Uganda’s club scene relegated to sitting rooms for second year running

By Mark Kawalya

In March 2020, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, instituted the country’s first lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. As a result, many sectors have been affected, along with a halt to the vibrant nightlife that Kampala is famous for. Partygoers craved an outlet that catered to their entertainment needs despite the restrictions, which were biting hard and continue to do so. 

Quick-thinking television network managers seized the opportunity and created a night-long music format that tried to replicate a typical nightclub experience. Presenters with outstanding dancing skills coupled with expert DJs on the tables and dazzling stage lighting have been entertaining clubbers for almost two years. The shows typically start on Fridays nights and Saturdays from 10 pm till early morning. 

“When bars were closed and parties could not happen like before, the Dance Party brought the party to every living room in and out of the country.” Says Musa, an ardent fan of NTV’s dance party.

The lock-down innovation parties are also graced by some of Uganda’s best-selling artists, who enthrall audiences remotely as they perform some of their greatest hits. 

Because the music extravaganzas are filmed in clubs, seasoned mixologists demonstrate how to make an array of cocktails that audiences can try out and enjoy in their homes.

Themes are also inculcated into the shows to reflect various holidays and celebrations in the country. On Uganda’s 59th Independence Day, the shows played some of the best back-to-back local hits that have been composed over the years. The presenters donned outfits colour-coded to match the colours of the national flag, as drinks flowed.

“I love the TV dance shows because I get to enjoy good music and can dance in the privacy and safety of my home.” 22-year-old Rose says. 

The main difference between this show and regular televised music shows is that there is a higher level of interactivity and energy. This is aimed at keeping the show engaging for the youth, who are the main target audience for the shows. 

What, however, has remained unanswered is whether the remote dance shows will become mainstays even after the lockdowns have been lifted; this type of television music format has developed a life of its own that many die-hard home clubbers will be sad to see go. 

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