The Nyege Nyege collective is a Ugandan artist collective that is becoming the home of musicians from around the world. Nestled in the southern edge of Kampala it separates itself from other collectives by thriving as a renaissance of African dance music.
The collective has a label by the name of Nyege Nyege Tapes, which describe themselves as “a Kampala based label exploring, producing, and releasing outsider music from around the region and beyond.” Here are a few things we’ve learned from them:
1. They’re passionate about community
Co-founder Derek Debru runs the collective out of his home. While they’re moving between studios, it serves as the heart of their project, providing space for a constantly changing array of musicians, and three stray dogs.
It’s always full of new music exploration and artists often play at raves throughout the city, bringing together all types who enjoy music. The space serves as a playground for innovation in electronic music. They’ve even started their own music festival!
2. They offer escape from past troubles
Many of the musicians come from struggle. Historic violence has plagued parts of Uganda, from The Lord’s Resistance Army to state-affiliated militants. Rey, a Congolese artist by the name of Sapiens, fled Congo when he was only 10 years old.
“In my country, you just see people dying for nothing,” says Rey. “When you get home from school, you find that your friend is dead.” He returned to Kampala just four years ago and produces what he calls “Congo Techno.”
Otim Alpha comes from Gulu, northern Uganda. The former kickboxer once protected the people of Gulu from militant attacks. He’s now an artist using inspiration from traditional Acholi music in his work to create new electronic sounds. Nyege Nyege allows a creative platform for artists like him to share their passions and experiment with styles.
3. They’re doing it differently from Western musicians
The collective offers more than space for artists. Artists have tools and computers that allow them to shape their sounds and produce the art they want. This nurtured local music culture in the face of colonialism.
Many western artists seek new sounds in Africa, leaving the local artists feeling used or cheated. Nyege Nyege Tapes allows artists to collaborate together, producing new and organic art. They believe that the music is more than a sound; it’s a way to live and a part of traditions.
The collective has no problem with collaboration, but believe the terms must be fair. They claim that coming from afar to sample different sounds, and then leave produces an outcome that leaves artists feeling disconnected.
You can listen to their sounds here!
What do you think of their music? Do you have a favorite track from the collective? Let us know in the comments!
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