This Saturday December 1st, the audience is gathering around the stage of the Sanaa Weekend, a weekly musical show which provides a promotional platform for young artists in Goma. It is the last day of the qualifiers for musical groups from Goma. Six of them have made it to the finals, but only 3 will be selected to perform at the 6th edition of the Amani Festival in February 2019. Eagerness and a certain determination can be read on the faces of the young artists. In the hall where they are gathered, each one of them is fully aware that they need to impress.
They await, from afar, for the host to announce the results of the draw which will determine the order of the performances. Suspense fills the air. 18-year-old Eric is here to support one of the 6 groups. He hopes that his favorite group will perform a little later. “Those who go on first might be at a disadvantage because the sound quality isn’t always great at the beginning,” fears Eric. But that is merely a pretext. This Saturday, the sound is impeccable. In reality, Eric wants to ensure that his group will perform before the largest possible audience, as people continue to gather throughout the afternoon. Since the start of the competition, in September, more than 3,500 people have attended the Sanaa Weekend every Saturday. Each and every vote from the audience counts towards allowing the artists to progress to the next stage of the competition.
The first group has been called to the stage. The show has begun. Two youths attempt to impress the audience. Rizo T and JC Star share an impressive backstory. They are both living with disabilities. In 2002, when they met in a care center for people living with disabilities, they were both young, but bonded over their shared musical talent. They decided to start singing together, to entertain the other disabled children. Since then, they’ve created their own musical group, and want to use their music to advocate for people living with disabilities on the stage of the Amani Festival. “The goal of our music is to educate the population to show respect and consideration for people living with disabilities,” explains Rizo T. “In Goma, when a disabled person enters a shop, people assume they are a beggar,” worries JC Star. “If we make it big with our music one day, we will change this image,” explain the two youths, who have nicknamed themselves the “Power Boys”.
Like them, Shine Keys also believes that the Amani Festival is “a place that recognizes the potential of the Goma youth, especially young girls.” At the age of 17, Shine Keys is the only girl to have made it to this stage of the competition. Her musical style, inspired by Nigerian artist Yemi Alade moved the Sanaa Weekend audience from the start. “I want to participate in the Amani festival to make a name for myself,” declares the young artist, who regrets that many parents don’t allow their children to develop their artistic talents. “At the beginning, my parents didn’t understand my passion for music, but when I invited them to my first performance at Sanaa Weekend, they were very emotional. I love them because they support me now,” explains Shine, who dreams of becoming a star, “my talent will benefit many people one day, if I make money as a musician, I will use it to help those in need.”
Another group of artists takes the stage. The “Life Song” performances are diverse and include both covers and original compositions. The group was founded in 2012 by two youths from Goma. Lamech Mwalimu and Last Born Muganga share an incredible passion for Hip Hop music. They dream of building a creative industry in Goma where youths can learn music and fashion. Their music is inspired by daily life in Goma. They hope to perform at the 6th edition of the Amani Festival, “It’s a big event which gives a lot of visibility to local artists, many artists from Goma are world famous now thanks to this festival,” declares Lamech right after their performance.