Despite the lack of power in Zanzibar and criticism that the festival that promoted itself as Sauti za Busara Swahili Music Festival had lost its focus, the seventh Sauti za Busara music festival was held in Zanzibar February 11-16, 2010.
ArtMatters.Info had in the run up to the festival run a critical article on the Sauti za Busara (see http://artmatters.info/?p=1884) on November 27, 2009 stating that six years after its launch, the festival had lost its focus and appeared to be mortgaged to donor interests.
Sauti za Busara Music Festival founder and festival director Yusuf Mahmoud took the time to defend his organisation saying, “Sauti za Busara is still very much focused and that is one of our strengths. Since the festival started in 2004, the aim has broadened however. The first couple of years, Sauti za Busara was a Swahili music festival which broadened after a couple of years to showcase music from the wider East African region, and now our focus is to showcase the wealth and diversity from all around Africa, with 10 groups from Zanzibar, 10 from Tanzania mainland, 10 from East Africa, and 10 to represent the rest of the African continent and the Diaspora. These groups from abroad are rigorously selected as musicians who we believe will inspire East African audiences and encourage future collaborations with Zanzibari musicians, as happens in the Swahili Encounters music workshops. Our aim therefore remains to bring people together in celebration of the wealth, richness and diversity that Africa has to offer to the global arena.”
How does DJ Said Yusuf expect anyone to take him seriously when he keeps on inviting same musicians to the festival year in year out, as pointed out by ArtMatters.Info in 2009? A case in point is Bi Kidude, Ikhwani Safaa Musical Club, Sina Chuki Kidumbak, and DJ Yusuf himself? Does it mean these are the only musicians in East Africa who perform the best possible music all the time?
Instead of putting up self-defeating defences, Sauti Za Busara must put its house in order to remain relevant. If its intention is to be a “world music” festival, then they should say so and not pretend it is a ‘Swahili’ affair when it isn’t.
But Sauti Za Busara is not just about putting up spirited defences or putting out fires. The first day of the festival began with a carnival parade that started its journey at 4.00 pm from Kariakoo and had arrived at the festival venue, Ngome Kongwe.
The festival was then endorsed by Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete, who presented a video message saying: “Sauti za Busara has played an essential role in maintaining peace and stability in East Africa, through building intercultural understanding and respect. Furthermore, the festival brings a significant boost for the local economy. Government statistics show the number of visitors to Zanzibar during February is now more than 400% since the festival began.”
After that, Sauti za Busara began with a showcase of the eclectic range of East African music that it represents. KVZ Tupendane from Pemba, Ikhwan Safaa Musical Club from Zanzibar, Swifatui Abraar from Tanzania mainland, Makadem from Kenya and Fresh Jumbe (a Tanzanian musician who lives in Tokyo, Japan) showed the musical diversity of the East African region.
Fresh Jumbe and his group, African Express, performed last on the opening night. The show was good, and the audience could not remain seated; they shook their bodies along with the band’s six Japanese female dancers who showed off their talent in dancing to Sindimba music from northern Tanzania.
“I like Fresh Jumbe and his music, especial his voice that is why I am here to see him live. His Bwana Mashaka, Namsaka Mbaya wangu, Cojester, Mazingira Yetu and Penzi ni kikohozi are my favourite songs,” said Suleiman Almas from Zanzibar.
Asked how he felt when he was chosen to perform at Sauti za Busara while there was no electricity on the island, Ugandan artist Joel Sebunjo his Sundiata group told ArtMatters.Info after his show: “We are African. I was not upset when I heard that there was no power in Zanzibar and the festival would still go on. I was supposed to be here to perform and so, for me, it was not a problem. I feel very good to show my talent here.”
“I like the Sauti za Busara music festival. It is the best African music festival and I was really excited to get the opportunity to perform here”, said the young musician.
Sebunjo’s talent in performing in various languages and styles made people to shout and dance along during the hour-and-one-half that he was on stage.
