Sounds of wisdom overflowing Zanzibar

25 februari, 2011


She smokes and drinks loudmouth. However, the living legend Bi Kidude – she might be well over 100 years old – still impresses with her performance as a taarab singer. Kidude’s voice shows very strong during her performance with the Culture Musical Club on the third day of Sauti Za Busara Music Festival 2011. Afterwards many people are paying their respects to Kidude when she – like a real diva – is making her way to a seat on the VIP tribune.

The first day the festival kicked off with a street parade; the largest ever carnaval street parade seen on the island of Zanzibar. It is all part of the Busara formula: not only promoting the best live music currently produced in East Africa and improving the quality of artistic programming but also bringing together diverse audiences. Diversity, exchange and quality are the keywords in the five day program with several venues, a Fringe (off festival), developing skills at workshops and events a for example the Movers & Shakers Networking Forum.

Of course music is crucial. Forty groups and artists have performed at the main stage in the old fort, centrally located in Stonetown, Zanzibars capital. For the eight time traditional ngoma is up there with the mystical sufi music, the jazz, rumba, hip hop fusions and afro punk. Five days full off music under the motto ’African music under African skies’ and with a special focus on Swahili culture. Every day all sponsors where listed on stage, with Hivos always mentioned second after the national telephone company Zantel. With highlights and moments of rest, with public performances and more intimate events for music professionals the festival is programmed instinctively, as a party. No wonder when we learn festival director Yusuf Mahmoud used to be a DJ in a former life.

Last year the island suffered electricity cut for three months. Also this year during the festival the electricity was down for hours every day. This does not affect the festival – they use an sponsored generator – but it does affect the business around town and it can put people of from visiting the festival. This year again between 18 and 20.000 people attended the festival. Most of them have traveled from all over the continent by bus, train, plane and boat to be in the Old Fort filled with music. ´Wisdom is: knowing when you can overlook things´ but it will not be easy to overlook Sauti za Busara in February next year.


Backstage jam session with Bi Kidude and Les Freres Sissoko:

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