The organizers of Sauti Za Busara in Zanzibar, East Africa’s most popular music festival have said the music event will not take place next year due to a lack of funds. This will be the first time in thirteen years Zanzibar does not enjoy an international music festival in February.
Yusuf Mahmoud, CEO of Busara Promotions, said today ‘‘This decision was not taken lightly. Previously we had always announced festival dates a year in advance. But after closing the books on another highly successful festival in February 2015, once again we were back to square one, with no funds to start working on the next edition. We set ourselves the target to raise US$200,000 before July, when we hoped to announce dates for Sauti za Busara 2016. After many meetings with stakeholders, we extended our fundraising deadline to midnight on Aug 19. The total amount of cash or ‘in-kind’ support we were able to raise presently stands at $42,000, so there is still a long way to go. Usually at this time of year, we are already well advanced in agreeing contracts with venues, equipment suppliers, artists and managers, towards scheduling the timetable and confirming artists’ travel and accommodation arrangements as early as possible. The pressure was on further, as we have been receiving enquiries from all over the world by people needing to know the dates, to make arrangements for their own flights and hotel bookings. Selling tickets for Sauti za Busara was never a problem, but these only cover 30% of festival costs’’.
For the past twelve years, Busara attracted thousands of visitors from all corners of the world to Zanzibar, at a time which used to be low season. Flights to Zanzibar around festival week were full, hotels and restaurants were full, the shops around Stone Town were all busy with customers. Even conservative estimates suggest since 2004 Sauti za Busara has generated USD 70 million in revenue for the island. Meanwhile, BBC World Service hailed Sauti za Busara as one of ‘‘Africa’s best and most respected music events’’. It is also included in CNN’s ‘‘7 African music festivals you really have to see’’ and tops Afro-Tourism’s list of ‘‘Best Music Festivals’’.