At 24 years old, he is a graduate of Kampala’s Makerere University with a degree in Music Technology and Marketing. He says his goal is to improve Uganda’s music sector by putting it on a global scale.
A pioneering figure in Uganda’s “world music” movement, with his support group Sundiata, he showcases stunning compositions based on a fusion of the Ganda traditions of central Uganda and the Mande traditions of Gambia, Mali and Senegal; he blends the sounds of kora, endongo, guitar and calabash into a truly organic beat. A steadily rising world musician, Sebunjo says he has shared the bill with such major names as the late Miriam Makeba, Oliver Mtukudzi, Etran Finatawa, Salif Keita, and Baaba Maal.
Nyota Ndogo from Kenya, Mim Suleiman from Zanzibar/UK, Thandiswa Mazwai from South Africa, and Tausi Women Taraab from Zanzibar were among the women singer who flexed their musical muscles on the stage.
Nyota Ndogo ‘ famous for songs like Watu na Viatu, Nibebe, Wanawake and Wanaume’ was amazing. She was a definite crowd-pleaser.
Tausi Women’s Taarab, a new all-female orchestra formed in 2009, was among eleven groups from Tanzania performing in this year’s festival. The women presented classical style in the similar traditions of Zanzibar’s strongest women performers.
Other popular groups were Ba Cissoko from Guinea, Debo Band from Ethiopia/USA, Maureen Lupo Lilanda from Zambia and Jhikoman from Tanzania mainland.
Banana Zoro and his B Band were yet another group which did well at the 2010 festival. After four fabulous days of music, Zoro closed the festival at Ngome Kongwe (Old Fort) with his band supported by his father. The crowd sang and danced along to songs like Mama Yangu, Nimekuchagua Wewe, Nataka niwe na Wewe, Mama Kumbena and Zoba, a song in which the singer laments losing the girl he had set his eyes on merely because he did not verbalise his intention early enough: . Subira yangu ndo iloniponza
ngojangoja naonekana zoba
kwa sababu nilimpenda sana
kwa sababu nilimpenda sana
The organisers of the festival appeared to be well prepared to make sure that the Old Fort area remained with full power, with generators running from 6:30pm up to the end of the show. They also ran a successful Busara Buddies scheme through which festivaliers were escorted back home through Stone Town’s dark streets at a minimal fee. Every year, the organisers of Sauti za Busara have always promised “More Fire!” and this year, they definitely delivered in the darkness!
The artists who performed at the 7th Sauti za Busara Music Festival were:
Thandiswa Mazwai (South Africa); Ba Cissoko (Guinea); Malick Pathé Sow (Senegal); Simba & Brown Band (Mozambique); Debo Band (Ethiopia / USA); Banana Zorro & the B Band (Tanzania); Ikhwani Safaa Musical Club ft Tamalyn Dallal (Zanzibar / USA); Tausi Women’s Taarab (Zanzibar); Mari Boine (Norway); Dawda Jobarteh (The Gambia); Del & Diho (Mayotte); Fresh Jumbe & African Express (Tanzania / Japan); Chidi Benz (Tanzania); Kilua Ngoma (Tanzania); Mim Suleiman (Zanzibar / UK); Massar Egbari (Egypt); Nyota Ndogo (Kenya); Sinachuki Kidumbak (Zanzibar); Bamba Nazar & The Pilgrimage (Suriname / Netherlands); Joel Sebunjo & Sundiata (Uganda); Makadem (Kenya); Maureen Lupo Lilanda (Zambia); Mzungu Kichaa (Denmark / Tanzania); Jhikoman (Tanzania) Best of WaPi (Tanzania); Shirikisho Sanaa (Zanzibar); Sosolya Dance Academy (Uganda); Mapacha Africa (Kenya) Swifatui Abraar Group (Tanzania) DJ Eddy (Zanzibar); DJ Yusuf (UK / Zanzibar); Sowers Group (Tanzania) ; Maia Von Lekow (Kenya); Swahili Vibes (Zanzibar); Tunaweza Band (Tanzania); and KVZ Tupendane (Pemba).