Amani Festival: The DR Congo music festival celebrating life

By Ley Uwera
Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

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In a field in central Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, 36,000 people last weekend got the chance to forget fears about insecurity and enjoy some top African music acts at the Amani Festival.

The annual festival, named after the Swahili word for peace, is a rare time for such large numbers to come together in one place here.

Goma is the biggest city in a region that has seen an upsurge of violence in recent months.

Attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces rebel group and army attempts to flush them out have led to hundreds of civilian deaths.

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The three-day event started with a performance of a requiem - or prayer for the dead - based on Mozart's Requiem but given a Congolese interpretation through local performers.

The living were also remembered.

"We are coming together… to show the world that life still exists, that we are aware that a better future depends on all of us and that we must work together to build it," organiser Guillaume Bisimwa said.

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Queen of Congolese rumba Mbilia Bel, who is in her 60s, wowed the fans with her beautiful and powerful voice. Her set included hits from the 1980s, Mpeve ya Longo and Yamba Nga.

Some festival-goers saw the event as an opportunity to dress up and show off.

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Nineteen-year-old visual artist Kasiski Vaillant wore a hat, a pair of glasses and braces that he had designed and made himself.

Others struck a cool pose with sunglasses and face paint.

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Local hero Innoss'B, one of the festival headliners, played as the sun went down on Saturday night.

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Everyone enjoyed his performance of Yope, which has become a huge hit in the region after he teamed up with Tanzanian star Diamond Platnumz.

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Senegalese soul and gospel singer Faada Freddy, who was once part of the rap duo Daara J, was one of the big international artists to perform.

Another Senegalese artist, hip hop performer Didier Awadi, paid tribute to the victims of killings just to the north of Goma and said they should not be forgotten.

As the festival was promoting peace across the region, it also featured traditional artists from Rwanda, which is just across the border.

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A troupe came to show the Intore dance, which is performed at family celebrations as well as at big national events.

There was also the chance to taste a local favourite, grilled meat, known here as nyama choma.

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Dieume and Pedjos teamed up to provide the gourmet pleasures.

There was a very relaxed and happy atmosphere and it felt like a great way to bring communities together.

The organisers wanted to show that the east of the country was not just a place of conflict.

It did manage to provide an escape from that, but the bad news has not gone away.

image copyrightLey Uwera

Pictures by Ley Uwera

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