Uganda’s Nyege Nyege festival ‘safest yet staged’
Uganda’s Nyege Nyege festival has provided a $10 million boost to the country’s economy despite international visitors being warned to stay away due to a heightened terror threat.
The US, UK and Irish embassies all urged citizens to avoid the electronic music festival, which was held in Jinja from 9-12 November. But promoter Talent Africa reports the event still attracted more than 20,000 festival-goers – including 4,000 foreign attendees – making it East Africa’s “largest tourism experience”.
Dubbed the “Tomorrowland of Africa”, Nyege Nyege featured acts such as Sho Madjozi, Vigro Deep, Eddy Kenzo, Aunty Rayzor, DJ Kampire, Boutross, Bushali, DJ Diaki, Top Klas, De Schuurman, Afrorack, Chovu, Muovipussi and Yuri.
“This year’s Nyege Nyege festival was the most spectacular ever, with more than 20,000 people – mostly Ugandans –gathering in Uganda and others from around the world to listen to more than 300 artists,” say Nyege Nyege’s Derek Debru and Arlen Dilsizian. “Most importantly at this time when there is so much suffering and war occurring in the world, it was an event that celebrated peace and joy and enabled people to share understanding and kindness together.”
The British High Commission had advised against all but essential travel due to the “growing terror threat in Uganda, including the targeting of foreigners”, while the Irish Embassy also issued a warning, with reference to “music and cultural festivals in Uganda”. The US Embassy, meanwhile, encouraged individuals to “reconsider attendance at upcoming large public gatherings”, citing “increased terrorist activity”.
“People were given a chance to share a special experience in Jinja – and to do so in a safe and secure environment due to the effective security provisions”
The warnings followed a number of deadly attacks in recent months in Uganda, attributed to Democratic Republic of Congo-based rebels. Three people died in an attack in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Western Uganda on 17 October, while 42 people, including 37 pupils, were killed at a secondary school in June.
Organisers say an “unprecedented security operation” ensured Nyege Nyege’s eighth edition was “the safest yet staged”. In a break from the norm, accommodation at Nyege Nyege was not provided on site, but via secure campsites set up by partnering hotels.
“For four days, people were given a chance to share a special experience in Jinja – and to do so in a safe and secure environment due to the effective security provisions that had been put in place,” they add. “People came from all over the world to party together and the result was a beautiful experience as they heard some of the most exciting musical talents not only from Africa but globally. We look forward to doing it all again next year.”
The Ugandan parliament banned the festival last year, accusing it of “promoting immorality”, but later reversed the decision. This year’s event has also been credited with the creation of 2,000 jobs directly through the festival and a further 2,000 jobs through the springing up of businesses to help facilitate visitors.
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Security warning over ‘Tomorrowland of Africa’
The embassies of three Western countries have warned citizens against attending an African music festival, amid a heightened terror threat.
East Africa’s biggest electronic music festival, Nyege Nyege is taking place in the city of Jinja, Uganda, from 9-12 November. Organised by Talent Africa Group, the event has been dubbed the “Tomorrowland of Africa” and is popular with international visitors who reportedly made up 5,000 of its 12,000 festival-goers last year.
However, the US and Irish embassies in Kampala, along with the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), have urged people to stay away from this weekend’s eighth edition.
“Due to increased terrorist activity, US Embassy Kampala recommends that individuals exercise an elevated degree of caution and reconsider attendance at upcoming large public gatherings, such as large-scale worship services and music and cultural festivals in Kampala and Jinja,” reads a travel alert.
“The US Embassy is directing its staff to not attend the Nyege Nyege festival in Jinja from November 9-12, 2023. Due to security concerns, we advise US citizens not attend the festival.”
According to Africa News, the warnings follow a number of deadly attacks in recent months in Uganda, attributed to Democratic Republic of Congo-based rebels, who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
Three people – including two honeymooning tourists – died in an attack in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Western Uganda on 17 October, while 42 people, including 37 pupils, were killed at a secondary school in June.
“There is a growing terror threat in Uganda, including targeting of foreigners”
“There is a growing terror threat in Uganda, including targeting of foreigners,” says the FCDO. “Avoid large gatherings, including large scale worship, and music and cultural festivals in Uganda.”
