Djmawi Africa (Algeria) at Sauti za Busara 2015. Picture Robin Batista

Excitement and anticipation are rising fast for Sauti za Busara, one of the continent’s most respected African music festivals.

Due to the uncertainty around the elections in Zanzibar, the 13th edition of the annual Sauti za Busara festival was delayed for over a year. But now everything is back on course for a great festival that will explore the theme “Africa United”, with 400 artists performing on three stages over four days in February.

“Music is a universal language, through which the world can see Africa is positive, Africa is vibrant and Africa is rich in its many cultures and expressions. With these thoughts in mind, Sauti za Busara festival provides an example of an event designed to develop, in both locals and visitors, an appreciation of the uniqueness, wealth and diversity of African music.

“It shows there is beauty and depth in our musical traditions, with employment and income to be gained in sustaining them,” says festival director and founder, Yusuf Mahmoud.

With a fascination for traditional music from the region, Yusuf has put his full effort into shining a spotlight on East African music. In 2003, the non-profit company Busara Promotions was established to produce the Sauti za Busara music festival and in 2004 the first edition took place.

Sauti za Busara means “voices of wisdom” in Swahili. The festival showcases modern and traditional African music and the unique cultural identity, instruments and rhythms attract audiences of more than 20 000 people over four days.

The festival has had a tremendous impact on Tanzanian music by providing a platform for local audiences to experience music from other parts of Africa, while showcasing East African music to international visitors, creating a successful shared experience between locals and visitors and appreciation for the cultural diversity on the African continent.

The Kenyan group Sarabi has gone onto international acclaim after performances at the festival. Jagwa Music, an Afro-punk group, has toured the world since being exposed at the festival.

For the 2017 edition, the all-boy dance music Yamoto Band from Tanzania is a headline act.

The traditional Taraab music, indigenous to Zanzibar, will feature strongly. Originating on the island from a mix of indigenous instruments and culture, with the visiting Arab styles, today Taraab is a melting pot of global influences and many instruments that are played all over East Africa.

Left: Sona Jobarteh at Sauti za Busara 2014. Picture: Jonathan Kalan

Next year’s festival will also feature acts such as Tausi Women’s Taarab, Rajab Suleiman & Kithara, Matona’s G Clef Band and Taarab-Kidumbak.

Yusuf says: “Locals are more confident in their traditions and culture and the fact that these must be special, because visitors come from all over the world to see the festival. International visitors know they are experiencing something authentic and unique, as they enjoy African music under African skies, shoulder to shoulder with the local population.”

Yusuf’s approach to programming ensures the festival has a dynamic programme of music that represents quality; originality; innovation; gender balance; positive messages for society; young and emerging talents, as well as “big names”.

A special programme at the festival called Movers & Shakers is a networking forum for local and visiting arts professionals to share ideas and to source undiscovered talent. Through exchanges with festivals in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Denmark and Norway, skills, knowledge and contacts are shared.

Training workshops and seminars for skills-development and networking are key elements of the festival.

Sauti za Busara makes a great economic contribution to Zanzibar, by providing employment throughout the year. Feeder projects into the wider tourism industry and externally-organised events of cultural interest provide further opportunities for local artists to showcase their work, encourage visitors to see more of Zanzibar, and share economic benefits with the wider population.

Sauti za Busara is set to take place in Zanzibar on

February 9 to 12

Discounts are offered to all African nationals who travel to Zanzibar every year in February. "All festival" (4 day) passes cost $10 for Tanzanians, $60 (other Africans) or $120 for other nationalities.

Headline acts: Rocky Dawuni (Ghana), Sarabi (Kenya), Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band (Ghana), Jagwa Music, Chibite Zawose Family, Yamoto Band (Tanzania).