THIS year was not the first time for Zanzibar’s House of Representative Chairperson, Hamza Hassan Juma, to visit the Sauti za Busara (SzB) international music festival.
Over his years of attendance he has acquired a good background knowledge of the environment within which past episodes were held. Now, today he commends those who started and have continued organising the annual event, from their hub in the Old Fort of Stone Town.
During a short conversation with the ‘Daily News’ last Sunday, Juma, who is the House of Representative member for Shaurimoyo constituency, referred to the annual event, as being a “big assistance” to the government.
They are the ones, he maintains, who should be bearing the responsibility for holding the festival, which he remembers started in a very difficult environment. “The government appreciates its importance…
The bottom line is that for this entire week (last week) wherever you look, you can hear or read something about SzB. This is very helpful to Zanzibar’s economy, which depends much on tourism. Many visitors come here, around this time of year for this particular festival,” he noted.
Added to this, Juma, who is also Chairperson of the Committee dealing with Communication and Land, there in Zanzibar, believes it’s not only visitors who benefit from the exposure. Local artists, both on the Mainland and Isles, get the chance to exchange with their counterparts from other lands. This he suggested helps them improve their skills and gives them a general uplift in their attitude to their Art.
It is because of these reasons the committee is determined to continue doing all it can to convince the government of a need for them to become more active players in keeping this festival growing from strength to strength.
Another government official present at the festival last Sunday is the Minister of State in the Vice- President’s Office, Responsible for Environment and Union Matters, January Makamba. He had come to the Isles, straight from Dodoma, after the Parliamentary sessions, which ended on Friday and was followed with a meeting on Saturday, to at least catch the last day of the festival.
Jovially he told the ‘Daily News’ how very much impressed he was with the mixed line-up of musicians and the mixtures of genres available at the festival. He also praised the quality of music, which includes local bands, who stood their grounds alongside the visiting ones.
“This is a wonderful event and important music festival, not only in Tanzania but in Africa. For some of us, who have been engaged in this festival since its beginning, we’re very proud and happy at the growth that we see, both in terms of aesthetic production and also substantive part of the festival, in terms of what it gives, so I’m very happy to be here,” he said. Makamba agreed that both the Mainland and the Isles are very rich with Art in all its aspects.
That being the case, he suggested, the Government does not have to do anything to develop Art, for this is already on the move. However, what they can do is to help on the side of “promotion and advancement” of the Arts.
Now this requires enough resources, so that the talents that naturally exist within nationals can be tapped. Having venues, such as national theatres and cultural centres would, he says, make it possible for people to appreciate what is in the country.
He agreed that more should and can be done in this regards. Just the fact that the majority of the crowd, which came on Sunday night, he says is proof that outsiders appreciate what is here more than the locals themselves.
“If you look at our demographics as a country, where you have a lot of young people, who are increasingly exposed to foreign Art – music, cinema and so on – there is a tremendous danger that we may lose these young people in the sense that they may identify themselves with Art and Culture that is not indigenous,” he said.
Such a situation, Makamba went on to say would be “dangerous” because it would entail local youngsters losing their identity. He admitted seeing this as a much bigger issue than is currently being appreciated. This is why he maintains that even more is needed to be done now, given all the exposures to foreign Art local youngsters are bombarded with daily.
He praised the festival organisers for providing a platform where other genres of music that are not in the mainstream can get the opportunity to express themselves and be seen. Seeing the Usambara Sanaa Group, which comes from his district in Tanga Region perform on Sunday night, not only gave him pleasure but also made him very proud. This is why he strongly advocates for the local underrepresented genres to be given a platform.
This he maintains is crucial. In this sense he revealed that there are plans being looked at to bring out new regulations, concerning the quota of local music that is to be aired on radio and television stations.
Makamba acknowledges the fact that media is business but he maintains this is not to say the Government cannot play a greater role in seeing that young people are more exposed to the local talent that is available.
Concerning having another festival based in Dar es Salaam, modelled off the SzB, Makamba has objections.
Given that this event has gained a reputation around Africa and the world, he feels the best thing to do is to continue investing in it. That way its sustainability can be certain. Attention has also to be given to promoting it, so that it becomes one of those “notmissed festivals” people put in their calendar, at the beginning of each year.