The British High Commission has advised against all but essential travel due to the “growing terror threat in Uganda, including the targeting of foreigners”, while the Irish Embassy has also issued a warning, with reference to “music and cultural festivals in Uganda”.
Uganda’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Community Affairs, Rebecca Kadaga, played down safety concerns during a tour of the festival venue, reports The Independent.
“The president has requested me to assure you that all the major events in Jinja – starting with this one… are fully secure,” she said, adding that senior military and police officers had been deployed to oversee security at the festival.
A record label, booking agency and music studio also operate under the Nyege Nyege umbrella. Artists and DJ’s performing at this year’s event include Kampire, Aunty Rayzor, Menzi, Mika Oki, Rosa Pistola, Afrorack, Meme, Model Home and Karol Kasita. A four-day festival pass costs US$180.
The Ugandan parliament banned the festival, which was first held in 2015, in 2022, accusing it of “promoting immorality”, but later reversed the decision.
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Kendrick Lamar teams on ‘pioneering’ tour series
Kendrick Lamar is teaming with international advocacy organisation Global Citizen on a “pioneering” new concert series aiming to establish a “first-of-its-kind” touring circuit throughout Africa.
The American rapper’s creative imprint pgLang will serve as the curator of Move Afrika up to 2028, with plans to expand the “long term, large scale effort” to five countries over the next two years.
Lamar will headline its debut major music event at the 10,000-cap BK Arena in Kigali, Rwanda on 6 December. Tickets are priced from 50,000-85,000 Rwandan francs (€38-65).
“Our goal with Move Afrika is to inspire local youth and artists to unlock their creativity,” says a statement from pgLang. “We hope to curate an immersive experience that empowers various communities and cultures across Africa and around the world for a lifetime.”
Rwanda will host Move Afrika for the next five years in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board. Further countries will then be added to the tour schedule each year.
“Move Afrika will drive transformative investments across Africa through the pioneering of a world-class touring circuit”
Move Afrika is bidding to set “a new gold-standard for entertainment touring events”, while increasing demand from international and regional artists to tour in the region and building local capacity within host cities. It is designed to drive transformative investments within local communities, engage local artists, vendors, agencies and crews, and provide opportunities for on-the-job skill development and training.
“Africa is driving culture and creativity globally, but the continent has been left out of the global music touring circuit for too long,” says Global Citizen co-founder and CEO Hugh Evans. “By moving from one-off events to the sustained commitment of an annual tour, Move Afrika will drive transformative investments across Africa through the pioneering of a world-class touring circuit.
“Move Afrika will pave the way for many more artists to tour the continent, while generating new economic opportunities within the entertainment industry for Africa’s booming youth generation. We are incredibly excited to bring this vision to life with pgLang and Kendrick Lamar, and are grateful for our partnership with the Rwanda Development Board, who share our belief in this vision.”
Move Afrika is Global Citizen’s latest effort to address the world’s inequities by creating job and entrepreneurship opportunities through live events. The organisation’s previous events in Africa include: Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100, which brought Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Ed Sheeran, Usher, Eddie Vedder and Chris Martin to Johannesburg, South Africa in 2018.
In addition, Global Citizen Live: Lagos featured Davido, Femi Kuti, and Tiwa Savage at Fela Kuti’s New Afrika Shrine in 2021, while Global Citizen Festival: Accra brought Usher, SZA, Stormzy and TEMS to Black Star Square in 2022.
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Report lifts lid on ‘South Africa’s Fyre Festival’
A new report has shed fresh light on a failed music spectacular in South Africa that was abruptly cancelled days before it was due to take place, drawing comparisons with the disastrous Fyre Festival.
The 100,000-cap TribeOne Dinokeng Festival was scheduled to be staged in Dinokeng, near Cullinan, from 26-28 September 2014 – pre-dating the Fyre fiasco by almost three years – but was pulled by organisers after selling just a few hundred tickets.
The project, billed as “Africa’s biggest festival”, was to be hosted by the City of Tshwane and helmed by Sony Music Entertainment (SME) and its partner, pan-African music and entertainment production, content and events firm Rockstar 4000.
Hundreds of artists, including headliner Nicki Minaj, Wizkid, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Kid Ink and J-Cole, were set to perform on three main stages at the festival.
But with tens of millions of rands of public money already spent, the event – led by Sony executive (now SME Africa MD) Sean Watson and Rockstar 4000 founder and CEO Jandre Louw – was axed, with promoters saying the host city had failed to meet infrastructure deadlines.
