"Playing for Change, Singing for Peace," the 2022 festival reunites African artists to bring people of Africa's Great Lakes region together through music.
A fiesta is in full swing in Goma, a major city in northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as the Amani music festival finally returns here this weekend, despite the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the restlessness of decade-long turmoil.
Under the optimistic slogan "Playing for Change, Singing for Peace," the Amani music festival, meaning "peace" in Swahili, has been reuniting African artists to bring people of Africa's Great Lakes region together through music.
Despite the pandemic, the fiesta finally returns after a one-year hiatus to Goma, a populated city that sits near DRC's frontiers with Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. This year's event, under the theme "engage yourself, let us engage," was back Friday, following the cancellation in 2021 due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Celebrations are in the air in the city, as visitors inside and outside the DRC are only a negative COVID-19 test away from the three-day fiesta full of music and dances over the weekend.
First run in 2013, the festival is held annually and lasts for 3 days in February of each year. About 10,000 young people from Goma and the nearby Rwandan city of Gisenyi are packed into the festival that brings together rumba artists and rappers on stage.
"I am thrilled," said Mumbere Mbondi, big fan of the festival from Goma, expressing his excitement that the music festival made the hard-won comeback. "This year the organizers have done their best to make this event possible," Mbondi said.
“In this environment of fear, violence, losses, despair, tears, and permanent trauma, the Amani festival is an interlude to breathe, laugh, let off steam and unload a little, escape, just a little , before returning to the daily difficulty.” https://t.co/aINAP2QIbT— Kaori Fujii (@kaorifujii_net) February 6, 2022
Apart from shows and parties, the festival, which opened its doors Friday, aims in particular to bring together people from different backgrounds through culture in a festive space, especially in the city that has been under the state of siege for about 7 months.
"The Amani festival aims to make culture a unifying element of peaceful cohabitation, of living together," Guillaume Bismiwa, the director of the festival told press.
Tubuni Patient, a music lover from Goma, said that the festival puts aside the differences through art. Even before the curtains were raised, over 20 artists from Africa's Great Lakes region gathered in Goma to work on a peace anthem, which was planed to be debuted at the festival. As the piece of music is made up of several languages of the region, artists from different countries decide to break the barrier and pitch in, to work on the song that aims to make people forget their identities.
"It is the anthem of brotherhood or peace. These are words that we have found in perfect union and harmony with the artists of several communities in the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi, with whom we have worked hard," said Thomas Lusango, art director of the song, noting that the anthem will be sung in Swahili, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi and other mother tongues in the region.
"In this anthem, the message we send is about union and unity. When we are divided, it is easy to be destroyed. But when we are united, we can win. My message is about staying together to overcome all these tendencies that could divide us," explained the Rwandan singer Victoire Lcyitegetse.
Africa's Great Lakes region has long suffered from violence and conflicts. In eastern DRC alone, more than 3,800 people have been killed in 1,817 armed attacks in 2021, according to the Kivu Security Tracker, a monitor on eastern DRC.
#Africa | Congolese families are suing #Apple, Tesla and big tech for the children that were injured and killed in mines.#Congo #DRCongo pic.twitter.com/1tPTvC6Mmv— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) December 18, 2019