Posts Tagged ‘Sauti ya Busara’

Bi Kidude; you inspired me

April 19, 2013

I would like people to understand how we do things in Africa. This is how we want to be seen where we are. Everywhere we travel, in Europe or anywhere, we must have good manners. Then people will grow to like us and come to Africa to discover more-Bi Kidude.

Everyone who knows me knows how my relationship with Swahili Culture is like. My auntie (my mother’s sister) was married to an Arab man. We were very close and she taught me a lot. So the passing of  Zanzibari singer Bi Kidude is something I cannot just allow to pass without sharing a few.


I first began exploring Bi Kidude’s life and music when I started dancing Chakacha with some Swahili bands in Nairobi. Then, I was barely 20 years old and she inspired me in many ways. Her life, her music, unique voice, her life experiences and courage. Considering her time in the evolving African culture, her general life views were out of this world. Seeing an elderly African woman smoking in public was a shock to many! (I only heard never saw).

I was hoping I’d see her perform live in concert-especially at the 2012 Sauti ya Busara Festival in Stone Town, Zanzibar. I attended the festival for a couple of days but never got to see her perform owing to time constraints>Dammit!!

A major lesson I’ve learnt from her is the important of beloving and having your passion at your very core>it’s the only thing that keeps you going. No matter how old you are, keep going, you are never too old.

Perhaps fellow poet Shailja Patel tells it better in her TED performance of ‘If God was a 95-year old Swahili woman’ where she says something like;

I will never fear aging again because now I have heard Bi. Kidude (at her age) belt out without a mic (stronger than cables of steel). Her drumming more powerful that 20 Lady Gaga’s.

In the same piece, Shaija also adds that she was ‘A woman who walked more miles than most of us have driven’. Indeed, she is said to have done most of her tours either on dhows or on foot.

Regarding her role in Unyago, I salute her! God knows we need all African women to learn about all things sexual; not just for marriage but for themselves.

ZANZIBAR; The tears and the laughter-PART I

February 21, 2012

Anyplace with sun and sand always does it for me. So when the opportunity came for me to assist and accompany a friend of mine to Zanzibar, I was ecstatic!

DAY 1 Monday 6th February: The journey begins

My birthday too. I also had a job interview before the journey. I hadn’t booked in advance, just in case the interview lasted longer than I’d anticipated. I arrived about thirty minutes after 1 O’Clock by which time my favourite buses had already departed. The only bus that was available was Mombasa Raha, which I’d never used before. Not what I’m used to (in terms of comfort) but it got me to Mombasa in time-around 8.30 p.m. To suit the journey, my cousin lent me Elmore Leonards’ ‘Gold Coast’. Elmore is one of my favourite crime fiction writers!

DAY 2 Tuesday: Road to Dar es Salaam

Had to wake up at 5.30 a.m to catch the 6.30 a.m bus to Dar. The only bus we found was Smart Bus (Ksh. 1,400). At the ferry crossing over to the South Coast, we were all asked to get off the bus. I remember listening to this very funny pastor on the ferry when I was called back into the bus. At the door, there was an argument among the conductors about opening the door or not. When they finally did, I was starting to get in when all of a sudden, someone closed the door. My finger was caught in between and mercilessly smashed. I immediately started bleeding. The people who saw what happened started protesting …and that’s when the door was opened again to let me in.

Smart Bus did not have a complete first aid kit and I had to wait over 10 hours to get proper treatment in Dar.

Zuku advert in Swahili

Zuku advert in Swahili

The bus kept making numerous stops along the way and instead of taking  between 8-10 hours, we took 15 hours to get to Dar. I had been informed that my Safaricom number would work here, but wapi! After my lil’ accident, my friend had decided to leave Zanzibar (instead of waiting for me there) and come wait for me in Dar, but alas! I couldn’t even make calls.