With three weeks to go until the event, organisers said only 4,000 tickets had been sold. It later emerged the actual total was 318
“Site preparation and related infrastructure development required to host the festival… fell behind schedule to a material extent, such that it was no longer realistically possible to stage and deliver the festival to the scale and quality that the organisers had always planned,” said a statement at the time.
However, nine years on, an exhaustive investigation by the Daily Maverick has uncovered more comprehensive details of the failed festival.
According to leaked documents, the mayoral committee pledged up to R20 million (€964,000) in public funds to build the festival’s infrastructure, with an additional R25m (€1.2m) to be paid to a “Sony Joint Venture” – thought to be Tribeone Festivals Pty Ltd, a company registered by Louw in 2012 – for the first year of a three-year, three-festival deal. But despite the city being unable to bear the costs alone, the agreement contained “no specific financial obligations” for the music executives.
Alarm bells rang among city officials in mid-June, around three months before the festival, when the City of Tshwane Group head of communications, marketing and events wrote to Louw expressing fears that their plans appeared to be in disarray – amid concerns over the progress of promised sponsorships and marketing – and ticket prices not even set.
Tickets did not go on sale until 12 August. With three weeks to go until the event, organisers said only 4,000 tickets had been sold (it later emerged the actual total was 318). Nine days after Louw had approached the city to underwrite a further R20m to help cover the financial shortfall, Louw and Watson cancelled the contract on 12 September and allegedly refused to negotiate a postponement or relocation.
Investigators criticised the event as “risky, ill-conceived and poorly executed”
The City of Tshwane went to the high court in a bid to compel the staging of the festival, but withdrew its application after learning that Watson and Louw had already cancelled the entire line-up.
“Emails from a number of booking agents… [indicated] that artists were booked, but that the deposit was still outstanding or that the artist has not received the balance of the amount due,” wrote investigators, who criticised the event as “risky, ill-conceived and poorly executed by inexperienced music executives”, in their forensic report.
Many of the suppliers, other companies and individuals left with unpaid invoices were reportedly told that Tribeone Festivals Pty Ltd had collapsed and could not fulfil its financial obligations.
Sony, Watson and Louw did not respond to DM‘s requests for interviews.
Legal action initiated by the City of Tshwane against Watson, Louw, Sony and Tribeone Festivals Pty Ltd is still pending.
Promoter charged over deadly Uganda concert crush
A promoter has been charged after 10 people – mostly children – died in a stampede at a New Year’s concert in Uganda, East Africa.
Abbey Musinguzi, aka Abitex, faces nine counts of rash or negligent acts causing death following alleged “defects in the planning and control of the concert”, held at Freedom City mall in Namasuba.
A crush occurred just after midnight on Sunday (1 January) as concert-goers rushed from the venue through a narrow corridor to watch a fireworks display in the car park to welcome in 2023. Uganda Police Force say the corridor was the only exit/entry point as security guards had locked all the other gates to stop people entering without tickets.
“As a result. several victims were trapped, others trampled upon through the narrow passage way which became a real bottleneck,” says police spokesman Fred Enanga.
Around 400 people were attending the event, with the victims aged between 10 and 30.
“This is a terrible tragedy and our deepest sympathies go to the families of the deceased persons”
“This is a terrible tragedy and our deepest sympathies go to the families of the deceased persons,” adds Enanga.
Police are continuing to investigate the tragedy and have issued further summons for other people involved in the organisation of the concert, which featured various artists.
“We have now summoned for questioning; the proprietor of the venue, the managers, other organisers of the event, the masters of ceremony, ushers, bouncers and private security guards who were dedicated to the event,” says Enanga. “Also summoned are police officers and other security personnel who were deployed to secure the event.
“At a later stage, we shall listen to the parents to some of the children to establish how they separated from them and got trapped in the passageway and gates. Additionally, we are going to share a comprehensive list of guidelines on various aspects of planning and managing events, in partnership with the police, in order to avoid a repeat of such tragic incidents.”
First concert announced for Africa’s metaverse
Africa’s largest mobile network operator MTN Group has announced it will host the first virtual concert in the continent’s metaverse, Ubuntuland.
The event will be held on 30 November in partnership with talent search programme The Mic: Africa.
