“People Were Curious”: Underground Kampala Is Creating A Techno Culture In Uganda

“People Were Curious”: Underground Kampala Is Creating A Techno Culture In Uganda

In a country with little techno, Underground Kampala creates a haven for hardcore fans. With monthly pop-up events at secret company locations and other hidden corners of Uganda, the party is slowly building a movement.

"We created the rave to create a space for positive communication and interaction, where participants are immersed in free space without social pressure," explains founder Richard O'Doy.

"For us it means not being afraid of sex, not homophobia, not aggression, not racism, not hope, but just mutual understanding of self-expression."

Starting slowly during the 2020 shutdown after Richard's friends threw an unexpected illegal birthday party, the party brings together Ugandan techno DJs and producers and connects them with international DJs. It is led by Richard and a team of other DJs, sound engineers, lighting engineers and producers who share a common love of electronic music.

Both the party behind it and the collective are based on a love of techno and underground values. "It's a bit difficult for creative people in Kampala, especially in a scene like this, some people will want to go to an event because it's popular, or they worry about the number of people available and forget that about the music itself."

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But Underground Kampala wants to move away from a commercial approach, embrace a DIY ethos and focus on the needs of its community. Hold parties in abandoned buildings, parking lots, lakes and other locations away from the city's main hotel sector to give dancers a safe, private space to discover new music and network. The party does not want to control gender, but makes sure the space is free of social attitudes and stigmas.

Now the party is ready for a new stage. The group collaborates with international techno artists and DJs and aims to create a permanent space that is a second home for their community. Now they are raising funds to upgrade the factory equipment.

“Having pop-up raves in different locations can be fun, but it can also be challenging. We have to think about the logistics, sometimes it is difficult to move so much equipment and keep it safe. So now we need a permanent space, a first for Kampala techno."

We spoke to founder Richard O'Doi, who told us about the party, how motorcycle seats are chosen, the superstitions surrounding raves in Uganda, and international friendships on safari rides.

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