Sauti za Busara – a festival of opportunities

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CAC Fusion (TZ) at Sauti za Busara 2017 [photo: Markus Meissl]

Zanzibar, Every year in February thousands of music fans from across the globe converge at Stone Town’s Old Fort to experience a unique taste of African music as hosted by Sauti za Busara.

Here paths intertwine, business deals are struck, collaborations are sealed and careers are taken to greater heights, as talents are spotted by other festival promoters.

“This is a space where all kinds of arts professionals meet, from festival directors to music producers, managers and distributors, they all come to Zanzibar in February to check the pulse of the East African music scene”, says festival director Yusuf Mahmoud.

He adds: “It is not just an event where the festival performers attend, but even artists who are not on the line-up come to learn from one another and link up with industry bigwigs to set up deals for the coming months, even long after the festival is done.”

Considered as one of Africa’s most-respected festivals, Sauti za Busara – with this year’s theme of ‘United in Music’ – brings together more than 460 musicians to the Spice Islands.

As a festival that has grown enormously in its 15 years of operation, the event attracts media and music professionals from across Africa, Europe and beyond, thereby providing a unique platform for East African musicians to share their music with the world.

“Each year a number of artists who grace the Sauti za Busara stage are invited to tour and perform at festivals in different parts of the world. Artists more likely to be invited are those who are unique, expressive and playing music with identity”, says Yusuf, quoting Msafiri Zawose, Jagwa Music, Leo Mkanyia, Tausi Women’s Taarab and Maulidi ya Homu ya Mtendeni as examples of Tanzanian groups who were already invited to tour internationally after being spotted at the festival.

This, according to Yusuf, is in itself a unique opportunity that all musicians from Tanzania cannot afford to miss because such opportunities are few and far between in Africa.

“People of different colours and backgrounds are united in celebration of African music. Anticipation and excitement is high, hotels around Stone Town are fully booked during festival week with audiences coming from across Tanzania, Africa and Europe”, says Yusuf.

By conservative estimates the festival pumps some $7 million into the economy annually making it a harvest period for many businesses across Zanzibar and beyond, making Sauti za Busara more than ‘just a music festival’.

However, even with such successes, the main challenge of funding remains and this was the main reason why the 2016 edition was cancelled, causing huge losses for businesses on the island.

“We continue to depend on donor funds with embassies such as the Norwegian and the Swiss being among our top donors supporting training and capacity-building initiatives,” says the festival director.

Sauti za Busara festival 2018 is powered by Norwegian Embassy, Embassy of Switzerland to Tanzania and Zambia, Africalia, Mozeti, Zanlink, Memories of Zanzibar, Zenj FM, Chuchu FM, Tifu TV, Music In Africa, Ikala Zanzibar Stone Town Lodge, Emerson Zanzibar, Coastal Aviation, 2Tech Security, Embassy of Germany, Golden Tulip Dar City Centre

More info: www.busaramusic.org

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