What were kids doing at a dancehall music concert?

Today I will start by making a confession. On my 18th birthday I begged my big sister to drive me to a discotheque in Kampala. As a young adolescent I had heard a lot about the fun people have in these places. Knowing that at 18, I was legally an adult, I wanted to get a taste of the nightlife that Kampala had to offer.
Allan Brian Ssenyonga
Allan Brian Ssenyonga

Today I will start by making a confession. On my 18th birthday I begged my big sister to drive me to a discotheque in Kampala. As a young adolescent I had heard a lot about the fun people have in these places. Knowing that at 18, I was legally an adult, I wanted to get a taste of the nightlife that Kampala had to offer.

My sister eventually agreed and sold my mum a different story as a way of covering my tracks. The club in question was Ange Noir Discotheque, which is said to be the number one nightspot in Kampala. 

However, it was not going to be easy for me to get in even after turning 18. That was simply not enough. Many students of my age told us of stories of being ‘bounced’ because they appeared young. Therefore getting into Ange Noir was no mean feat.

All I can tell you is that anyone who saw me that day would never have guessed that I was heading to a nightclub. By all accounts I was dressed like someone heading to a boardroom for a serious job interview. I wore a long sleeved blue shirt that was well tucked in, a black trouser and nicely polished black shoes.

I had to dress that way in order to appear at least more than 18 years since any slight doubt about my age would result in the club bouncers either chasing me away or demanding to see an ID. So at 18, I needed more than just a few hairs on my chin to be let into a night club.

It was against this background that I found myself totally shocked to see a photo in The New Times of Monday with a caption saying; Jamaican based dancehall artist Elephant Man appreciates 13-year-old Eric Ngabo’s dance moves during the show last Saturday.

So here is my question. What, on earth was a 13-year-old doing at a Jamaican dancehall artist’s concert? Elephant Man said that he was compelled to offer what he considered a clean show because there were so many kids in the audience.

According to the reported story, the concert that also had local artists performing, Elephant Man appeared on stage at around 11:30 p.m. That means that little Eric Ngabo must have gone to bed way past midnight.

When I was 13 years, the only concerts I ever attended were those by Afrigo Band, which plays family music with no sexual innuendos, as is the default case with Jamaican dancehall music. The shows by Afrigo, which at that time used to take place at Gabba beach, would start at 2:00 p.m not 11:30 p.m.

Maybe the concert organisers wanted to cash in on the students now on holiday but some of these students are still too young to be at a dancehall concert. About two years back, Elephant Man performed in Kampala and he is most remembered for smoking marijuana live on stage.

Is this the kind of artist that should be performing before 13-year-olds? That is the kind of question that I would love to hear Eric’s parents, Kigali City Council, Ministry of Youth, The Ministry of Gender and Family promotion (MIGEPROF), the concert organisers, Bralirwa and whoever was at the entrance letting in a clear minor to what is obviously an adult show.

MIGEPROF would do better ensuring that such concerts are free of children instead of sending endless text messages to my phone about child abuse. The City Council is always closing entertainment places over issues like packing space or noise levels but never about the presence of under age children especially during the holidays.

And what is the use of issuing national identity cards with a date of birth if we cannot use them to tell who should be in a club/concert?

 The author is an educationalist based in Kigali

ssenyonga@gmail.com

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