Call for artists: Sauti za Busara 2017

One of the biggest music festivals on the continent, Sauti za Busara is set to resume at the Old Fort in Stone Town, Zanzibar from 9 to 12 February 2017. The organisers are calling on interested artists to apply to perform.

A scene from Sauti za Busara at Zanzibar's historic Old Fort. Photo: SzB/Facebook
A scene from Sauti za Busara at Zanzibar's historic Old Fort. Photo: SzB/Facebook

The 2017 edition comes after the organisers, Busara Promotions, were forced to cancel the 2016 edition of the festival due to a lack of financial support, particularly from local authorities - the first time in over a decade this had to be done. Without the festival, which makes a huge contribution to the local economy every year, February this year was no doubt far quiter than usual.

Posting a tongue-in-cheek message on their Facebook page on 1 April, founder and director Yusuf Mahmoud recently poked fun at the lack of local support: "Good news! Recognising the enormous contribution Sauti za Busara has made to the local economy and its success in promoting the islands traditions and culture worldwide, the government announces it will contribute 50% towards the festival’s running costs … for the next five years!" 

Sadly, no such support has been forthcoming: the post was merely a wry April Fool's Day joke, although many optimistic readers failed to realise this and the Sauti team later deleted the post. Mahmoud confirmed to Music In Africa that the festival still has "zero support" from the governments of Zanzibar and Tanzania, but he remains optimistic that everything is on track for the 2017 event.

Upon its long-awaiting return in 2017, Sauti za Busara plans to feature original live music on three stages, performed by 25 of East Africa’s finest groups as well as 15 from the African continent and diaspora.

With the exception of 2016, every year since 2004 Sauti za Busara has brought some 20 000 people together over four days in celebration of African music. Roughly 70% of audiences are from East Africa, while international visitors come from across Africa, Europe, America, the Middle East and Asia. To date the festival has featured over 300 acts: 70% from East Africa and the rest from across the African continent and diaspora: from Mali to Madagascar, Mauritania to Mauritius, Algeria to Zimbabwe. View highlights of the 2015 edition in the video below.

How to apply

Artists whose music can be performed 100% live and is connected to Africa or Indian Ocean are encouraged to apply by completing the online application form, including a short biography. For consideration by the festival selection committee, applications must include two recent recordings (on CD and/or DVD) and one or two quality photos (JPGs can be emailed to

Artists performing at the festival are usually paid a modest performance fee. Expenses in Zanzibar are covered, including local travel, visa, accommodation, food and incidentals. Artists from outside the region may have to find their own travel sponsors. Artists from the Middle East and Indian Ocean region are also welcome to apply.

The deadline for applications is 31 July 2016. The selection committee meets during August to decide the programme for Sauti za Busara 2017. All applicants will be notified of the committee’s decisions before September.

For more information visit the Sauti za Busara website.


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