Assuming no traffic jam, you can get to Tilapia Culture Centre which is located on Gaba Road, opposite Bunga market, in about ten minutes drive from Kabalagala and twenty minutes from the city centre. True to its name, it does look like a cultural centre with its grass thatched roof, wooden sofas and stools strategically placed around the small place with music playing in the background. On this particular Monday evening, the DJ happened to be playing a mix of reggae and Indie rock music.
Two things grab your attention on entering Tilapia: the small bar which has an 18th century Irish bar feel and the pocket friendly prices on their menu.
Their restaurant offers local and continental food at reasonable prices, with regular favourites being whole tilapia costing 10,000 – 13,000 UGX depending on the size. Other specials include crocodile meat. Or if you are cracked on fast food, fries cost a paltry 3,000 UGX, frankfurters and chips cost 7,000 UGX, burgers 7,000 UGX, and chicken and fries 13,000 UGX. If you’re there for a drink, a glass of wine costs 4,500 UGX, beers 4,000 UGX and sodas 1,500 UGX.
Tilapia, as a cultural centre, is devoted to live music, cinema and theatre. It has hosted film festivals (Amakula Film Festival), theatrical productions (The River and the Mountain) and special concerts in its large events hall at the back. The events hall has a stage and a seating capacity of around 120, with standing room for many more.
When not playing host to cultural events it hosts conferences, birthday parties and graduation ceremonies.
While management normally hires out the hall the space can be offered free if the event is public and non-profit. Bands can rehearse there at a very low cost, using their backline and musical facilities. Tilapia aims to promote arts in Uganda by providing a friendly space that is open to all kinds of projects, productions and performers. They encourage artists to push boundaries and experiment at the edges of cultural production.
“Above all, Tilapia is a relaxed, fun place to hang out, where you never know quite what will happen next,” said David Cecil the manager of Tilapia Culture Centre.
Monday nights at Tilapia are dedicated to cinema, with a double bill starting at around 7:30pm and finishing before mid-night. The films are a mixture of popular classics and obscure gems, appealing to both local and international audiences. Films are screened outdoors on the terrace, where you can enjoy food, drink and a shisha pipe at 8,000 UGX while you watch.
Every Friday, Tilapia hosts live bands. Regular fixtures include Ife Piankhi (soul-jazz) every second Friday of the month and the Blood Brothers (reggae/pop) every last Friday of the month. Other bands making appearances include Sifa Kelele (female fusion band), Eli Live (new soul & groove), Urban Chillaz (live dancehall with guests like GNL Zamba and Mun-G), Quartier des Stars (lingala), The Dons (roots reggae), and The Tilapia Cartel (house band). From time to time they host big international acts, like Nasibu’s jazz band (Holland), Edith WeUtonga (Zimbabwe) and The Frank Znort Quartet (Norway). Almost all the concerts are free entry.
For the weekends, each Saturday is DJ night, with David SkaFace (UK) and Johan (SA) playing a mixture of electronic dance music from around the world. Sunday sessions are a laid-back mix of acoustic, soul, traditional and upcoming live bands.
Tilapia Culture Centre is open seven days a week from lunchtime till late. You can visit Tilapias’ Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TilapiaKampala?fref=ts or their website: www.tilapiakampala.com for more information.