Nyege Nyege Festival to Kampala, Uganda is what Rift Valley Festival was to Nairobi, Kenya. You leave the big, glam city on a Friday afternoon to make it to the lakeside in Naivasha in 1.5 – 2 hours, party the entire weekend and head back to Nairobi slowly on Sunday evening.
Nyege Nyege Festival’s (NNF) timing couldn’t have been any better. Rift Valley Festival (RVF) officially shut down in 2015 leaving Nairobians with nothing to look forward to at the end of August.
We heard about NNF launching in Jinja, Uganda in October of 2015. It became a solid plan. A bunch of Nairobians – Expats and locals – decided to hop on a bus for a 12 hour journey to a festival at an abandoned resort by the Nile River. You can read about my experience at NNF 2015 here.
Considering it was the first festival, we let a lot slide. The sound, the distance, the stalls etc. And were a tad bit skeptical for 2016 but with a line up like below, there was no way we were missing it! This year, I chose to camp and live in the bubble of the festival.
I managed to convince my mates Katie and Richard to join me 6 days before the bus ride – My brother Riz, Ata and Marah were 100% going from the moment the event page was posted on Facebook.
We chose to join the party bus, which was leaving from The Alchemist Bar in Nairobi. Three 43 seated buses left on the 1st of September 2016 at 7.45PM. The party bus and the artist bus (and an extra bus for those who couldn’t get on the party bus :P). The party bus was pure hype all the way to The Source of The Nile (let’s not talk about the disgusting 2 hour wait at the border at 4AM).
We got dropped off at the top of the road that led to The Nile Discovery Resort, the venue for NNF2016, at 9AM and took boda-boda’s down and we’re here!
NNF2016 – Day 1
We were the first batch to arrive (aside for the crew who had camped since Wednesday for set up). Found our little camping spot and the Kenya crew chose to camp next to each other. Pitched up, freshened up, changed and we were ready to take on Nyege Nyege Festival 2016!
… But then we got kicked out for a security sweep! So out we go and this amazing street ice-cream was the first purchase with our Ugandan Shillings! It tasted as good as it looks! Got back in once the gates were open and then walked around to figure out our surroundings. Music wasn’t on yet, but we managed to grab lunch. Then went back to camp to catch a nap, then played some card games and got our faces painted by the awesome Lindsay before the madness began.
We went down to The Bell Stage aka The Main Stage and found Young Cardamom and Hab from Kampala doing their thang and they ROCKED! You could easily tell who the Nairobians were – we were there to DANCE! And we gave it to Jinja hard! The duo dropped their new single #1 Spice for the first time EVER at NNF2016 and the formation on the dance floor for that track was phenomenal (if anyone has that video, PLEASE SEND IT TO ME). That moment is stuck with me for life. And that is how my weekend began!
We jammed with YC & Hab as Dj Crisio from Kampala dropped their tracks – after, DJ Salut took over with some crazy (what everyone was calling “animated”) music. We then moved over to The Eternal Disco Stage aka Forest Stage aka The Mystical Stage.
I got so engrossed with the music at the Eternal Disco Stage (I’m going to from here on call it The Mystical Stage) that I don’t even know which DJ played at what time as the music was on point! We got back to the Main Stage when everyone told us that E A Wave were about to go on and of course we were there to support Kenyan artists – NuRobians turned up! We dominated the front of the dance floor and E A Wave gave us a B E A U T Y of a set! What!
Having Persian Blood with Pakistani Roots and Brought up Kenyan, NNF2016 made me feel very much at home. Every element of me was pleased. The music went from Rock to Pop to Traditional African to Arabian to Reggae to House to whatever you can think of. I cannot think of a genre that was not played at the festival.
Phil Battiekh went on a little later on Friday night and the Arab in me came out! Rocky-B from Israel and Nazal from Tunisa and I jammed throughout his set! It was like the world came together in Jinja.
After moving to the Mystical Stage, my night ended at 5AM!
NNF2016 – Day 2
Woke up at 7.30AM to the sounds of African drums by the camp until someone came round and told the campers to keep it quiet! So, now I’m wide awake and luckily everyone’s up too. Morning plan: Shower and breakfast and back to the music after!
