Kenyan boyband Sauti Sol says it is not to blame for its failure to perform at the 10th edition of the PanAfrican Dance Festival, known by its French acronym Fespad, in Kigali, on July 29.
The quartet, which has gained in popularity in Rwanda over the last two years, failed to perform before an expectant crowd outside Amahoro National Stadium last week Sunday, as many fans took to social media to express disappointment.
Sauti Sol apologised and set the record straight, they were not responsible for the events that led to their failure to perform, instead blaming the organisers.
“This was an organisational issue with the promoters of the festival. They reached out to us and despite our busy schedule in Zambia, we decided to fit in this show because as usual we were excited to come play in Kigali. We always have a blast playing for our Rwandan fans,” Sauti Sol said in a statement.
Their flight from Lusaka booked by the organisers arrived in Kigali at 9:30pm only to be informed that the concert was closing at 10:30pm. Despite doing their best to appear at the festival they could not perform.
“With our band already on stage and ready for us, unfortunately it was announced that the festival was over and our performance must be cancelled. This was a deeply disappointing outcome but the situation was out of our hands. If it was up to us, we would have rocked like we always do,” Sauti Sol said.
Their failure to perform triggered criticism from loyal Rwandan fans but as it turned out, it had everything to do with the organisers.
The Ministry of Sports and Culture admitted that the Fespad launch concert did not go as planned and took the blame.
The Minister of Sports and Culture, Julienne Uwacu, tweeted: “I and the staff of the Ministry of Sports & Culture deeply regret our failure to host the Fespad launch that both the artistes and the Rwandan public deserve. We apologise to @sautisol, every artist as well as to Rwandan fans for this failure. The lessons learned will not be wasted.”
In a country where efficiency is not an option, several officials are likely to find themselves answerable for the poor organisation of the once popular continental festival, which used to attract the top artistes.
For music lovers like Fiona Kamikazi Rutagengwa, this Fespad was a pale shadow of past editions, with the high point coming in 2010 when the likes of Kassav, Lauryn Hill, Koffi Olomide and D’banj performed before full stadia.
According to reliable sources, President Paul Kagame, as the current chairman of the African Union, and First Lady Jeannette Kagame were supposed to attend the festival, but changed their minds.
After 2010, the biennial festival was moved from the Ministry to Rwanda Development Board (RDB) which shifted it from August to February. The 2013 event was marred by technical glitches, low turnout and poor organisation.
RDB chief executive Clare Akamanzi promised at the time that lessons had been learned and what happened would not recur.
In 2016, the festival returned, this time back to the Ministry of Sports and Culture and merged with the national festival day, traditionally known as Umuganura. The weeklong festivities were again marred by low attendance and poor organisation.
“It is all down to organisation. If you do not involve partners and advertise ahead of time, any event is bound to fail. How can a free event flop?” wondered DJ Nano, a Kigali-based DJ.
Others say the ministry should cede organisation to a private showbiz company for it to succeed.
Nevertheless, local stars Knowless Butera, Bruce Melodie, Zoa Zoba, Igor Mabano and Sebeya Band from Nyundo School of Music entertained the showgoers.
The weeklong festivities, were held in the districts of Musanze, Rubavu, Huye, Rwamagana and Nyanza.