Something special about the Sauti za Busara festival

Stone Town, ZANZIBAR – Sauti za Busara an African music festival took place in the historical monument in Zanzibar at the Old Fort and Forodhani Gardens in Stone Town. During the 9th – 12th of February visitors from Tanzania, Africa and around the world flocked the island in anticipation for the live African music shows, artist workshops and musical collaborations.

Before the carnival parade which launched the event on Thursday the 9th of February, festival Director, Mr Yusuf Mahmoud emphasized that what makes Sauti za Busara unique is that all shows are 100 percent live. The festival is also known showcasing quality, originality and innovation while giving priority to young and emerging artists’ music with cultural identity.

Kenyan Afropoetry band, H_Art The Band in the SzB Media Centre. (Picture by @hambanow)

The theme for the 2017 edition is #AfricaUnited as through music the festival has managed to unite the East African in the last 14 years and now the rest of Africa.

“With all the news on Africa’s problems for example HIV/AIDS, the festival has managed to bring positive news about our continent for that week in February,” said Board Chairman Simai Mohamed.

“Music connects: people to people, heart to heart. In a world that is increasingly divided, the universal language of music promotes unity, friendship and solidarity across borders,” added Festival Director, Yusuf Mahmoud.


The 2016 edition did not happen due to their inability to raise funds for the event to be sustainable and not accumulate debt. The team could not promise hosting the 2018 edition as funding determines viability.

On the costs involved Board Chairman Simai Mohamed said the total cost of the festival is hard to quantify as a lot of sponsors offer in kind and services.

“At the end of each festival we end up having no debt but zero dollars in our account. We have sponsors who have pledged us funding in the next few years,” says Yusuf Mahmoud, Festival Director.

The festival has never accumulated any debt and arrears to host the event, this ensures good relations between the stakeholder communities. Sustainability and integrity of the brand is their priority, even if it meant postponing the event. This is the reason why artists and media have to pay their own way to the festival as a way to manage costs for sustainability.

Although the festival is important to the economy of Zanzibar, last year, 2016 it was unable to gain enough sponsorship and support. Yusuf Mahmoud explained that 2016 meant businesses and sponsors were reluctant to pledge sponsorship due to uncertainty during the elections season.

This year many companies from various industries including tourism and hospitality, aviation, telecommunication, media production and national embassies sponsored this year’s festival.

The Head of Zantel, Mohamed Mussa a major cellular network and sponsor of the event which is supplying internet for the event encouraged more companies to sponsor the festival. He further emphasized the capacity of such events and platforms to unite Africa.

“As Zantel we aim to be closer with the society and community of Zanzibar. Sauti za Busara is close to the society so that is why we are sponsoring their wonderful event,” said Mussa.

Rocky Dawuni Headlined the festival, Grammy Nominated Ghanaian artiste.


It is evident that Sauti za Busara has managed to unite the people of Tanzania and East Africa as their postponement affected many stakeholders in the Zanzibar community. Tourism is a major and functional source of revenue, as many industries are struggling to produce.

Having only known Zimbabwean festivals, it was fascinating to contrast what made the postponement of the Zanzibar festival different from local festivals.

  1. The Swahili Language usage and honour

Swahili is a common language used in East Africa and the use of is in the naming and their press conference connects them to a large community of potential visitors, sponsors and gain acceptance by the predominantly Swahili speaking community.

  1. Differential pricing for Tanzanians, Africans and Internationals

The ticket costing make it more inviting for Tanzanians to go to the festival. A local all-festival pass ticket costs 20 000 TSh, which is just under US$10. Other African countries pay US$60 and International visitors pay US$120 for the all-festival pass. Prioritising affordability and accessibility of the local people makes the community more accepting of the festival, eliminating resentment towards the event.

  1. Debt free operations

Managing to stay debt free helps with goodwill of the brand as businesses who would want to sponsor are confident that the organisers are not wasteful of often scarce resources.

  1. 100 percent live music with a message

Hearing a song live helps the audience feel the energy of the musicians and artists. In addition to stories and songs on stage that have deep meaning and traditional roots makes for a unique musical experience. This is what keeps music lovers attending this festival.

The festival proves that the people of the community are the ones who make it a success.

Asante sana! With love from Zanzibar!

Robin Chaibva is a digital storyteller for HambaNow Travel, an African Travel Community. Follow #HambaNow on Instagram for live feeds of exploring Africa. Let’s go. . .Hamba NOW!


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