Earlier this year, MTN Group became the first African company to purchase land in Ubuntuland with a vision to create dedicated environments for creating unique immersive experiences for its customers.
“The MTN Group’s presence in the African metaverse will be known as altMTN,” says Bernice Samuels, MTN Group executive, group marketing. “altMTN allows us to further support our ambition to lead digital platforms and support African innovation, and will, over time feature live events, shopping, gaming and learning.
“The metaverse holds a wide array of opportunities to further enhance and showcase African innovation”
“To welcome everyone to altMTN, we will leverage our partnership with The Mic: Africa to host Africa’s first virtual music concert in the metaverse to drive awareness and adoption of this new space.”
MTN will be running a competition for its launch event, giving customers a chance to win exclusive tickets to the concert.
“Many people still see the virtual worlds and environments as confusing and inaccessible, and so we are very proud to bring the altMTN experience to market in a way that can be accessed via mobile, tablet, PC or VR handset” adds Samuels. “We believe that by tapping into a key passion on the continent, namely music, we can actively draw our customers into the environment to not only experience it first-hand, but also to help us to improve altMTN as this developing technology increasingly interconnects and matures, to unlock the full benefits for our customers.
“The metaverse holds a wide array of opportunities to further enhance and showcase African innovation and we are excited to be pioneers of this journey on the continent.”
Global Citizen Festival to be held in US and Ghana
International advocacy organisation Global Citizen has announced details of the 10th anniversary Global Citizen Festival.
The event will take place across two stages in New York City’s Central Park in the US and Black Star Square in Accra, Ghana on Saturday 24 September.
Performers on the Central Park stage will include Metallica, Charlie Puth, Jonas Brothers, Maneskin, Mariah Carey, Mickey Guyton and Rosalía, while Accra’s Black Star Square will see live performances from acts such as Usher, SZA, Stormzy, Gyakie, H.E.R., Sarkodie, Stonebwoy and TEMS.
“Decades of systemic and political failures have led humanity into the midst of converging and rapidly deteriorating crises – climate, hunger, health, war and conflict,” says Global Citizen co-founder and CEO Hugh Evans. “The most marginalised populations are paying the price of the stagnant inaction of our leaders, and now millions of lives, and the future of our planet, are at stake.
“We demand action now, while there’s still time to change our collective trajectory”
“We refuse to just stand by and watch! We refuse to accept the starvation of multitudes when solutions are readily at hand. We demand a secure future for girls everywhere. We demand governments keep their promises on climate funding. We demand relief from debts unjustly crushing economies. And we demand action now, while there’s still time to change our collective trajectory.”
First held in 2012, the Global Citizen Festival is the world’s longest-running global campaign calling for an end to extreme poverty.
The event will be broadcast and streamed on ABC, ABC News Live, FX, Hulu, iHeartRadio, TimesLIVE, Twitter and YouTube, among others.
Tickets to the festivals are free and can be earned by downloading the Global Citizen app or visiting www.globalcitizen.org to take action on the campaign’s issues. For each action taken, users earn points that can be redeemed for tickets to the festivals.
Gidi’s Chin Okeke named MD, UMG Nigeria
Chinedu Okeke, founder of promoter Eclipse Live and executive producer of ‘Coachella in Lagos’, Nigeria’s Gidi Culture Festival, has been named managing director of Universal Music Nigeria.
Reporting to Sipho Dlamini, who has been also promoted to CEO of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, Okeke will oversee the expansion of Universal Music Group (UMG)’s operation in both Nigeria and other English-speaking west African countries.
The hiring of Okeke is one of a trio of new appointments for UMG in Africa, with Elouise Kelly also joining as COO of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, similarly reporting to the newly elevated Dlamini.
The leadership appointments cement UMG parent Vivendi’s focus on growing its activities in Africa, which also include similar initiatives in French-speaking west Africa, where the company has built a string of entertainment venues and cinemas.
UMG, the world’s largest recorded music company, is itself active in Nigeria, Kenya, the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Cameroon, Morocco and South Africa.
“There has never been a more exciting time for African music around the world”
“There has never been a more exciting time for African music around the world,” says Dlamini, “as it continues to influence and inspire culture and creativity while reaching a wider audience globally each day through streaming.
