Why Sauti za Busara is more than just a music festival

Wednesday February 19 2020

 

By Paul Owere

Zanzibar. Sauti za Busara, one of Africa’s leading festivals kicked off yesterday, February 13, at the Old Fort, Stone Town with a wide array of artistes from across the African Continent.

Now in its 17th edition, the Busara fest which will be staged for four days with a climax on Feb 16 promises great entertainment for revellers hailing from all corners of the world.

Apart from very few artistes who have performed on this stage before such as Siti & the Band, most of the other 43 groups will be performing at Sauti za Busara, Zanzibar for their first time.

As has been the norm in past years, the festival kicked off at Mapinduzi Square (Kisonge) with the Carnival Parade that has become one of its greatest attractions.

Speaking to The Beat on Thursday, February 13, festival director Yusuf Mahmoud called on Tanzanians and visitors who have arrived from all corners of the world to join in numbers to witness and participate in this unique spectacle.

“We’ve kicked off a unique and special time in the year when Zanzibar hosts four days and nights of non-stop African music under African skies. The festival has three stages with 100 per cent live music for everyone, including free performances every day at Forodhani Gardens,” said Yusuf Mahmoud.

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The attendance which is estimated at 27,000 people over four days has a positive effect on the local businesses around Zanzibar as the festival injects some $10 million into the economy.

“The impact is clear for everyone to see; almost all hotels in Stone Town and other parts of Zanzibar are fully booked during festival week,” Mahmoud said.

The festival is set to pay tribute to some of the recently departed African stars who left their mark on the world music industry.

“As we celebrate the rhythms and vitality of African music, we also acknowledge the enormous contribution made by figures who departed this world during the past 12 months,” said Yusuf Mahmoud.

He added: “People like Ruge Mutahaba, who was one of the founding members of this festival and Mzee Makame Faki Makame who left us most recently; we remember them with respect.” Sauti za Busara 2020 runs under a strong campaign theme ‘Raise your Voice, Say No to Sexual Harassment’; a vice that continues to cripple the music industry.

“Many female artistes in Africa and beyond struggle under the weight of sexual harassment in an industry that remains male-dominated. The victims of these injustices are often unable to speak out because the consequences for their careers or personal lives can be devastating,” said Yusuf Mahmoud.

He added: In most cases faced with limited choices, victims end up leaving their place of work or the industry in general, yet there are very few consequences for the perpetrators.

The festival director was joined on the podium by Norwegian Ambassador, H.E. Elisabeth Jacobsen who expressed her excitement for attending the festival again and promised to stand together with organisers of Busara fest to support empowerment for women in the music industry and beyond.

She said, “Discrimination and harassment prevent girls and women from practicing their cultural rights, including freedom of expression whilst also hindering economic development.” Recognising Sauti za Busara as an important music ecosystem for the region, she urged public officers, businesses communities and donors in particular to “work together to promote access to cultural rights and empower women in the cultural sector”.

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