Ugandan causes a splash at Sauti za Busara Festival

Ugandan causes a splash at Sauti za Busara Festival
Ugandan causes a splash at Sauti za Busara Festival

Africa-Press – Uganda. World Jazz fusion music crooner Brian Aliddeki may have been the sole Ugandan artist at last weekend’s Sauti za Busara Festival, but he left a lasting impression at the Annual Zanzibar event.

The event commenced last Friday before concluding on February 11. Accompanying Aliddeki at this year’s Festival were three Ugandan instrumentalists: Peter Omega, playing the acoustic and electric guitars in addition to dancing; Elisha Kwizera, handling the bass guitar and providing backing vocals; as well as Benedict Okiror Emmanuel, playing the full western set of drums and percussions.

Under the theme Moving Diversity, this year’s festival, like its past editions, took place within the ancient walls of the Old Fort, a Unesco-listed World Heritage Site in Stone Town, Zanzibar city. Performances continued non-stop from 4pm to 1am daily. The venue hosted two festival bars, kiosks selling meals and snacks, as well as local and international music, clothes, and handicrafts.

Off to rollicking start

Sauti za Busara (Sounds of Wisdom) welcomed people of all ages and backgrounds. It is organised by Busara Promotions, a non-profit cultural NGO based in Zanzibar.

Straight from the Zanzibar airport, Aliddeki took to the stage at 7:20pm for a sound check before officially performing on Friday night. He graced the amphitheatre stage, one out of the three festival stages, with others being the main stage and the forodhani stage. This followed Tanzania’s Traditional music group Africulture opening at 5:50pm and Kenya’s traditional group Anuanga & Maasai Vocals.

Aliddeki commenced his 90-minute performance with an invigorating introduction, entailing freestyle, playing themes, and dances brimming with African instruments. His musical journey started with the songs Owayanga and Landlord, eliciting an enthusiastic response from the audience.

He then transitioned to Ayi Bambe, intertwining rhythms, and followed it with Ewaffe, showcasing Ugandan dance and jubilation. The emotional crescendo came with My Africa, resonating deeply with both Aliddeki and the audience. All these songs were from his NDI MU FIRIKA Album.

In his second session, he performed Tulambule Eggwanga and Abataka from his EKA WAKA Album.

Clouds followed, expressing gratitude to God in various languages. His final song was Empaako, a request from the audience, prompting organisers to extend his performance by an additional 10 minutes.

Uganda’s last participation in the Sauti Za Busara Festival was in 2022, represented by Suzan Kerunen, whom Aliddeki now joins among other Ugandan acts like Jose Chameleone in 2007, Apio Moro and Evon in 2020, and Maurice Kirya in 2008.

Persistence pays off

Aliddeki had been striving to participate in the festival for over five years. His efforts, however, seemed futile as he consistently faced rejection.

He nevertheless took it upon himself to enhance his musical endeavours, focusing on creating an online portfolio that would catch the attention of the festival committee. After years of persistence, his diligence paid off after he was finally selected.

Reflecting on his journey, Aliddeki highlighted his relentless pursuit of exposure, stating, “In 2022, I performed at almost every major stage for my style of music. I aimed to build a dedicated audience who would understand and appreciate my work, thereby supporting my quest to be part of the festival.”

His performances included notable events such as Blankets and Wine Kampala (2022), Nyege Nyege Festival (2022), Fete Dela Musique Kampala (2022), Afropalooza Festival (2022), One Song Concert (2022), Sofar Kampala and Sofar Kigali (2021 and 2023), Kwegonza Avenue Festival (2022), Ekyooto Ha Mpango (2021), among others.

When Aliddeki received the news of his selection in November 2023, from a little over 400 applicants, he experienced a range of emotions. He was ultimately thrilled and prepared for the opportunity.

“It felt like I had done it all before, even though it was my first time at Sauti za Busara,“ he told about last weekend’s performance, adding, “Despite being only 25, I felt a sense of maturity beyond my years. It was a moment where I felt I carried the essence of Uganda with me to the festival.”

Who is Aliddeki?

Describing himself as a recording artiste, educator, and traditional multi-instrumentalist from Uganda, Aliddeki pursued his passion for music by completing his undergraduate studies at the African Institute of Music, specialising in Contemporary Jazz Guitar. With a background in performing with traditional troupes, Aliddeki has captivated audiences with his unique fusion of jazz, world music, and pop, infused with an authentic Ugandan flair. His diverse musical repertoire and songwriting abilities have earned him recognition and positioned him as a significant figure in Uganda’s cultural landscape.

Aliddeki gained prominence after participating in the Pearl of Africa Star Search in 2021, where he represented the western region. Despite not clinching the top spot, his presence in the top 12 provided valuable connections and opportunities to advance his career. He acknowledges the support he received from organisations like Talent Africa Group and the French Embassy, which have been instrumental in his journey.

The lineup for this year’s Sauti za Busara festival featured a diverse mix of established and emerging musicians from across the African continent and the diaspora. The organisers described the selection as “a musical journey across Africa,” showcasing the rich tapestry of musical traditions from various regions.

This year’s edition marked a transition in leadership, with Lorenz Herrmann taking over as the managing director from founder and CEO Yusuf Mahmoud, who retired after 20 years of service.

Star-studded lineup

The lineup included a plethora of talents such as Mádé Kuti & The Movement (Nigeria), Zoë Modiga (South Africa), The Brother Moves On (South Africa), Sholo Mwamba (Tanzania), Tamimu (Tanzania), Siti & The Band (Tanzania), Wakazi (Tanzania), Warrior From the East (Tanzania), Africulture (Tanzania), Lwendo Afrika (Tanzania), Brain Boy (Tanzania), Mubba (Tanzania), Stewart Sukuma & Banda Nkhuvu (Mozambique), Selmor Mtukudzi (Zimbabwe), Muhonja (Kenya), Francesco Nchikala (DRC/Zambia), Aliddeki Brian (Uganda), Flying Bantu (Zimbabwe), Mary Anibal (Zimbabwe), Afropentatonism (Niger/Ethiopia), ITA & MEHDY (Algeria), Dogo Fara (Reunion Island), Anuang’a & Maasai Vocal (Kenya) and Sibu Manaï (Reunion Island).

About the Festival

Sauti za Busara, which translates to “Sounds of Wisdom” in Swahili, is an annual music and cultural festival held in Zanzibar. Created in 2003 by a cultural NGO, it is a prominent and celebrated event that has gained recognition not only in East Africa but also on the international stage.

During a weekend of three days, the island celebrates music, theatre, and dance, highlighting African traditions. The festival typically takes place in February, attracting visitors and music enthusiasts from around the world. It showcases a diverse range of performing arts, combining both modern and traditional styles.

The festival takes place in the historic Stone Town, with the main stage located inside the Old Fort (Ngome Kongwe). Concerts and performances are held in various venues, including outdoor stages, historic buildings, and open spaces, creating a vibrant atmosphere.

One of the highlights of the Sauti za Busara festival is the carnival-like street parade that kicks off the event on the first day.

This colourful and lively procession through the streets of Stone Town is a sight to behold, featuring musicians, dancers, and performers from various cultures and regions, setting the tone for the vibrant festivities that follow.

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