Bathroom situation: Compost Loos (do your deed and throw a bucket of sawdust on it) with Kanga’s as your door and showers were gallons of water with a tap and again, Kanga’s as your door! I have never felt more hipster in my life – there was literally no privacy!
Got our faces painted by the awesome Lindsay! And went in search for the infamous Ugandan street food: ROLEX! Who would’ve thought that a rolex can be turned into a cuisine? There were 2 main stalls that were “specializing” in the street-food. There were many options of how you can have it – What intrigued me the most was the Japanese Style Rolex! Stuffed with rice, beef or chicken with Soy Sauce and Wasabi on the side! Very innovative!
We found an area behind the Mystical Stage known as “The Dark Side”. And it really wasn’t the dark side, it was absolutely beautiful in the day. We spent most of our morning and early afternoon by the Nile River, under trees, drinking Ethiopian Coffee and listening to some chill music off our phones and just embracing the pure awesomeness of nature.
We then migrated to the Main Stage and enjoyed the performances as we impatiently waited for Cosmic Homies to get on stage and bring that Nairobi love to Jinja – and when they did, they blew NNF2016’s mind away! Saturday night was the big one – The last bunch from Nairobi and Kampala made their way through – the crowd bigger than Friday night and everyone was looking forward to Blinky Bill, Daniel Haaksman, Schlachthofbronx… just to mention a few. And of course they all killed it! The rain may have dampened the soil, but it didn’t dampen the ravers spirit and it went on till Silly O’ Clock again!
NNF2016 – Day 3
The last day of the 3 day festival – This is what mid afternoon looked like.
People still hung around to embrace the vibe and music of the festival. The food stalls were pretty busy and everyone seemed to be very chilled out.
There were a few more performances that I was personally looking forward to: Yellow Light Machine, Rocky-B – The Tropikal Camel, Phil Battiekh and the finale with BBRAVE as Akwaaba Sound System with Max Le Daron!
Sunday, 3rd September was my favourite day. The vibe was fresh, chill, different.
As the evening came through, so did the rain, but it stopped nobody from leaving the dance floor. If we were in Nairobi, I’d be looking for shelter, but I embraced and danced in the rain as I haven’t done that since I was a kid and it felt so free and at home and hey! We’re at a festival, so who cares? Katie and I went over to the Mystical Stage where Amit and Dj Lasta found us and said “just the ladies we were looking for to gift these to! Now we can find you easily!”. And we literally were so easy to spot for the rest of the night!
I need to acknowledge Dj Crisio‘s incredible set at the Mystical Stage before we moved to the main stage. I stopped him after his set and told him “Dude! What a set!”. He literally said “I knew a bunch of people were gonna say this to me”. He knew his last set at NNF2016 was the bomb-diggity!
When Rocky-B took on the main stage, I was mesmerized by his Moroccan Roots and Jerusalem Background and the fact that he spread a beautiful message of belonging and it made me feel so at home. Katie called it a night before 2AM and I stayed on for Phil, BBRAVE and Max‘s sets. I haven’t danced like that in years and it felt so good!
The plan with Katie was to stay up till sunrise or rather – get up for sunrise. After a night of all that dancing, and Lindsay and I getting back to our tents at 5.20AM, I just couldn’t hack it!
NNF2016 – Day 4
Woke up to no showers and no washrooms. It was a tight, frustrating and awkward situation for all the campers. The Nairobi crew were asked to meet at Hotel Marble at 2pm to get info about the bus that was leaving for Nairobi that evening. So we packed up our stuff, dropped our things at Hotel Marble, hopped on to boda-boda’s and went in search for Java House Africa – a little part of Jinja that made Nairobians feel very much at home. It was also great to use a normal bathroom and have running water! Charged our phones and had wifi for the first time in days! Hopped back on our boda-boda’s and went back to Hotel Marble. Hung out there for hours – played card games, engaged in conversations until most passed out. Then the bus finally arrived! And we made our way back to Nairobi at 7PM!
Nyege Nyege Festival 2016 was amazing! They upped their game from the first one and I see it growing bigger and bigger every year! Here’s a little aftermovie and the dates for Nyege Nyege 2017 are 1st – 3rd September! See you next year!