finish all my snacks outside the festival gate that Thursday morning in September 2017. On the bright side, I made new friends from Nairobi that I still talk to.
This doesn’t mean you’ll only survive on rolexes. Just like last year, there will be plenty of food stalls and bars around the site selling tasty cocktails, morning coffee and international cuisine.
And yes, even water.
Now you know what to expect at Nyege Nyege Festival 2018, especially if it’s your first time. So, how do you get to Jinja, Uganda anyway? Well, there are many options, from flying to Entebbe to taking a road trip with friends.
My best bet is the Nairobi Underground party bus. With super comfortable seats and USB charging, you get to travel and mingle with other Nyegerians who are ready to party like its 1999. And the party bus picks you at a convenient location – that is not River Road – and drops you right outside Nile Discovery Beach Resort, unlike a commercial bus.
As for accommodation, there are plenty of options too. My friends and I camped last year for a wild experience and I would do it all over again. This year, there is an even bigger camping site by the riverside with waterproof tents for 1, 2 or 3 people complete with mattresses.
But if camping is too hippie for you, there are also modern lodges and hotels in Jinja. Better check Airbnb before they are all booked.
Now you know everything you need to know about Nyege Nyege 2018. All that’s left is getting your festival pass from Mookh which gives you full access to the 4-day Ugandan music festival.
It doesn’t matter which nyege nyege meaning you ascribe to. What matters is to get your dancing boots ready, and let’s go nyege nyege!
Images courtesy of MTN Nyege Nyege (Instagram)