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DOADOA, developing, connecting and exporting East African talent

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Performing on Stage
A Ugandan artist performing on Stage

Performing arts in Uganda are growing in leaps and bounds with more and more people appreciating the arts. With festivals like Bayimba, contemporary arts festival and theatre festival gaining momentum with each passing year, it is evident that the country’s artistes are doing all they can to promote the sector and that the public is appreciating their efforts.

It is this need to promote and develop the arts that led to the birth of the annual DOADOA East African performing arts market, a professional networking platform for both regional and international industry stakeholders in the performing arts business.

It showcases and promotes a thriving, diverse arts sector and stimulates dialogue, collaboration and exchange between local artists, producers and their international counterparts to grow the export of East African performance. It gives stakeholders in the music industry (e.g. musicians, music producers, music promoters, managers and music festivals), but also of other performing arts professionals (such as drama and dance) the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience, to network and learn.

Stemming from the Swahili word, “doa”, which means a spot in a cloth, DOADOA was adapted to mean “spotted” which serves the purpose of the event – spotting East African talent. This was after they doubled the word “Doa”.

The event which was created in 2012 is a partnership initiative by some of the major performing arts stakeholders in the region – Bayimba International Festival in Uganda, Sauti za Busara festival in Zanzibar, Sawa Sawa Festival in Kenya, KigaliUp in Rwanda, Caravan records in Tanzania, Ketebul Music and Kenya Music Week in Kenya and Selam Music and Jazzamba in Ethiopia.

According to Phillip Masembe, the DOADOA media coordinator, the event is gradually becoming a regional hub.

“The past three editions have registered a growing number of attendances of performing arts professionals, helped to facilitate collaborations, exchanges and booking of artists to perform at festivals across the globe. It is due to this success that more stakeholders participate and support the market but also tap into the opportunities that come along,” he says.

And indeed, a record breaking number of 1,500 professionals and audiences attended the third edition of DOADOA.

For the performers, it could mean more international  recognition and bookings for festivals, concerts, tours and other events; there are opportunities for artist collaborations with the help of the live recording studios that are set up during the market.

“Sarabi Band received various bookings as a result of their showcase at last year’s DOADOA, Joel Sebunjo also benefited massively from DOADOA, Milege (band) also has a success story to share when it comes to their benefits from the market,” Masembe proudly says.

He says that there are various benefits to attending DOADOA depending on the position one holds within the performing arts industry. Through the various conferences, lots of knowledge and information is shared. Everyone gets exposed to other professionals and can directly connect through the speed networking sessions.

The greater and lasting excitement at DOADOA is simply the unique chance to meet one’s peers from so many different countries, cultural, social and professional backgrounds.

Besides the artists, the market has also created awareness about Jinja and the various activities that run within the district thus boosting its tourism marketability.

The fourth edition however promises to go beyond this. The event which has been held in Jinja for the past three years is, this year, set to have its opening night on 6th May at the Uganda National Theatre with Annet Nandujja and The Planets showcasing their famous kiganda dances. This gives chance to those who can’t make it to Jinja to meet the visiting delegates. Kampala, being the capital city, is also the best focal point for each and every performing artist, professional and stakeholder within the performing arts industry.

A Ugandan artist on stage to entertain and educate

The activities will then continue to Jinja from May 7th to 9th.

This year’s programme is segmented into three parts; The day programme that is set up for co-learning through conferences, workshops, networking and exhibition fair. It is tailored to address the current challenges in the performing arts business – like copyright issues, mobility of artists, freedom of expression and others. This will be held at Crested Crane Hotel.

The showcase/evening programme that will be held at Jinja Cultural Centre (CEPAC) is open to the public. Here, the audience will experience first-hand some of East Africa’s best bands including The Octave Band(Kenya), Abeneko (Tanzania), Jemima Sanyu (Uganda), H_art, the band (Kenya), Moutcho (Burundi), Leo Mkanyai and Swahili blues band(Tanzania), among others.

Masembe explains that the artistes (many of whom are unknown to most Ugandans) set to perform were selected for a reason.

“The fact that they are unknown, is the reason DOADOA exists: to expose them to not only Ugandans but to each and everyone around the globe,” he says.

In addition to that will be the DOADOA fringe events (DJ after Parties) mainly with DJs coming from East Africa and Europe. These will showcase each night from May 7th to 9th at Queens Palace, Bourbon and Bax Bar respectively.

Masembe says that staging DOADOA in Jinja will ensure that artistes and delegates are dedicated to the event.

“We observed with other events organized around Kampala, most artists keep walking in and out of session because they are close to every day work relations. Jinja is a distance away from the daily routine and when delegates and artists come to attend, they stay for the days of the event.”

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