Drama as Tanzanian band Offside trick irks guests at Lamu festival

Some members of the Offside trick band PHOTO COURTESY

Lamu,KENYA:Organizers of the just ended 17th edition of the Lamu cultural festival that came to a close on Sunday found themselves in trouble following an incident where a Tanzanian based music troupe The Offside Trick who had been invited to perform on Saturday night breached the cultural taste of the festival by dancing overly explicitly leaving many embarrassed.

Those who had turned up to witness the dance including children,elders,religious leaders and invited dignitaries had to hide their faces as dancers and singers of the troupe left little to imagination as they danced.

One of the women dancers particularly irked the observers by letting her hair loose and showing too much skin which is contrary to Islamic religious beliefs.

Many of the attendees felt the troupe’s performance did not in any way reinforce the cultural aspect of the festival.

Observers felt the explicit manner in which members of the “kidudu mtu’ hitmakers danced was not only embarrassing and shameful but it was also a direct disrespect and disregard to the general theme and objective of the event considering they had earlier on been briefed about the cultural event and asked to prepare accordingly.

According to organizers,the group had been asked to only perform songs and dances that would go along with the cultural theme, something many feel they deliberately failed to adhere to.

Several attempts and interventions to have the group rectify their performances fell on deaf ears as they would resume with the explicit dancing each time they were allowed back on stage.

Finally,event organizers and area leaders who were present,unable to take in any more of the shameful and embarrassing dances from the group had to literally walk to the podium,switch off the microphones and forcefully drag the dancers and singers from the stage.

As such,the night ended prematurely as people dispersed despite that other invited dance and music groups were yet to perform.

Commenting on the issue on Monday,the coast region deputy director for the National Museums of Kenya-NMK Athman Hussein condemned the incident and said it was in bad taste.

He said there is need for any artistes invited to the cultural festival to be vetted and approved by the Lamu Cultural Festival Promotional group first before being allowed to be part of such a sensitive ceremony.

“That was a very embarrassing and regrettable incident. Lamu is a historical town which is also enlisted as a Unesco World Heritage site.There is need to keep out any western cultures.That applies for the kind of dances, dressing code and the transport systems used within the town. We must all strive to preserve the Culture of Lamu.Such incidents are a danger to our culture,”said Hussein.

The Coast Interfaith Council of Clerics-CICC chair Sheikh Mohamed Abdulkadir had asked the artistes to the people of Lamu.

He said what group did,not only breached the cultural aspect but also surpassed religious limits considering all the members of the group are Muslims.

“Majority of Lamu people are Muslims who observe strict religious believes including in terms of dressing and even entertainment including dancing. We dance in a particular way in a manner that respects religion unlike what the artistes did at Mkunguni on Saturday night.The least they could do is apologize,” said Abdulkadir.

The Lamu Cultural Promotional Group-LCPG officials have however absolved themselves from any blame and instead placed the blame squarely at the doorstep of the county government.

“We aren’t responsible for what happened.The artistes were invited and sponsored by the county government.We however blame the artistes too since we understand they were to only perform Taarab songs but went way beyond the agreement.Infact as it is,we expect the county government to take action against them,”said the LCPG chair Ghalib Alwy.

In reaction,acting Lamu County Executive for Trade, Tourism and Culture Fahima Arafat said what happened at Mkunguni on Saturday night wasn’t intentional.

Fahima said as county government, they are also keen to observe, promote and sustain the culture of Lamu and called on people to stop over speculating the matter, terming it unexpected.

“We are equally disgusted and disappointed by what the Offside Trick group did. People shouldn’t think that we planned for this to happen.That wasn’t part of the agreement we had with them,”said Fahima.