Umoja Flies the Cultural Flag High

Umoja Cultural Flying Carpet happened in Kampala for the fourth time last Friday at the National theatre.

For those who have no idea what Umoja is, it is a cultural festival that brings together artistes from different countries – with support from the Norwegian government. The festival first came to Kampala in 2011. Then, it was a three-day event at the National theatre, which culminated into a gigantic celebration of arts and culture at Ndere cultural centre.

Like that, the festival had registered itself on the yearly art calendar. In 2012 and 2013, other wonderful Umoja festivals were staged at Makerere University and Theatre La Bonita respectively. The wowing factor over the years has been a collection of acts from Kenya, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Africa, Norway, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, among others. It usually comes off as a cocktail of cultures – with multi-national collaborations.

In this respect, the festival came back last Friday. This time round, it all started at the In Movement in Kansanga, African Children’s Centre, The Aids Support Organisation (Taso) Mulago, before the grand finale at the National theatre auditorium where they serenaded a full house for two hours.

The musical performance included talks about issues such as Kampala and the situation Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Executive Director Jennifer Musisi has created, and finding a woman and competing with peers for her. It was a breathtaking moment watching dancers incorporate traditional dances such as Bakisimba with western dance styles such as bi-boy.

Francis Ssebaggala, a proteacuteeacute of the now defunct NTV’s dance show Hot Steps, was the lead act – with rather impressive moves, which included spinning on his head. But the stars of the night were former Coca- Cola Rated Next contestant, Kenneth Mugabi, and his backup, who helped tell the stories using their vocals. Through songs such as Ssekanolya, Eno Ye Kampala and Obudde Bwe Kiro, among others, the duo left the crowds on their feet.

Kenneth Mugabi has become a better artiste since the TV show and his Afro-neo-soul influence was all over the production, which wasn’t a bad thing, but at a point, it sounded like his story and concert. Umoja is a product of the Norwegian Council for Schools of Music and Performing Arts. It is created upon the vision of promoting peace and development through international cultural networking.

The only undoing to the festival was that unlike the past shows, this time round there were no artistes from other countries. The performance was also more entertaining than artistic and there were issues of stage and floor management. However, the show remained interesting especially for people that were watching it for the first time. But for many that have been religious to the festival, the Friday performance was artistically miles behind.

Source : The Observer

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