Two things stood out at the first Blankets and Wine event in Kigali on Sundaynight;
The venue was a first, with the event tucked away somewhere deep in the woods of the Kigali Golf Club in Nyarutarama. From the club house, one had to walk about 300 meters further into the woods, at a location previously unexplored by event organizers.
Memories of the Rwanda Fiesta concert featuring Diamond Platnumz and the Morgan Heritage Band at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Nyamata, another first time venue, in July, came back to mind.
The other striking thing about Blankets and Wine Kigali was the huge influx of Ugandans who had travelled all the way from Kampala for the do.
The event officially kicked off at midday, although with the searing heat, many people chose to wait a little until the early hours of the evening.
As is standard Blankets and Wine practice, revellers had the option of carrying their own food and drink, with many settling for bottles of wine, whisky, and some quick bites.
Many turned up in groups consisting of family, friends, or couples, with some parents carrying their children and pets along.
At the venue, the mood was that of a large outdoor picnic, with people seated in groups and sharing food and drink while the children frolicked around.
There was also the option of buying eats and drinks from vendors in the various hospitality tents on site.
But it was not all about food and drinks, as many other vendors on site sold items ranging from local art and craft materials to fashion accessories and Made in Rwanda clothing.
To this end, the event lived up to its reputation as a marketplace for live music, fashion, food and drink.
Musically, early performances came from local musicians like Weya Viatora, Mike Kayihura, Angel Mutoni, Citi True and Kiki.
Adrenaline-raising performances started towards 7:00 pm when Bruce Melodie stepped on stage with his full band. It was a night when each act on stage came with their own band.
Melodie continued to ride on the success of his Ikinya hit, and the subsequent election victory song, Ntidukina, with the crowd effortlessly singing along.
Songbird Lillian Mbabazi came next after Bruce Melodie, bringing along her entire Sundowners Band all the way from Kampala.
She started off by acknowledging all her “ninjas from Kampala”, in reference to the huge number of Ugandans that had travelled all the way from Kampala for the show.
In Kampala, Blankets and Wine started as a once-in-a year event but is now held quarterly.
For the first time she performed her new single, Ndabivuze, off her upcoming Kinyarwanda album, although her efforts to elicit a sing-along session were futile as fans are yet to grasp the lyrics.
Mbabazi came as a guest performer in her capacity as the Blankets and Wine official ambassador in Kampala and she did not disappoint.
In the middle of her performance she took time off to deliver some good news to her Rwandan fans; the singer announced she had finally moved back to Rwanda permanently, drawing wild cheers from the crowd.
To make up for the lukewarm reception to some of her newer songs, Lillian travelled down memory lane, belting out some of the songs from her days with the Ugandan girl pop group Blu*3, and from the early days of her solo career. She immediately struck a chord with her fans.
However as with other performances before her, sound glitches were a constant nightmare.
Lillian’s performance eventually gave way to the day’s crowning act, the South African-based Congolese house musician Tresor Riziki.
It was an especially emotional performance for the musician, who had earlier revealed that he has spent some time in Rwanda in the past with his parents, and that it is from here that he recorded his first music demos as an upcoming musician.
He spoke in a mixture of Swahili and English as he performed a number of his songs including Complete, Evergreen and Never let me go.
“I was born in the DRC, grew up in the Congo, and it’s really nice to be here, and for the first time ever my family is here watching me perform so I’m a little bit nervous. They are watching me perform for the first time ever in my life, so it’s a beautiful night,” he said before launching into his performance.
Those who did not follow the performance had the option of taking part in the silent disco, where revellers were treated to individual music in headphones by different DJs.
The event ended shortly after 10:00 pm, before revellers were treated to an after party at the Chillax Lounge in Nyarutarama.