After a grueling day of field work I was able to enjoy an evening of music, film and general fun at this year's Sauti za Busara, or "Sounds of Wisdom." This music festival showcases new and emerging artists (often quite popular even though many of them rarely receive airplay on East African radio) alongside established musicians of various genres.
The groups come to Zanzibar from all over East Africa (and some from outside Africa as well) and perform in perhaps the most striking of all venues I've ever witnessed: Stone Town's Old Fort, or Ngome Kongwe. This sprawling, open-air structure was built around 1700 by Omani Arabs on the site of a Portuguese chapel in order to defend themselves from the Portuguese. It now houses the Zanzibar Cultural Centre as well as the offices of the Zanzibar International Film Festival.
General admission is $20 USD per person and $40 for VIP seats (per day). East African residents enjoyed waived admission before 6:00 pm and only 12,000 TSH daily admission fees afterwards.
Setting up on Saturday afternoon before the festival that evening:
The dramatic tower in the background is truly a sight to see in person:
Staff Band Namasabo of Tanzania:
The crowd filled in quickly in the early evening:
Sauti's official sponsors on the wall:
Staff overlooking from their perch:
Of course, no festival is complete without some live cooking -- here are dozens of meat skewers sizzling on the grill in the food/shopping area of the venue:
This year, for the first time at Sauti, the festival featured seven screenings of African music films in Old Fort's open-air amphitheater. Supported by Goethe-Institut Tanzania, attendees could opt to take a break from the live stage performances and indulge in a cinematic cultural experience throughout the night:
One of Stone Town's most prominent buildings, the Beit el-Ajaib (or House of Wonders), overlooks the amphitheater. It houses the Zanzibar National Museum of History & Culture:
Nomokanjani Arts definitely got the crowd going with their dramatic choreography and singing:
Under the stars in the amphitheater, I had a wonderful meeting with Hannah Wood of British Council Tanzania. She was a key figure in BC Tanzania's recent photojournalism book, Changing Climate, Changing Lands, which documents the worsening access to water context of Tanzanian villages due to climate change. She was also kind enough to bring me a copy of the publication, which is not for sale and is only currently being distributed in limited quantities throughout the region. Thank you Hannah!
Kenya's Atemi & The Ma3 Band were up next -- cool hats, popped collars and all:
In the amphitheater, viewers were really engaged in As Old As My Tongue (2006), an intimate portrait of Zanzibar's living legend Bi Kidude. She is perhaps the oldest performer on the world music stage today but continues to court controversy with her provocative stances, lyrics and body performances regarding women and sexuality in Muslim society.
The scene as the night wore on:
Sauti was an amazing experience, one to surely visit if you should find yourself on Tanzanian soil in February. Goodnight from Zanzibar!