In April 1966, Africans from around the world convened in Dakar, Senegal, in what was to become a historic celebration of African and Afro-diasporic culture. Inspired by Senegalese president Leopold Senghor’s proud vision of négritude, the First World Festival of Black Arts—as the event was known—blazed a trail for a new generation of cultural pan-Africanists determined to shed their colonial heritages and forge a new black modernism. Musicians, poets, dancers, filmmakers and academics from Brazil, Cuba, the U.S., and across the continent spent three weeks in Senegal exhibiting their talents, challenging clichés, and forging a framework for cultural cooperation and unity.
Fifty years later, on the banks of Lake Victoria in Jinja, Uganda, an equally international set of musicians, DJs, artists and chefs are set to link up for the second edition of the Nyege Nyege Festival. Drawing on the history of Dakar ’66 with its pledge to “showcase the connections between Africa and the rest of the world,” the festival features an impressive lineup of continent- and diaspora-wide artists, from Nigerien keyboardist Mamman Sani (playing for the first time outside of his country), South African house pioneer Aero Manyelo, and the newly formed Burkinabé-Moroccan-Belgian grime outfit Jomaaga. That’s not to mention the array of underground East African talent on display, including Uganda’s Yallah MC and Kenya’s Binti Africa.
The festival starts tomorrow and runs until Sunday, so if you’re hearing this for the first time, it’s probably too late to head on over to southern Uganda. But great news, nevertheless, for those of us with an active interest in orienting the continent’s music industry away from dependency on the West.