Article by Ogova Ondego, Pictures by Saphia Ngalapi
Published March 12, 2008
The annual Sauti za Busara Music Festival has ranked the ‘Best 12 Performers’ of the 40 performers who participated in its 5th edition in Stone Town, Zanzibar (February 7-11, 2008). OGOVA ONDEGO writes.
Kenyan groups, Yunasi and Eric Wainaina, were ranked fourth and sixth, respectively, ‘by the festival audience and crew’.
Voted ‘Best of the Best’ was Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba of Mali whose act was described as “rootsy, soulful, charismatic and full of energy” and as “a great inspiration for all who were blessed to be there.”
In the second place, according to the post-festival newsletter, are five taarab orchestras: National Taarab All Stars (Zanzibar), Culture Musical Club (Zanzibar), DCMA meets Tibirinzi All Stars (Pemba), KIKI Taarab (Zanzibar), and Baladna Taarab (Zanzibar).
The other festival favourites were N’faly Kouyaté and Dunyakan of West Africa at position three, and Splendid Theatre of Tanzania, Malouma of Mauritania, and Bantu & Afrobeat Academy of West Africa found the fifth, seventh and eighth positions in the hearts of the festivaliers and crew.
While Ugandan Maurice Kirya came in 9th and West African Seckou Keita Quartet were 10th, Bi Kidude of Zanzibar and Celloman of Europe were 11th and 12th, respectively.
But according to Saphia Ngalapi who reported for ArtMatters.Info from Zanzibar, Yunasi were arguably the best performers in Zanzibar as they seemed to put a spell on the festival. The eight-member Yunasi group were the last on stage on February 10 and performed till 1.00am but their show was well attended!
Yunasi began with their well loved songs like African Night, Manyanga, Nang’i Amana and wound up with Ndi Ndi Ndi that calls for moderate drinking for those who imbibe alcoholic beverages.
“At this juncture, hundreds of music lovers just could not restrain themselves from dancing any more and each one of them danced in the best way they knew how,” Ngalapi reports, adding that some of the dancers got onstage and danced with Yunasi to Ndi Ndi Ndi.
“Hapo jukwaani watu walicheza mpaka wakalala chini, wapo waliovua mashati na fulana ili mradi burudani ilikuwa nzuri kwani ilisuuza nyoyo za mashabiki (While on stage, some of the dancers did their gig till they lay on stage, music seeping through them, controlling them. Some removed their shirts and sweaters in order to relieve themselves of anything that appeared to hinder their dance moves).
One music lover, Ngalapi says, praised Yunasi’s quality of, arrangement of music instruments and their unique dance style of lifting a leg as they spin.
“Ahaaaa Yunasi nimewavulia kofia, achana nao kabisa kwani wapo mbali kisanaa na wanajua nini wanafanya na kitu gani wawapekee mashabiki wao” (I pay my respects to Yunasi. Their art is well developed and they also know how to entertain the audience), said Mussa Ally, a resident of Mpendae area of Zanzibar.
And Thobias Imani did not disappoint: He demostrated his versatility in strumming the guitar with a finger as he joined his band-mates in a single file as they ruled the stage with music and dance to the great delight of their music fans.
Ngalapi says Yunasi, a Kenyan Afro-fusion music band that in December 2007 won BBC’s Next Big Thing competition, proved their popularity on the two occasions they performed at Mambo Club inside Ngome Kongwe.
Yunasi sing in languages ranging from Dholuo, Luluyia, Teso, Kiswahili, Ekegusii, French and English and are the pioneers of a music style they call SESUBE (derived from sega, isukuti, benga). They have since 2001 performed in Kenya, France, Germany, Belgium, Mayotte, Djibouti and Tanzania. Their shows blend instrumental and vocal harmonies with contemplative, soulful and pumping rhythms.
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The group has recorded two full albums, Nang’i Amana and Nairobi: The Sound of Sesube. It is Ndi Ndi Ndi, off the second album, that earned them the BBC’s Next Big Thing award in 2007.
Also pulling crowds in Zanzibar with their acrobatic stunts, dancing to drums and drama was the Dar-based Splendid Theatre.
One of Tanzania’s leading poets and story-tellers, Mrisho Mpoto, performs at 5th Sauti za Busara Music Festival in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Besides the music shows inside the walls of the ancient walls of Ngome Kongwe, festival director Yusuf Mahmoud says, a carnival parade, Kiswahili poetry (mashairi) competition, and art exhibitions were presented at the 5th Sauti za Busara Music Festival.
Of the “more than four thousand people who attended each day,” Mahmoud says, were “musicians, promoters and media professionals, travellers and tourists, Muslims and rastas and Zanzibari families. People of all ages came together in celebration and were united by the music.”