Bayimba – The Inside Track

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Bayimba Festival

Aheebwa Alexander doesn’t look the part of an assistant director to a major arts foundation in Kampala but then again, this is no normal arts foundation. Alex sits down in his jeans, black Bayimba t-shirt, canvas shoes with ear phones slung over his shoulders to tell us more about Bayimba Cultural Foundation (or ‘Bay).

Who is Alex?

Alex is the Assistant Director of Bayimba Cultural Foundation. I am tasked with the financial and day-to-day management side of Bayimba while my colleague, director Faisal Kiwewa, is more inclined to the artistic management side of Bayimba. Honestly, I do not know who does what because we complement each other well as and when need arises.

When did Bayimba Cultural Organisation start?

The conceptualization stage of Bayimba started in 2006. Back then the offices were in the living room of a friend’s small apartment in Makerere flats. Faisal had one laptop, a printer and a desktop computer – that was it. Bayimba got officially registered as a non-profit organisation in 2007 and it held its first International Music Festival the following year in 2008. To date we have held five International Music Festivals.

What does the word Bayimba stand for?

The word Bayimba is a Luganda word that depicts people singing. Bayimba generally symbolizes a platform for all forms of art or all voices of the arts – the people’s voices.

What is Bayimba’s goal as a non-profit organisation?

Bayimba’s vision right from 2008 when we held the first International Music Festival has been to create a vibrant arts and culture sector that is professional, creative and viable and contributes to social and economic development in Uganda and East Africa.

What are some of Bayimba’s achievements?

Bayimba has invested time and tried to improve all forms of art in Uganda. We have held workshops around the five regions of Uganda an example being the live performance music workshops that have helped and taught genuinely talented Ugandan artists how to perform live. We have also managed to create a more vibrant art scene (through our regional festivals), taken the arts to the people, cultivated some good talents, introduced new forms of art in these regions and showcased Ugandan art.

What are some of the challenges Bayimba has faced as a Non-Profit Organisation in Uganda?

The biggest challenge we have faced has been soliciting local funding. We don’t have government or private sector sponsorship. They haven’t been very optimistic to sponsor us yet the product/brand is uniquely Ugandan and helps promote Ugandan Art.

Why is the Ugandan Government and private sector in Uganda not optimistic to sponsor an organisation that promotes Ugandan art forms?

Well, frankly, if I knew the answer to that question we would already have addressed that challenge but I suspect two things: One is that the private sector sponsors always look out for two things that is the crowd and brand visibility. The second one is that most private sector sponsors target main stream artists at every festival thus they don’t realize that there is a market on its own that appreciates uniquely Ugandan cultural music. As part of our mandate, we are committed to promoting the less popular acts and forms of art and bring them to the fore front. We therefore look out for partnerships that share in this vision.

Any plans to bring Yousou N’Dour, Lauryn Hill or Ishmael Lo at the next Bayimba International Music Festivals?

There is no limit to creativity or our artistic programing. So the vision is to make the Bayimba International Music Festival stage as prestigious as we can such that when these artists perform at the Bayimba stage they will feel that they are going through a legacy of what Bayimba is about. Definitely these artists will someday apply to perform on the Bayimba stage as soon as they feel honored to be part of the prestige.

What are the set dates for Bayimba regional festivals this year (2013)?

The Gulu festival will take place on 6th April, Jinja is on 11th May, Mbarara is on 1st June, Mbale is 6th July and finally Kampala will be on the 21st – 23rd September.

Any last words?

Yes. I would like to thank our media partners Urban Legend Kampala for this interview.

To sponsor Bayimba Cultural foundation contact them on this email; sponsorship@bayimba.org

For more information about Bayimba Cultural Foundation, visit their website; www.bayimba.org.
E-mail: info@bayimba.org
P.O Box 34806,
Kampala (Uganda)
To contact Aheebwa Alexander;
E-mail: alex@bayimba.org
Mobile: +256 (0) 772 827 777/ +256 (0) 713 548 784
Tel; +256 (0) 414 591 690

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