The 16th edition of Sauti za Busara kicked off on Thursday night at Ngome Kongwe with an array of performances from seven groups, including Afrigo Band from Uganda and S Kide – an up and coming Singeli artiste.
Apart from three groups that have performed at the festival before, the rest graced the festival stage for the first time, something that they have been eagerly looking forward to.
Having kicked off with the traditional Carnival Parade at the Kisonge Grounds, the entertainment proceedings kicked off at the Forodhani Gardens opposite the Old Fort with an open air show for music enthusiasts.
According to the festival director Yusuf Mohammed, there is plenty to look forward to at this year’s edition from the selected artistes.
“Over the years audiences have come to expect something unique and fresh from our selection team and that is why we believe this year’s line-up is once again the best for it is truly African and it is as we have always said ‘music with identity’,” he says.
Two weeks ago in Dar es Salaam, Mr Mahmoud echoed similar sentiments saying there was every reason to celebrate this season, from the selection of artistes to pricing of the tickets.
“Zanzibar hosts music-lovers from all corners of the world, joining as one to celebrate a kaleidoscope of sounds, from Algeria to Zimbabwe, from Cape Town to Casablanca,” he said.
Organisers believe that Sauti za Busara promotes Zanzibar and Tanzania across the world because it attracts international promoters, giving opportunities for local musicians to share their work with global audiences. This opens more doors for them to get international recognition and gigs.
”Since 2004 when the festival first opened its doors, our focus has been to showcase music that is unique and with cultural identity. We have consistently demonstrated there is a market and demand for new, exciting and original sounds that are uniquely local,” he said.
But there is the big elephant in the room that has got everyone talking with some even saying it is misplaced.
The festival year highlights on the evils of corruption as a vice that continues to deny young people their rights and especially female musicians.
“Corruption is a parasite, eating away at the moral fabric of our society. Looking at the music industry around us, we ask ourselves why is it that artists have to bribe or even sleep with studio producers to record their music or even get airplay? Is this why there are so few women in the East African music industry?” he questions
But even with such a strong conviction, he admits that one festival alone cannot completely change society; however, he says the festival joins hands with like-minded partners, to promote dialogue, change attitudes and encourage action for good governance.
He believes that through music and art there is a lot that communities can achieve, given the power they possess.
“Across Africa, musicians are our representatives, our role models, our ambassadors. Musicians speak truth to power,” he said.
Adding that, “musicians share hope and build solidarity across borders. They communicate with people of all ages, languages and backgrounds. In short, they make the world a better place.”
According to him, some of the artistes who will support the anti-corruption message include Faith Mussa from Malawi, Fadhilee Itulya from Kenya, Fid Q from Tanzania, BCUC from South Africa and others as they perform at the festival in the next three nights.
“These small steps will in the long run help lead to the change we all so much desire, because it all starts with that single step,” he says.
Simai Mohammed Said, the festival chairman says there is more to the festival than just music because the extravaganza offers a unique environment for local population to take up opportunities that the festival provides, from the business deals to new interactions.
“There is a special admission package for Tanzanians which is far too low compared to what other visitors pay to gain entrance to this festival,” he says.
According to him the potential that the festival offers is unrivalled and the greatest beneficiary is the local population who are yet to take full advantage of the opportunity handed to them.
“There are times when people have asked some rather cynical questions about whose festival is Sauti za Busara and some have even gone as far as to say it is a festival for tourists,” says Simai.
The board Chair further added: “You really don’t need to look very far to find the answers to such questions; this has in the past 16 years become a high season for businesses given the number of visitors that come to Zanzibar.”
According to him, there is an indication that hotels are fully booked and Stone Town and Zanzibar in general is in an expectant mood in many facets of life.
He too admits that corruption, however small it might be, disrupts societal goals because resources are directed toward none issues.
“In simple terms, you are paying double for something that sometimes ought to be given for free or at a lesser cost. In music it serves as a greater limitation and intimidation to especially female artistes, who are the major victims,” he says.
The groups that were selected to feature this year include Mokoomba (Zimbabwe), Tune Recreation Committee (South Africa), Eli Maliki (Uganda), Jackie Akello (Uganda), Damian Soul (Tanzania), Hoba Hoba Spirit (Morocco), Shamsi Music ( Kenya), Sofaz (Reunion), Dago Roots (Reunion), Stone Town Rockers (Zanzibar).
Others are Ithrene (Algeria), Trio Kazanchis (Ethiopia/Swiss), Asia Madani (Sudan/Egypt), Rajab Suleiman and Kithara (Zanzibar), Lydol (Cameroun) Fid Q ( Tanzania), Fadhilee Itulya (Kenya), BCUC (South Africa), S kide (Tanzania), Afrigo Band ( Uganda), Mkubwa na Wanawe Crew (Tanzania).