Imagine a back lit outdoor stage with massive trees hanging over both sides, the silhouetted branches broken up by stacks of slightly mismatched speakers ascending up to clearest night-sky on the planet. Next to the stage is an incapacitated petrol station; the outside walls lined with peeling coca-cola advertisements, English football posters, and NRM campaign flyers dating back two decades. The empty station finds life during the concert, serving as the main bar, but there are many tables scattered around selling single-serving bags of gin and vodka. Behind the stage the artists congregate before and after they go on. I didn’t make it backstage but I heard Coldplay and Nas were around. There is one band for the whole night. The horn players were both dressed like Jermaine Dupri, but as repetitive and one dimensional contemporary Uganda pop seems to my foreign ears, this band had a range, blessing us with Al Green, Stevie, and Bob Marley covers in between artists.
The chairs run out fast and most people bring their own stools from home but loose them half way through the opening acts and clear the rug for some cuttin. I think this is really why I love these shows; I get to dance with the butcher (and his wife), waitresses, shoe polishers, restaurant and shop owners, mill-workers, hair-dresses, and everyone in between with no thought or mention of our positions on the hierarchical totem pole. I know this is the same reason everybody loves a celebration, but it seems different here. I’m not completely sure of the extent that people here really identify with those roles anyway; it wouldn’t surprise me if it were just my perception. All I know is people get nutty to live music, and there isn’t much that I like better then bumpin asses with a big bad Ugandan woman in a gomesa. Because of the single-serving bags of gin and vodka, the repeating drum pattern, and my bad Luganda, all the songs ran together for me by the time Chameleon came on, and I found myself in the middle of dance circles defying the whiteness of my pelvis. “Muzungu! Omoni Okuzina!” -- “Whitey! You can dance!”
Now it’s the next day and I’m staring down the barrel of my to-do list. Thank God for Chameleon. Thank God for fun.