This year, the Sauti za Busara festival, which begins today, focuses on freedom of musical expression.
Tenth year in a row, the East African music festival again opens its stages for approximately 400 invited performers and an excited local as well as relatively large international audience.
This year, the festival has a special focus on freedom of expression. Under the title, ‘Speaking the truth to power’, musicians and artists will be having a ‘Movers & Shakers’ panel discussion touching on censorship issues, the challenges which musicians face when they dare to speak up against the powers in their countries, and the importance of protecting artistic freedom of expression.
‘Movers & Shakers’ facilitator Amanda Lichtenstein wrote a blog-post on censorship and compiled some relevant links:
“Just pushing gently on censorship’s door unleashes a flood of questions and opinions. Why does censorship exist? How does it work? Why does it matter? Is censorship only about morality? Do words and music really have power? What is ultimately at risk when it gets suppressed? How is music used as a political tool? Is censorship ever justified?,” she asked.
Banned artists perform
The festival organisers have invited artists who are or have been subject to censorship and condemnation in other African countries.
One of them is the Malian singer Khaïra Arby, the “undisputed queen of Malian desert soul”, who will be performing on Sunday. She was born in a village not far from the now famed city of Timbutku. When Islamic militants banned all music in northern Mali, they threatened her that they would cut out her tongue if she continued her “desert laments”.
Khaïra Arby was no longer able to perform her music in her home region, in spite of the fact that in several of her songs she actually praises the Prophet Mohammed.
Also the Zimbabwean rapper and poet Comrade Fatso, who is excluded from the national radio and television in Zimbabwe, because his music criticize Mugabe’s government, can be experienced performing on Sunday at the Zanzibar festival.
A human right
Rebecca Yeong Cory, managing director of Sauti za Busara, believes that providing a space for censored artists to have a voice is vital:
“Music is one of the most powerful tools we have to speak out against injustice, to celebrate life, and to express the triumphs of the human spirit. Freedom of expression is a human right — and it benefits us all when it is observed and respected. That is why Sauti za Busara, which means ‘sounds of wisdom’ in Kiswahili, is proud to amplify the voices of artists like Khaira Arby and Comrade Fatso, who have been banned or censored in their home countries,” she told Think Africa Press.
Sauti za Busara is held on 14–17 February in Stone Town, Zanzibar.
The ‘Movers & Shakers’ session on Music and Censhorship takes place on Saturday 16 from 3 to 5 pm at Monsoon Restaurant. (To attend please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org )