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Nyege Nyege 2020 (online festival review by Paul S.)

Kampala, Uganda's Nyege Nyege collective hosts an annual festival showcasing experimental and electronic music from throughout Africa and the diaspora, as well as other innovative sounds and artists from around the world. This year, the entire festival was streamed online for free, including tons of live performances, club DJ sets, and exclusive audio-visual presentations. I spent basically the whole weekend watching as much as I could, and I didn't see nearly everything. Most of it can be found archived on the Nyege Nyege website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel. Also, the collective runs the labels Nyege Nyege Tapes and Hakuna Kulala, and everything they release is a must-listen. 

Anyway, about this year's festival. The opening ceremony featured DJ Kampire and friends rowing out to a small island in the middle of the Nile and throwing an Afro-house party. Another early highlight was a fantastic set by Turkana inside the Nyege Nyege studios which had been turned into a club for the festival. On the more experimental tip, Dis Fig's hair-raising set was closer to death industrial than her bootleg club edits or her recent ambient dub album with The Bug. Duma's brief video is somewhere between metal, industrial, and gabber, and it ends up turning into a sort of mini zombie rave. A few videos showcased traditional Ugandan musicians and dancers, including Kadodi Group and Basokakwavula Group, and these are enlightening documents. I'm surprised there wasn't more singeli this year, other than this one show with Makaveli and MC Anti Virus, which really takes off near the end. There was a huge spotlight on the gqom scene originating from Durban, South Africa, with videos of genre pioneers DJ Lag, Rudeboyz, Phelimuncasi, and others. Lisbon's trailblazing Príncipe Discos label was represented by RS Produções, who shot their set in an abandoned pool, and Blacksea Não Maya. There was also an excellent Egyptian showcase with artists such as ZULI, Gahallah, and 3PHAZ.

One of my favorite showcases was the Never Normal Dance Show hosted by the label's owner, the wonderful Suzi Analogue. Starting with a brief set from Detroit's own Waajeed, the showcase's subsequent performers touch on hip-hop, jungle, footwork, R&B, and much more. X.nte and Elevation both absolutely crush, but for me the highlight has to be the lengthy set from No Eyes, which rivals any basement noise/breakcore set I saw when I was in college. Just unbelievable. And of course Suzi does an amazing set as well, including a ferocious version of her recent tune "PPL PWR".

A few other must-mentions include the absolutely mindblowing animated epic from Indonesia's Gabber Modus Operandi. And Slikback... how do I even describe what he does? He's just astounding and this is just an hour of fire. And the always charming DJ Marcelle/Another Nice Mess recorded a set in her apartment, demonstrating her innovative mixing techniques using multiple turntables and reel-to-reels, but also incorporating video footage of her past visits to the festival, serving as a sort of travelogue. 

I know I linked to a lot of content here and you're not going to have time to watch and listen to everything, but there's a lot worth exploring if you're interested. I'm missing festivals and traveling in general, but attending Nyege Nyege in the future would be a dream come true.


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