If your 2019 must-do list includes a year-of-travel why not ‘jazz it up’, so to speak, by exploring the African cultural and music festival circuit? If you didn’t know; there are a plethora of world-class musical festivals that take place across the continent every year.
In fact, you can find a musical festival for almost every month of the year, in a different country, for you to explore. Not only are you guaranteed a feast of live entertainment but you also get to savour the pleasures the country has to offer!
Your February Feast
One must-go-to festival, coming up very soon, is the Sauti Za Busara Musical festival. On, from the 7 to 10 February 2019, it takes place in the historically magnificent World Heritage Site city of Stone Town on the Island of Zanzibar, Tanzania. There, you will get the best of live music, culture and most importantly ‘location, location, location’. Established in 2003, since it’s inception Sauti za Busara has featured artists from over 38 countries, mainly from Zanzibar and Tanzania itself and around the Great Lakes region, but also from the rest of the continent, the diaspora, and the Arab and Indian Oceanic worlds. It is huge! The upcoming edition looks set to be just as enthralling with organisers promising “4 nights, over 400 artists and musicians, on 3 stages playing 100% Live Music.”
Meet the music
Prep your ears for a mix of music from rumba to blues, from hip hop to acoustic, from afro-beat to bongo and bass. Get ready to dance to traditional taarab and kidumbak music. The line-up artists for 2019 includes the likes of BCUC from South Africa with their urban acoustic sounds, the roots-fusion of Mokoomba from Zimbabwe, Afrigo Rumba Band from Uganda, Itherene Rock Band from Algeria, Lydol from Cameroon with her acoustic spoken word, Tanzania’s Mkuwa Na Wanawe Crew doing a mix of bongo, urban hip and pop fusion, add to this a swathe of top talents from Reunion Island, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Morocco and you are set to wild. Performances take place at different venues throughout the city which comes alive with multi-ethnic arts, craft and culture during the festival which also offers a colour-filled street Carnival Parade.
Meet the vision
Behind the music, Sauti za Busara, which literally means ‘sounds of wisdom’ in kiswahili offers “conscious entertainment”. The organisers of the event Busara Promotions dub it an artist-centred initiative and their vision is to promote “peace, unity, human rights, freedom of expression and cultural diversity”. Another element of their ethos is giving back to community. The event is about creating jobs – not only for music industry people but the whole value chain in the tourism industry. The festival also provides a solid platform to mentor young talent through daily programs like the Movers & Shakers networking sessions for artists. Through the Busara Xtra component they offer community-led events and with Swahili Encounters they enable a platform for inter-regional and international collaborations. Even the audiences benefit – as the organisers give discounted tickets to African passport holders, EAC residents and Tanzanian nationals.
Meet the city
Beyond the festival – you get the chance to experience the city – its spirit, its aesthetic – rich in cultural, and historical delights. As part of an archipelago, Zanzibar, boasts some of the most pristine white sandy beaches – the sea is enticing – you can enjoy Dolphin siting, diving and snorkeling and Sunset Cruises on ‘decked-to-entertain’ traditional wooden Dhows.
Meet the people
On land – Zanzibar is paradise of diversity – where you will encounter peoples of Hadimbu, Swahili, Tumbatu, Shirazi, Arabic, Persian and Indian descent speaking across languages – Swahili, Arabic, French and even Italian. The largely Muslim population and Christian minority adds to the tapestry. This colour is reflected in the food culture a mix of Arab, Portuguese, Indian, and Chinese cuisine. Seafood is plentiful – tuna, mackerel, octopus, oyster or shark. Try Pweza wa nazi (octopus in coconut) or pepper shark- alongside a biryani or tasty, spicy pilau. Yes, spices are, of course, at the heart of the nation – cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and black pepper. It’s not called Spice Island for nothing. A traveller’s treat for you would be to go along on an aromatic and flavourful Spice Tour.
UNESCO World Heritage Site status
Meet the heritage
For those with a penchant for the historical, Stone Town is an architectural haven replete with its coral stone-walled buildings and 19th Century structures that gained it, its UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Other landmark sites to see include the Old Fort (a Prison site), The House of Wonders (which was the former residence of the Sultan of Zanzibar) or the Palace Museum. Thanks to its narrow streets and alleyways. Getting around in this city is easy. Yes, there are bikes and motorcycles and if you wish, the ubiquitous daladala ‘share taxi’ but pack light, don loose-hanging clothing, a good pair of sandals and just walk.
Savour the Experience
Between the beauty of the lsland, and the magic of the atmosphere – the Sauti za Busara Music Festival will satiate your senses – “a celebration of African music, under African skies” plenty of sun and fun…Why not give it try?