7 February 2013

Tanzania: Why Only Original Acts Make Busara's Platform

THERE were 506 applications to this month's Sauti za Busara festival on the Zanzibar Isles. Each one of these had to attach a compact disc (CD) to their request, for it to be accepted.

Those requests that were not concerned with African music were immediately cancelled because the event is strictly constructed as a platform to display musical sounds, instruments and styles connected to the continent. This issue was looked at late last week when the 'Daily News' met with the project's co-ordinator, Journey Ramadhan, of Busara Promotions.

They had come to Dar es Salaam for the pre launch ceremony of the event that actually starts next Thursday. It was in conversation with him after the launch it was learnt that out of the 506 applications, 22 were successful. That is 12 from outside of the country, six from the Tanzanian mainland and four from the Isles. "Depending on the artist, if it's very difficult for a particular act to find a travel sponsor and we think it is worth it, we pay it.

We pay for all artistes' accommodation and they get a fee but other expenses are left to them and all stage back-ups are locally supplied," Ramadhani explained. This procedure has been used since the first episode of the Sauti za Busara festival, ten years ago, towards achieving their goals. While the team was in Dar es Salaam the 'Daily News' took hold of the opportunity to find out a little more about this from Busara Promotions founding Chairman, Simai Said. He spoke about the Sauti za Busara festival being basically a platform for artistes to display their music.

This, they see as a time to promote the whole East Africa music sector together with building the arts infrastructure. Music, he says has to be displayed at the same time that it is being promoted, for there to be beneficial growth. "In the old days you would hear a lot of Hip-hop in Zanzibar and other types of music but now there is more appreciation for local music. There are groups in Zanzibar that are disappearing.

They were performing but not being identified. Taarab has been highly appreciated. If you look at it now, even the young generation are beginning more and more to use traditional instruments like the ganoun and oud," he explains. Continuing with the festival is not a question, he says because it has become an internationally known brand name that has become synonymous with Zanzibar and Tanzania.

What they had not fully noticed ten years ago was how the financial aspect the festival would have developed. Today, the cultural tourism part, he says has become a much bigger concern than they had envisaged then. Now he says, there are a lot more visitors coming to the Isles during this month than previously. The figures, he added have gone up by more than 700 per cent from all corners of the world.

Now, the festival has become an important aspect contributing towards the local economy. There are such expenses visitors incur like visa passes and after they have finished their holiday on the isles, enjoying the music, they would often come to the Mainland to visit places like the national parks. This is why organisers of the event still maintain they can only allow those musicians, who have reached an acceptable level of expertise to climb their platform.

He says that even local people want to see musicians playing instruments in front of them live. Another point Said mentioned in this respect is that even the promoters, who come to the event looking for acts, want those who can perform good original music live. "It's a difficult thing for us to say I'm sorry but we cannot take you on stage.

In a way, if we do so we're actually discouraging local artistes and ruining the talent they have, instead of taking them to different and higher levels. So we want to help the local musicians but what we are saying is that you have to try harder and find a way to create your own unique style to come up," Said, who is Busara Promotions' current Vice- Chairman and Acting Chairman, stressed. There are a number of Tanzanians, who he added have done just this, like Lady JD, Banana Zorro and Juma Nature.

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