The seventh edition of Sauti za Busara international music festival to be held in Zanzibar from February 11-14, promises a rich diversity of musicians and repertoire.
From the region, pop princess Juliana Kanyomozi, kora-playing prodigy Joel Sebunjo and the hyper Sosolya Dance Academy will represent Uganda, while acclaimed artistes Makadem, Nyota Ndogo, Mapacha Africa (from the Sarakasi Trust) and Maia Von Lekow will fill the bill for Kenya.
The fete, which touts itself as the world’s most friendly festival, will feature 40 performers from the region and beyond.
Kanyomozi hopes to enchant with her flawless vocals and Swahili-tinged breezy zouk sounds.
Sebunjo will definitely blow many away with his adeptness at playing the multi-stringed kora and a host of other Ugandan musical instruments while the Sosolya Dance Academy hopes to get everyone dancing to their high-energy popular Ugandan dances.
Kanyomozi kicks off the festival on February 11 with a 45-minute performance starting at 5.15pm.
Kenya’s Makadem, a ragga-hip hop artiste who has performed with Maxi Priest, Awilo Longomba, Lokua Kanza and Gregory Isaacs, is also scheduled to perform on opening night.
The festival will definitely be a baptism of fire for Kanyomozi — the only female artiste to have won Artiste of the Year (2008) from the now defunct Pam Awards — since organisers require that artistes perform live and the challenge for her will be to make the transition from singing layback to live.
In preparation, she has hired Uganda’s most prolific world music band Soul Beat Africa, which backs up the globe trotting Ugandan Afro pop prodigy Herbert Kinobe.
However, Kanyomozi can count on the instant name recognition she enjoys in the region.
Her 10-year career is testimony to her growth from a karaoke singer in the late 1990s to a regional R&B sensation.
Her big break came in 2005 with the release of Nabikoowa, an album which struck a chord with listeners for its catchy vernacular lyrics and smooth arrangements from her long time producer Steve Jean.
She has gone on to enjoy cross-border appeal by adding Kiswahili songs to her repertoire.
The songs Usiende Mbali featuring Tanzanian youthful crooner Bushoke and her recent collaboration with Burundian Afro pop musician Kidum on Haturudi Nyuma — which is enjoying massive radio airplay on regional FM radio stations — have enhanced her regional cross-border appeal.
The kora-playing Sebunjo is not new to the international stage and is expected to impress in his hour-long set on February 13.
He is scheduled to take to the stage at 9pm.
Sebunjo has racked up hours of stage experience touring internationally alongside his band Sundiata.
He has performed in over 20 music festivals in Europe, and his mastery of the kora, ndingidi (tube fiddle), akogo (thumb piano) — talking drum is quite impressive.
He has performed with African music luminaries such as Youssour Ndou and Salif Keita.
Ssolya Dance Academy are traditional dancers known for their feet stamping, hip, arm and abdominal dances.
The dance troupe, from one of Kampala’s harshest slums in Kabalagala, comprises dancers aged 10-25.
Their repertoire is based on the rhythmic sounds of traditional drums like the mighty mujjaguzzo used in Buganda royal celebrations, the embuutu, the empunyi, the engalabi and the namunjoloba.
Little known Maia from Kenya will also take to the stage on opening night.
Her Uko Wapi album featured in the award winning Kenyan production, From a Whisper, a story on the 1998 terrorist bombing in Kenya and was awarded “Best Soundtrack” at the 2009 African Movie Academy Awards in Nigeria.
Scheduled to perform at midnight on February 12 is Kiswahili singer Nyota Ndogo.
Celebrated both locally and internationally, she has four albums to her name and has been featured on several international music compilations, including Charlie Gillett’s World 2003, The Rough Guide to Kenya and Off the Beaten Track.
Traditional music representatives Mapacha Africa, who were well received at the Mundial Festival in 2008, will be performing on the evening of February 14.
Some of the confirmed artistes are Thandiswa (South Africa), Ba Cissoko (Guinea), Malick Pathé Sow (Senegal), Simba & Brown Band (Mozambique), Debo Band (Ethiopia/USA), Banana Zorro & the B Band (Tanzania), Ikwani Safaa Musical Club featuring Tamalyn Dallal (Zanzibar/US), Tausi Women’s Taarab (Zanzibar), Mari Boine (Norway), Dawda Jobarteh (The Gambia), Del & Diho (Mayotte), Fresh Jumbe & African Express (Tanzania/Japan), Chidi Benz (Tanzania), Kilua Ngoma (Tanzania), Mim Suleiman (Zanzibar/UK), Massar Egbari (Egypt).
Others are Sinachuki Kidumbak (Zanzibar), Bamba Nazar & The Pilgrimage (Suriname/Netherelands), Maureen Lupo Lilanda (Zambia), Mzungu Kichaa (Denmark/Tanzania) and Jhikoman (Tanzania).