Nigerian musician Nneka is on stage not so much singing as she is chanting; entranced. She twists and turns her body like she’s in a mild convulsion. She raises her fist Amandla style chanting “Vagabonds in power.” The multiracial, multinational and multigenerational crowd shouts back, “Vagabonds in Power-oh.” A European woman next to me sings word for word, hands stretching out like she’s receiving a blessing. A young girl with a lose head scarf squeezes past us until she’s next to the barricade. Her look says should she end up on stage one day, chances are she will pin point this moment when sassy Nneka is on the mystical Sauti za Busara stage as the reason she chose music and performance. The air is electric. This, a gathering of over 20 000 people from around the world at the Old Fort in Stone Town Zanzibar, is the essence of music: powerful, trangressive, entertaining, organic and soulful. The stage tonight, as it is every night for four days, is not just about music and performance. The Old Fort feels like there are spirits hovering over it; spirits of African music, which is becoming the forte of Sauti za Busara. Africa has many enthralling music festivals. I have attended a few and left spellbound by all. But it was only at Busara that I felt my eyes burning with tears. This is a celebration of African music in all its rich diversity. The 2012 edition included the contemporary afro soul of Nneka, progressive South African rap band Tumi and the Volume , Ugandan group Ndere troupe, the sizzling rumba of DRC’s Super Mazemba, Ary Morais from Cape Verde, Sudanese roots band Camirata group, Chébli Msaïdie from the Comoros, Hinatra from Madagascar and Kozman Ti Dalon from Reunion.The line up of 31 artists also featured Tanzanian and Zanzibari musicians and dancers. Every performance was inspired and passionate.
*See “Paradise on a Dental Floss Budget” for tips on how to holiday in Zanzibar for R6500.
About Sauti Za Busara: The festival is held every year in February. Expect to pay around R1000 for a four day pass. The 10th edition will be held on 14-17 February 2013. There’ll be 200 performers, a market, films and more. More details at http://www.busaramusic.org.