The Busara
festival always impresses me with their strong calling out of sexual harassment
throughout the festival and a general focus on capacity building. This year it
included a programme that provided opportunities for woman to gain stage
management skills and experinece throughout the festival. Saturdays afternoon
workshop was focused on Woman in Music and was well attended with a great panel
of passionate speakers.

After my
daily 5pm rejuvenating nap, I was ready for the third night of music.

I was very keen to catch the Mauritian group, Mannyok, whose music had caught my attention in my pre-festival prep. I had seen this video of theirs and was blown away by their happiness factor – which is obviously a crucial mood for any library. I was not disappointed with their lively feel good live performance in the Old fort – It was tropical beach party bliss!

Wakazi aka “The Bilingual Beast”, a rapper from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, was another stand out act on the evening – very powerful presence, with fantastic dancers that featured support vocals from Frankie Maston, whom I had chatted to earlier at the networking sessions.

Recording Lawrence Okellos

Day 4

After an
ongoing mission to get my sim card working, I headed to stone town recording
studios to meet the producer DJ Walid and going through the various Bongo
flavor, Hip Hop and “slow motion” tracks that we will be releasing soon on our

Then, in between power cuts, we started recording Lawrence Okellos traditional Ugandan instruments for a rootsy authentic East African Mama Dance Library album. We recorded the Endingidi (tube fiddle), Adungu (Harp) and Engalagabi (Long drum). It was great seeing him translating various cinematic scenes I gave him into music. This was a new angle for him, but he totally got it. It’s always great to connect with amazing musicians from other African countries.

Mash dishing up the SA flavour African Jazz

The live music started with another highlight – Sibusiso “Mash” Mashiloane, a South African Jazz pianist and composer that completely bowled me over. And it was great to hang out with his band later that evening with some other South Africans that I had met during the festival.

Then it was Fra! From Ghana that really got the crowd ecstatic. This young group from Accra merge rock, funk with Africentric sensibilities and knew how to work a festival crowd into a frenzy!

Fra! energetic crossover from Accra

Ugandan underground soul, blues and jazz singer, Evon also blew me away. She was on SA TV show Project runway and her soulful, quirky and eccentric personality was totally memorable. I can’t wait to watch her again.

Then the other big highlight for me was SinaUbi & Zawose Spirit group. Because we have already released a Mama Dance album of traditional Tanzanian Gogo music with Msafiri Zawose, I was familiar with this beautiful hypnotic Kalimba driven music, but this live performance with ecstatic dancing was truly magnificent. The Tanzanian crowd were getting DOWN with it! Extremely memorable and a big highlight for me.

SinaUbi and Zawose Spirit group – Traditional Gogo music from Tanzania

And the night just kept on delivering. Onipa (meaning “Human”), is a crazy Ghana / UK project fusing deep afro grooves with hard electronic sounds and they completely rocked the main stage crowd. This was inspirational sound for me, and the reason why it’s so worth travelling to African music festivals to experience. I can’t wait to show our team of producers the footage to inspire fresh new musical ideas for our catalogue. Here’s their music video.

Onipa – edgy UK Ghana afro electronica

The Algerians were well represented by the Mehdi Laifaoui Trab project, and I was lucky enough to meet up with the bands guitarist, Nazim Bakour, later in the week at some beach bungalows, and we will be working on North African material for the library over the next few months

As if the evening hadn’t already delivered enough, Mehdi Qamoum from Morocco was the closing act. Apart from an obvious resemblance and stage energy to Jimi Hendrix, the intense North African bluesy rock energy kept the crowd jumping. Another outstanding festival act breaking new ground in cross over African sound.

Mehdi Qamoum representing Morocco at Busara 2020

The evening
ended up trawling after parties and late night jams with friends made during
the previous 4 nights… what a blast!

Then it was off to Paje beach to relax after this frenetic time in Stone Town, and although there wasn’t enough wind for kite surfing, the weather was perfect for more beach parties, long walks and for scuba diving amongst impressive schools of fish and other sea life amongst the waving corals around Mnema atoll further up the North East coast.

Zanzibar scuba diving with MJ

Thanks to
the many people involved at Busara and the warm hospitality of all the people
of Zanzibar. I will be back.