East Africa’s leading music festival Sauti Za Busara has announced the line-up for the 2017 edition, which will be held between 9 and 12 February 2017 in Zanzibar. The line-up presents a diverse selection from around the continent and the diaspora and includes 25 acts from within East Africa.

Members of Wahapahapa band from Tanzania. Photo: www.busaramusic.org

For many of the artists, this will be their debut performance at the festival and in East Africa. The line-up includes:

  • Moroccan roots-reggae superstars Bob Maghreb, who reinterpret Bob Marley classics with fresh North African flavours
  • Roland Tchakounté, a rocking African blues musician from Cameroon (now based in France)
  • Kyekyeku, a young, conscious Ghanaian singer-songwriter taking traditional palm wine and highlife music to new directions.

Also selected to perform is Grace Barbe, who plays uplifting Afro-Sega vibes from the Seychelles; Karyna Gomes will bring her brand of music, which reflects her multi-cultural influences from Europe, Latin America as well as Africa. Hailing from Guinea Bissau, Gomes started her music career at the age of 21 by singing gospel music in 1997 while studying in Brazil. In 2005 Gomes embarked on a solo career in her homeland. She went on to release her debut solo album in October 2014. Dubbed Mindjer, which means “woman”, the album is a tribute to the Guinean women and those from around the world for their determination, strength and courage.


From Tanzania bands like Wahapahapa, CAC Fusion traditional band and Ze Spirits band will serve unique Tanzania music. Wahapahapa, which means “originates from here” in Swahili, is a six-piece band. Their music is a unique blend of homegrown music inspired by diverse Swahili traditions and influences of contemporary world music. They have held successful concerts in Tanzania and outside the country. South Africa’s Freshlyground and Jessica Mbangeni; Malawi’s Madalitso Band and Mozambique’s Isau Meneses will represent Southern Africa.

Speaking to Music In Africa, Sauti Za Busara CEO Yusuf Mahmoud, said that 95% of the line-up is already confirmed. With many artists making their first appearance at the festival, Mahmoud hopes that this platform will be able to promote their talents to the world.

“International music promoters will be around and on the look-out for undiscovered talents. It only remains to be seen how many of the groups participating next February will be invited to perform at other festivals across Africa, Europe and elsewhere later in 2017-2018.”

Massive applications

Having received more than 600 applications for the 40 available slots, Mahmoud says there were clear differences in the quality of applications received from artists in the diaspora and those based in Africa.

“Most African artists based in Europe who applied have agents or managers working on their behalf. Their managers sent all materials as requested. On the other hand, the majority of artists applying from within Africa, the applications were wanting,” Mahmoud explains.

He notes that for some of the African artists their profiles were poorly written, audio samples were badly recorded, videos contained poor sound or stuck to formulaic scripts. Even photos, if they existed, were often unusable. He says that this failure to pay attention to detail is reflected in some of the artists’ online presence. He cites a leading Tanzanian band whose name is written differently on various platforms.

“We were surprised to see even for this well-known band that across the web their band name is spelt in several different ways, meaning it will be difficult for the members to be paid their due royalties,” Mahmoud says.

Keeping the festival accessible and affordable for local people remains a priority for Sauti Za Busara. Discounts are offered on tickets for all Tanzanians, African passport-holders and foreign residents in East Africa. Four-day all festival passes are available for purchase on the festival’s website. Ticket prices are as follows: $10 for Tanzanians, $60 other Africans and foreign residents (EAC) and $120 (other nationalities)