Fireworks, music as Kigali ushers in New Year

As the clock ticked ever closer to the midnight hour to usher in the New Year, all focus turned to the Kigali Convention Center, and all roads led there.

On the menu was the New Year Countdown concert featuring Dancehall act Patoranking and R&B songstress Simi, all from Nigeria, and a handful of local talent. The icing on the cake was the prospect of witnessing Kigali’s most spectacular fireworks display at the stroke of midnight.

It was a night when the Kigali Convention Center continued to cement its reputation as the country’s premiere go-to place for New Year’s celebrations and the attendant fireworks showcase.

Upstairs of the concert hall, President Paul Kagame and First Lady Jeanette Kagame played host to another party for government officials and members of the private sector.

Speaking of fireworks, the Convention Center was one among four sites cleared by the City of Kigali for the annual fireworks ritual. The others were; Mont Kigali, Rebero Hill, and Bumbogo.

Right outside the convention center, at the Kimihurura round about, Skol Breweries held its own with a string of musical performances and retail-priced beer. Dubbed KCC Skol Village,this was the general happiness section of the fireworks crowd as entrance was free.

For the New Year Countdown concert however, revelers had to part with a cool Rwf 20,000. The show kicked off at about 7:00 pm, with DJ mixes from Dream Team DJs Miller and Toxxyk, who later in the night were joined by DJ Waxxy from South Africa.

The DJs entertained until about 10:00 pm when live music performances kicked off. Shortly after 11:00 pm, Lion Imanzi, the day’s MC invited Bruce Melody as the night’s first major act on stage.

About twenty minutes to the stroke of midnight, Imanzi returned to the stage to usher revelers into the night’s crowning moment –the fireworks display. He asked the crowd to step out of the concert hall and into the sprawling gardens of the Convention Center.

At the stroke of midnight, the fireworks rig set up on the rooftop of the Radisson Blu Hotel complex popped off its first volley of shots, sending the crowd into wild screams of excitement.

A few people hugged tightly and kissed friends and loved ones, wishing them a ‘happy new year’. Then everyone reverted to their mobile phones, to capture the magical moment. It was selfie time as everyone tried to capture the most iconic shots from the fireworks spectacle.

From here, one could also catch a glimpse of the fireworks on Mont Kigali and at Rebero Hill, though faintly.

Soon, a white haze of smoke had formed a new horizon over the Convention Center. The fireworks lasted for about twenty minutes, before revelers returned indoors for the remainder of the concert.

Charly and Nina performed, before Nigeria’s Simi took to the stage. Known for her 2017 smash hit, Joromy, it was Simi’s first performance in Rwanda.

However poor sound and stage lighting took some of the shine off her performance, just like those that performed before her. She opened her repertoire with I surrender, her newest collaboration with countryman Mr. Eazi.

Patoranking, the night’s main act stepped on stage shortly after 2:30 am belting out Love you die (win, win), his 2017 monster collabo with Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz.

Real name Patrick Nnaemeka Okorie, he had last performed in Rwanda in 2017, at the KigaliUp Music Festival. In his extended performance, Patoranking gave his Rwandan fans all the songs for which he is known; Daniella wine, Bend down low, No kissing baby, Suh different, Melanin, with Sauti Sol, and Particula with Major Lazor, among others.

The New Year Countdown was organized jointly by Rwanda Events, Rwanda Convention Bureau, and Kigali Convention Center. The countdown concert debuted at the same venue last year, and was headlined by Nigerian songbird Yemi Alade, and Kenya’s Sauti Sol.

However this year’s edition attracted a much smaller crowd than last year’s, and many blamed this on the Rwf 20.000 entry fee. VIP passes went for Rwf 40.000. This was rather on the high side, considering that all the night’s performances were from acts with a largely youthful following.

For most revelers, the night’s main draw was the fireworks display, not Patoranking and not Simi. So why fork out Rwf 20,000, when one could see the fireworks from the Skol Village across the perimeter fence from the Convention Center? Entrance here was free, and a beer cost just Rwf 500.

Publicity-wise, it’s clear that the show was ill advertised. On social media, promotional fliers bore only the price tag for a ticket but no sales points.