Sauti za Busara Swahili Music Festival

Sauti_za_BusaraStonetown, Zanzibar, Tanzania – Sauti za Busara (Swahili = Sounds of Wisdom) is a 3-day weekend cultural extravaganza of music, theatre and dance, showcasing the very best of Swahili musical and artistic traditions – from the past, present and future.

The theme of this new festival in East Africa is Swahili Encounters, presenting a diversity of performing arts all rooted in Swahili language and traditions. Contemporary and traditional styles will be represented, alongside exciting new fusions and included will be some of the finest groups from the region and Swahili diaspora.

The 2004 inaugural Festival takes place in historic Stone Town, on the magical and welcoming islands of Zanzibar, Tanzania, from 13th – 15th February, 2004. Celebration of the diverse regional cultural traditions will be through performances combined with opportunities for learning, creative meetings and collaborative workshops. The shows and workshops will provide a challenging but vibrant forum for promoting dynamic artistic combinations and juxtapositions, bringing together unexpected but related combinations of ngoma styles, taarab, kidumbak, hip-hop (bongo flava), popular dance music and new and exciting fusions. Artists will be selected according to quality and excellence and relevance to the themes of the Festival, being Swahili Encounters and Sounds of Wisdom (Sauti za Busara).

The festival is organised by Busara Promotions – a non-governmental, non-political and non-profitable organization registered in Zanzibar. Sauti za Busara is one of its many regional events taking place throughout East Africa as part of the Swahili Encounters initiative as supported by Ford Foundation.

The mission of Swahili Encounters is “to encourage audiences to celebrate pluralism of cultural and religious diversity; to promote and develop opportunities for musicians and performing artists along the Swahili coast and islands to connect, learn and perform together; and to develop regional artistic
cooperation, for the social, cultural and economic growth of East Africa and the Swahili region

The coastal – Swahili – people of Kenya and Tanzania have always enjoyed one of Africa’s most diverse societies. The East African coast has been on the trade routes of Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia for centuries. Here the religious, linguistic, artistic and musical voices of Arabia and Asia have met and blended with the traditional forms of inland Africa and later with the cultures, voices and faiths of colonial Europe.

In recent times this eclectic society has continued to absorb new influences. Since the liberalization of the media (and, in Tanzania, the markets also) in the 80s and 90s, young generations have embraced the pop music styles of the global north, now using hip hop and rap to frame the Swahili poetry that has always been the heart of local music.

In the events of the Sauti za Busara festival program, Busara will consciously reposition side by side the different and contrasting expressive voices of Swahili culture. At a major open public venue in Zanzibar’s historic Stone Town, the festival will showcase the music of traditional black Africa – such as various styles of muziki wa dansi and ngoma dance and song – alongside more Arabic- influenced styles including taarab, or will stage new hip-hop Swahili-language rap styles “bongo flava” juxtaposed with mystic and religious music. By bringing together contrasting musicians, and audiences, from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, Busara intends to engage public recognition and appreciation of Swahili culture’s broad base of enriching tradition and artistic expression – in an open and non-threatening environment. Furthermore, the festival provides diverse musicians with an unprecedented opportunity to learn and perform together.

During the week before the 2004 festival Busara Promotions collaborates with the Dhow Countries Music Academy to present a series of music-based workshops and masterclasses. For latest information contact:
Busara Promotions, PO Box 3635, Zanzibar, Tanzania. Phone: +255 747 428478, Fax: +44 8701 321190. E-mail: or

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.