September 14, 2020

Creating Safe Spaces For Minorities Through Music And Art: Q&A With Ugandan DJ Kampire Bahana

FabCafe Global Editorial Team

The YouFab Global Creative Awards has announced its annual call for entries for this year’s competition, which is headlined by a prestigious panel of judges, including Kampire Bahana, East Africa’s DJ extraordinaire and a core member of the Nyege Nyege collective.

With eclectic sets inspired by her East African heritage and beats that pull the audience onto the dancefloor, Bahana is a pioneering artist in the East African music industry who is breaking barriers and encouraging those with experimental and independent music to have a space to perform their art. Through the creation of the Nyege Nyege International Music Festival, Bahana has not only created a safe space for African women, minorities and queer people, but has also found a career path in music. As a DJ, Bahana was chosen as one of Mixmag’s Top Ten Breakthrough DJs of 2018. Last year, her DJ mixes were chosen as one of the best mixes of 2019 on Pitchfork and Fact’s end of year lists.

Kampire talked to FabCafe about her journey to becoming a DJ, her local music culture and whether the live music industry will survive this global pandemic.


Can you please tell us what you do?
I am a DJ and occasionally an installation artist. I’m very involved in the arts community in Uganda and East Africa, and I’m one of the founding members of Nyege Nyege International Music Festival.

Can you please tell us about Uganda and its role in what you do? What does your local city Kampala mean to you?
Kampala has been my home for the past decade or so. It’s a vibrant city, with a reputation for being the party capital of East Africa. Although our art scene is small, it is very tight knit because we have no choice but to support each other.


@kkaybie / Instagram

What or who influenced you to become a DJ, writer, activist, artist and creative director? Is there a particular experience you can share with us?

I always considered myself a writer, because as a child I loved to read and had key people in my life who told me my writing was good and encouraged me to pursue it. DJing came as a surprise after many years working in the arts community. After getting involved with the Nyege Nyege festival, I was introduced to so many independent African producers and DJs who were making a life for themselves through their art and creating magic on the dancefloor. I’ve always enjoyed making playlists at parties so when I was encouraged to try out DJing at a Nyege Nyege party, I jumped at the chance. The response to my sets has been so good that I have been doing it ever since.


©️ Darlyne Komukama10/plustwofive


How would you define the word “together” and what does it mean to you?
“Together” is something we took somewhat for granted before the pandemic. I can’t wait till this current situation has passed, and I get together with my community again and party! Virtual dancefloors and meetings just aren’t the same as being with others in a dark and sweaty club as we vibe to the same music. 

What made you want to create a music collective in your local area? What did you hope to achieve?
The purpose behind the festival and the collective has always been to give room for outsider music and audiences to find each other. Kampala has a great party scene but it’s dominated by mainstream music: pop, afrobeats and dancehall. We wanted a space where we could party to different music and for all the incredible East African artists who make independent, experimental and outsider music to have a space to play and connect with their audience.


© Darlyne Komukama


How important do you think dance music culture is in building a local community? Why?

Dance music culture is where young people find community and create the world they wish to live in. Our parties have been important not just for alternative musicians who, as a result of Nyege Nyege, are now touring the world, but also for women and the queer community who need and deserve safe spaces to get together. It’s also been an essential connection with alternative music communities across the African continent and diaspora. 

Could you please share with us how your work, such as Salooni, Femme Electronique and Nyege Nyege has brought about positive impact to your local community in Kampala?

A lot of my work these past few years has come down to creating spaces. Creating safe spaces for women and other minorities, creating space for Africans to interrogate issues and have difficult conversations, creating amazing spaces to party. I feel lucky to be able to create interesting and unique spaces and then have other people fill those spaces with their presence, energy and ideas. 

@nyegenyegefest / Instagram


How important is it to represent yourself through music? What does it mean to you to share your work with the world in 2020?

Like I said, my DJ career has come as a big surprise, even to me, so the fact that I get to represent my favourite music and my community internationally has been the greatest privilege. There’s a lot more interest in alternative music coming out of the African continent, and most importantly, interest in hearing from African creators and audiences themselves, so it’s been wonderful to be at the forefront of this moment.

@kkaybie / Instagram

How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the live music industry? What do you think it will look like in the future?

I’m wondering if we will have a live music industry at the end of this. So many of the promoters and clubs that booked me internationally before anyone knew who I was are independent entities who never made much money and got into the industry because they loved the music. Their lives were not easy before, but the pandemic has now decimated them. If we want to see interesting, different exciting music and live performers once the pandemic is over, we have to support our local scenes, otherwise the live music industry is going to be run by algorithms and dominated by a minority of privileged artists supported by major labels.


©️ Martin Kharumwa

Please tell us your favorite musician or DJ at the moment.

It’s hard to pick just one because there’s so much good music coming from the African continent, but I am a huge fan of Gafacci, a producer and DJ from Ghana. Every song he makes is dancefloor magic.

Go to YouFab 2020 Official Website now, Click here

YouFab 2020

Theme: Contactless
In line with its mission of capturing the zeitgeist through art and design, the 2020 award theme is “Contactless”. As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced sudden changes to social systems and personal lifestyles through quarantines, lockdowns and social distancing measures, YouFab is calling for designs that shed light on experiences that bring humanity back to everyday life, as well as works that present actual experiences where being contactless is stronger by default.

Entry Requirements:
The YouFab awards are open to all individuals and corporations around the world, regardless of age and nationality. All works, products and services past the planning stage will be accepted, and works can be physically or practically implemented, currently in operation or have already been published or released. Starting 2019, works done without digital production tools are also welcome.

Submission dates: Saturday August 1, 2020 – 12:00pm JST Saturday October 31

Grand Prize: Kohei Nawa-designed trophy and US$2,000 

First Prize: Kohei Nawa-designed trophy and US $1,000

Student Prize: Certificate and US$500

Special NewHere Prize: Certificate and US$1,000

Go to YouFab 2020 Official Website NOW

Inspired by the ‘Fab’ revolution as prescribed by MIT maverick Neil Gershenfeld, FabCafe is a series of ‘Fab’ innovation labs that specialize in creating products, services and experiences of the future. Here, maker enthusiasts, businesses and everyday people can access digital fabrication tools and experiences for fields ranging from fashion to bio. Founded in Tokyo in 2012, FabCafe’s global network now serves and fosters creative communities in 11 locations around the world, including Bangkok, Barcelona, Hong Kong, and many more. Subscribe to FabCafe Global newsletter here.


  • FabCafe Global Editorial Team

    This articles is edited by FabCafe Global.

    Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this article with us.
    Contact us

    This articles is edited by FabCafe Global.

    Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this article with us.
    Contact us

Get in touch

Subscribe to FabCafe Global monthly newsletter for more stories in innovation and design.

Our Business Services

Building products and services that push innovation for companies