Sauti za Busara 2016: Final announcement expected this week

African music lovers were shocked by news earlier this month that the 2016 edition of Sauti za Busara in Zanzibar was at risk of being cancelled due to a lack of funding and support.

Music on the streets of Zanzibar during Sauti za Busara. Photo: Facebook
Music on the streets of Zanzibar during Sauti za Busara. Photo: Facebook

Following an emergency meeting in Zanzibar last week Thursday 13 August, the organisers, Busara Promotions, are busy deciding whether next year’s edition will indeed take place. A final announcement is due this week on Thursday 20 August, according to the festival’s Facebook page.

After 12 successful editions of the festival, Busara Promotions CEO Yusuf Mahmoud told Music In Africa: “This decision will not be taken lightly. The festival is very popular and ticket sales are expected to be as healthy as ever. But these only cover 30% of festival costs. Despite tireless efforts, we’ve always had zero financial support from the governments in Zanzibar and Tanzania, and support from donors, embassies and commercial sponsors has reached an all-time low.”

Mahmoud bemoaned local authorities’ lack of vision, accusing them of bleeding the festival dry in the short-term, instead of investing in an event that promotes Zanzibar globally, employs and builds skills for Tanzanians and could continue bringing in cultural tourism revenues for many years to come. “Local representatives from the international donor community tell us it’s clear that Sauti za Busara is run professionally, delivers on its promises and is enormously popular,” he said. “Ironically, their assumption is therefore that the festival ‘does not need support’. Meanwhile, each year our local government authorities demand ever-higher contributions from the festival in withholding taxes, licenses, work permits, policing and security, venue rental fees - even for putting posters on the streets.”

Every year, Sauti za Busara brings thousands of visitors from all corners of the world to Zanzibar at a time of the year that used to be considered low season. Even conservative estimates suggest that since 2004, Sauti za Busara has generated US$ 70million in revenue for the island. BBC World Service hails it as one of “Africa's best and most respected music events”, while it is also included in CNN's “7 African music festivals you really have to see” and tops AfroTourism's list of “Africa’s 8 Best Music Festivals”.

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