Qwela and Ndere Troupe will fly Uganda’s cultural flag at the 2012 Sauti za Busara East African Music festival in Zanzibar. The music showcase is East Africa’s premier cultural event and is also a well-patronised cultural tourism activity. Next year’s event will be the ninth and takes place from February 8-12, 2012 in Stone Town, the idyllic island’s crown tourism jewel.

Other artistes that will grace the festival include Super Mazembe (DRC / Kenya) Ally Kiba (Tanzania) Nneka (Nigeria)  Tumi & The Volume (South Africa)  Ary Morais (Cape Verde)  Companhia Nacional de Canto e Danca (Mozambique)  and EJ von Lyrik (South Africa). Organisers require artistes to perform 100% live and the festival attracts 400 musicians from 40 groups. Half of the festival bill is from Tanzania while artistes from the rest of Africa and beyond comprise the other half. The musicians -established and upcoming- are drawn from multiple genres that include urban and rural, acoustic and electric.

The opening night of the festival extravaganza kicks off with a carnival street parade snaking through Zanzibar’s historic narrow streets ending at the principal venue at the Old Fort. It comprises a “beni” brass band, ngoma drummers, mwanandege umbrella women, stilt-walkers, capoeira dancers and acrobats. The main event then kicks off from 5pm till 1am each day for five straight days!

The island also buzzes with a range of parallel fringe events aptly called Busara Xtra festival also boasts a parallel “fringe” programme that includes screenings of music-themed African films like documentaries, music clips, videos and live concert footage. “Swahili Encounters” offers visiting artistes to collaborate with local musicians to re-interpret Swahili songs and present them on the main stage. Artistes can also benefit from the networking opportunities during the “Movers & Shakers” segment, which offers a daily networking forum for local and visiting arts professionals. There are also seminars and training workshops aimed at building skills for artists, managers, music journalists, filmmakers, sound and lighting technicians from the East Africa region coupled with fashion shows, dhow races, open-mic sessions, after-parties and open rehearsals of Zanzibar’s oldest taarab orchestras all arranged by the community. Local food and drinks, music, jewellery, clothing and handicrafts are close by in the festival marketplace.

“Festivals invigorate young people’s interest in local culture, give opportunities for artists and music professionals to meet and learn from each other, keep traditions alive, create employment for local people and promote Zanzibar as a model for responsible tourism – that honours and respects local culture,” says Festival Director, Yusuf Mahmoud, Festival Director. You cans sure take his word for it on this one.