In Uganda, queer electronic music artists face the impact of a global anti-LGBTQ backlash

Expressing queerness was already an underground phenomenon in Uganda, and the new law essentially wiped out the country’s miniscule queer nightlife — a frail compact of house parties in the capital, Kampala, and safe spaces carved out of the larger scene — leaving its rising stars in disarray at crucial junctures. Nsasi had been touring and working on an album for the Kampala-based Nyege Nyege collective’s label, which is slated to be released early next year. Now it will be finished on the road. Through a network of friends, they eventually found their way to Berlin and then on to London, where Tayo has been helping to secure artist visas for ANTI-MASS members.

“Fortunately, we started on visa applications late last year as the anti-gay rhetoric started blowing up,” says Tayo. “My visa was approved, and I was preparing to go on tour in late March when things started going south very quickly. Those few days after the law passed were very emotional and disorienting. Relationships were suddenly dissolved as partners moved away. Some people went quiet. We didn’t know what would happen next. I decided it was time to be based somewhere else. I wasn’t ready financially for the move at all. I gave up my apartment, put my belongings at my dad’s house, and decided what to carry with me. Fortunately, I don’t have a complicated setup to make music. But for others, you can’t just carry your gear around when your housing is unstable.”

Both producers are hyper-vigilant about making noise while working on tracks in their dense London neighbourhood, as complaints could affect their visa status. “My creative process has been directly affected, living out of a suitcase,” Nsasi says. “It’s difficult to evolve as an artist in this situation. I have to find my soul. I love creating in Uganda, going out of the city for inspiration, meeting up with people in an intentional way, getting together for studio sessions with the Nyege Nyege community.” The situation in Uganda has disrupted Nsasi’s evolution as a queer person as well. “All of this unfortunately came at a time when I was creating space to discuss my sexuality with my family, to set some boundaries about who I am,” they explain. “Now I feel with everything going on, the distance may be good.”