By Ogova Ondego
Published March 27, 2016
A new film on a legendary Zanzibari Taarab and Unyago singer shall be released in Zanzibar on April 17, 2016.
I SHOT BI KIDUDE, the film on the life of Fatuma Binti Baraka who was better known as Bi Kidude in music circles, opened in UK cinemas on March 21, 2016 as it began its world-wide festival tour.
Elizabeth Benjamin, who is handling the publicity for the film, says all screening will be accompanied “with select live music performances from Mim Suleiman performing some of Bi Kidude’s most famous songs.”
Zanzibar-born and raised Mim Suleiman is said to have grown up “hearing tales of Bi Kidude” who she is said to have finally met in 2012 at Zanzibar’s Sauti za Busara music festival.
“The last known footage of Bi Kidude is a beautiful scene of her being serenaded by Mim,” says Benjamin.
Mim Suleiman is described as a “pint- sized performer with the planet-sized personality” who “looks set to inherit Bi Kidude’s mantle as the voice of Zanzibar in years to come.”
Andy Jones, the British filmmaker whose documentary film—AS OLD AS MY TONGUE: MAISHA YA BI KIDUDE—first immortalised Bi Kidude on screen, says “I SHOT BI KIDUDE: KIFO CHA BI KIDUDE “tells the story of iconic Zanzibari singer Bi Kidude’s kidnapping and subsequent death in April 2013.”
Describing Bi Kidude as a “102-year-old chain-smoking, rebel-rocking legend on her home island of Zanzibar and a veteran of music stages across the globe”, the Press kit for the film says the repertoire of the musician who was inspired by Siti Binti Saad, the famous African who popularised Kiswahili through Taarab, “embraced both classic taarab, a swirling mix of Indian ocean melodies backed by a full orchestra and also raw power drumming on an African msondo drum, with shattering rhythms and shrieking lyrics from age old women’s initiation ceremonies.”
Much of Fatuma Binti Baraka’s life is unknown as there is any published documentation. No wonder Andy Jones qualifies the title of his first documentary film on Bi Kidude’s life–AS OLD S MY TONGUE–with ‘The Myth and Life of Bi Kidude’.
The date of birth of Bi Kidude, who died on April 17, 2013, is unknown though it is thought to have been in the first decade of the 20th century. The daughter of a coconut seller, young Fatuma is said to have fled to the then Tanganyika to escape a forced marriage at age 13.
Binti Baraka returned to Zanzibar some three decades later and got involved in unyago, a sex education movement that prepared adolescent girls on family life through traditional music. The training involved what could today be referred to as ‘sex education’ aimed at ‘providing pleasure to their husbands’ and ‘keeping families united’.
A newly re-mastered AS OLD AS MY TONGUE is set for release online in 44 countries on April 17, 2016; the anniversary of Bi Kidude’s death.
The screening at Zanzibar’s ZanCinema shall be preceded by a VIP show in the Tanzanian commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, on April 14, 2016.
“Ten percent of all proceeds from screenings,” says Elizabeth Benjamin, “will go towards a special fund at the Dhow Countries Music Academy in Zanzibar to support the development of female musicians.”