“I am delighted to welcome both Elouise and Chin to the UMG family; their unique skills and experiences will only help to further establish UMG as a bedrock within the African music community that will continue to put the interests and opportunities for artists first and help elevate African talent to new levels of success at home and abroad.”
Adam Granite, UMG’s EVP of market development, adds: “I am thrilled to announce these strategic appointments, as we look to further develop our domestic infrastructure and label rosters within Africa. Most integral to achieving our long-term ambitions is to build a strong leadership team on the ground, with deep foundations in each country, to help grow a dynamic ecosystem for all to benefit in the future.
“Over the past few years, Sipho has shown great leadership, commitment and vision for music in Africa, helping UMG to introduce new talent to audiences around the world and identify opportunities to lead the industry in licensing and supporting new platforms to reach African music fans.
“Elouise and Chin both bring welcome new skills, proven entrepreneurship and important leadership experience that will only serve to bolster UMG’s position as the market leader across Africa.”
Coronavirus claims South African promoters
Two popular South African concert promoters have died of Covid-19.
Thirty-five-year-old Pheko Kgengoe and Shonisani Lethole, 33, both passed away on 30 June after being admitted to hospitals in Johannesburg after contracting the coronavirus.
Lethole was known locally for his workshops connecting African artists with international opportunities. Siyabonga Mthembu, co-founder of Afro-jazz group the Brother Moves On, tells Music in Africa Lethole made an “immense” contribution to the South African music scene.
He comments: “Shoni introduced us to our first real manager, Adi Frost. His endeavoured to connect African artists. […] He introduced the new artists to the old-school players. Shoni respected and loved us all. He showed the kind of love for music that made him a big part of the Johannesburg live music scene.”
“I hear so many people saying the dearest things about Shoni now – his close friends in Johannesburg and his close-at-heart, far-away friends in Oslo, Copenhagen, London and Los Angeles,” says Norwegian promoter and distributor Trond Torner, who worked with Lethole.
“Shoni respected and loved us all”
“And I feel I’m not alone when experiencing a deep vacuum from where Shoni would be. He felt like a brother to us all. Shoni’s name will be forever.”
Kgengoe’s career included spells at Universal Music and Sony Music, and he later established his own PR company, 4 the Love.
“He was very passionate and contributed a lot to the music industry. His death is a loss to the whole industry,” says local music PR specialist Thabisa Mogwathle. “It has not fully sunk in that he is gone. He was a friend, a brother and a business partner as we worked on various projects together.”
Authorities are investigating the circumstances of Lethole’s death at Tembisa Hospital, after he tweeted he had not eaten for 48 hours in the days leading up to his passing.
There has been a surge in coronavirus cases in South Africa in recent weeks, with localised outbreaks reported in Johannesburg and Pretoria as Africa’s most developed country goes back to work.
Events are ready to reopen, says SA industry
South Africa’s Event Safety Council (ESC) has released a set of guidelines it says will allow the safe reopening of the live events sector in the country.
The document, produced in partnership with the ESC’s partners in a new industry umbrella organisation, the similarly named SA Events Council, aims to assist South Africa’s hard-hit live business in resuming activity as soon and as safely as possible, in accordance with local regulations.
Production of the guidelines saw the ESC collaborate with other international organisations, including the Event Safety Alliance in the US, ensuring global best practice is “embedded throughout” the report, according to the organisation.
As of 18 June, South Africa is allowing small gatherings of under 50 people, under alert level three of its lockdown regulations.
“We are pleased to see the industry coming together to embrace safety protocols that protect employers, employees and freelancers”
With the release of the guidelines, the SA Event Council is working towards reopening the sector further. Among its recommendations are enhanced protocols related to sanitisation, cleaning, hygiene, attendee management, venue requirements and more.
“The event industry already carries out comprehensive risk assessment, safety checks and logistical planning for every event, so including a Covid-19 mitigation plan as an extension of existing event planning mechanisms is easily achievable,” says Mike Lord, the ESC’s interim chairman.
Kevan Jones, executive director of SACIA, the ESC’s parent organisation, adds: “During these difficult times we are pleased to see organised industry coming together to embrace safety protocols that protect employers, employees and freelancers working in the events industry.
“We look forward to fruitful and positive outcomes from these engagements. As representatives of the events sector, we remain engaged in looking for solutions to rebuild the economy of this much-needed sector.”
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.