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UK-born Sauti za Busara director prefers African music and books

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Yusuf Mahmoud moved to Zanzibar from the UK because he wanted to feel and enjoy the island’s healthy respect for culture and traditions. PHOTOS | BAMUTURAKI MUSIGUNZI

Yusuf Mahmoud moved to Zanzibar from the UK because he wanted to feel and enjoy the island’s healthy respect for culture and traditions. PHOTOS | BAMUTURAKI MUSIGUNZI 

By Bamuturaki Musinguzi

Posted  Saturday, May 14   2016 at  09:27

In Summary

  • Yusuf Mahmoud was born and grew up in the United Kingdom, where in the 1980s until the early 1990s he directed world music festivals, concerts and seminars, to raise awareness and promote a positive image of and solidarity with the global South.

Yusuf Mahmoud was born and grew up in the United Kingdom, where in the 1980s until the early 1990s he directed world music festivals, concerts and seminars, to raise awareness and promote a positive image of and solidarity with the global South.

He moved to Zanzibar in 1998. In 2003, he set up Busara Promotions, a non-governmental organisation working in East Africa to strengthen appreciation for African music and develop local skills and networks.

Busara Promotions organises the annual Sauti za Busara music festival, is also known as “the friendliest festival on the planet,” one that is popular with both locals and visitors.

He is proud of the accolades that Sauti za Busara festival is East Africa’s premier cultural event.

“Sauti za Busara has high standards in technical production. We promote it well in advance. All artists show up and perform as scheduled, on time. Musicians understand its significance and give their best. Of course, the festival also enjoys the benefit of a fabulous venue, being surrounded by Stone Town’s cultural heritage,” he adds.

Mahmoud adds: “A critical factor for its success is the shared experience between visitors and locals. Everyone agrees the vibe, energy and excitement at Sauti za Busara are out of this world.”

In 2007, Mahmoud was presented the World Shaker Award at the BBC World Music Awards, recognising his “enormous contribution to both the local scene in Zanzibar and the world music scene globally.”

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What’s your off-duty passion?

Music and books. Both give me great inspiration. What I read and listen to is mostly connected to Africa. Lately I’ve been enjoying Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Nnedi Okorafor, two outstanding women writers from Nigeria. I have a Kindle to read when travelling. I’m constantly on the look out for new and interesting music, especially from the African continent and diaspora.

What would you have been if you were not a performing arts events manager today?

I would be involved in campaigns to raise awareness on global issues, or I would have been a superstar DJ!

I could have been all these too right now but my job keeps me occupied full time.

What signifies your personal style?

I am a listener. Everyone has an interesting story. I enjoy one-on-one conversations more than social gatherings. I am not impressed by power or wealth and I have chosen to commute by bicycle. I spend a lot of time with people. But I also realise that I need time alone, for personal health and sanity. 

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