At the hospital:  Thank God AAR had offices in Dar.  So I got a cab and headed there, only to find their offices closed. The guard informed us that the nearest hospital was Shree Hindu Mandal Hospital.This is where I was dropped off.

Once  I informed the receptionist that I was from Kenya, she said that I couldn’t access the services here,  adding that I had to wait and go to AAR offices the next morning. What?!!! Not knowing  what else to do, I sat at the hospital lobby-stranded. One of her colleagues  came and sat next to me, to talk to me. He called a friend of his to help sort out my network issue. So simple:- Settings>Phone>Operator selection>Manual. Most phones connect automatically though. I finally called the AAR Dar number at the back of the card using my phone…..and that’s all it took for me to get treatment. The doctor and nurse who sorted me out were amazing.

Frangipani Guest Suites: I also called my friend, who came and waited until I was treated. I had my ‘chips mayai’ before  heading out to Frangipani Guest Suites in Jangwani Beach where we spent the night.

Table center piece at Frangipani in Dar

Table center piece at Frangipani in Dar

The place is ran by Salgha Kombe, a professional interior designer who has done an amazing job with the place.




February 21, 2012


We managed to catch the 12 O’clock speed boat to Zanzibar (from Dar), a journey that would take about one and a half hours. Being foreigners, we were charged Ksh. 3,500 each. Owing to the tidal waves, the ride was very bumpy at the beginning bwith kids screaming and adults laughing.

We went straight to 1001 Nights, a lil’ hotel on Malindi Road in Stone Town where we’d be staying. After freshening up, we were ready to take on Stone Town. Sauti ya Busara (meaning Sounds of Wisdom, one of the most popular music festivals on the island was kicking off the next day. There was a networking forum at Monsoon Restaurant that afternoon though. Here, everyone had to take off their shoes to get in. I liked the place, the cushions on the floor, dim lights and strong dark spice tea. After the forum, we walked along the seafront looking for a place to eat. All around Stone Town, banners, posters and programs of the Sauti ya Busara Festival abound. We settled on Mercury’s where we feasted on their sea-food pizza and the breathtaking view.

the Zanzibar beach

the Zanzibar beach

Later, back at the sea-front, we discovered that the place was coming alive right before sunset. Local vendors start setting up and selling fresh barbeque seafood at Forodhani Gardens’ Night Market as it is known.

the sea food yum!

Forodhani Gardens

With Naan to accompany the octopus, prawns, shark meat etc. we tried almost all of the sea food (in skewers dipped in chilli). We got into a lil’ trouble with the cops in Zanzibar (beware of the locals). You should know –cops are cops anywhere in Africa, be assured that they will want bribes here too.


I was grateful for the wireless internet at 1001 Nights because my Safaricom modem wasn’t working at all. Immediately after breakfast, we went on a tour of Stone Town. Mostly because my friend needed to take shots of some scenes for use in a music video. Wearing this t-shirt that read, ‘I hear voices in my head, but they speak Russian’, our guide Suleiman was very interesting and patient as he took us round.

teenage locals in Zanzibar

Teenage locals in Zanzibar

There were plenty of curio shops and hotels. The sugarcane juice >with a twist of lemon, was heavenly.

The souvenirs: I got two Deeras (flowing free dresses with bright colours and patterns). From the street vendors, I got ‘Taratibu za Jimai’-a book in Swahili about sex-conjugual rights rather. It is so detailed and shocking –I guess because I assumed the culture would disapprove of open sex talk.

At Jaws Corner (a place where we were informed men gathered to have coffee and talk politics), I met Kajole, who runs a curio shop just round that corner. He explained that a lot of political rallies have been held here, that President  Clinton has been here.  “… and Jaws Corner is not named after the four jaws of a shark , like your guide probably told you. This place is named after a game we used to play in the sea called jaws,” he insisted.

After the tour, we rushed to catch one of the Sauti ya Busara’s press conferences at Monsoon Restaurant. I had been looking forward to the Parade since I came here. However, catching it (after the press conference)was such a challenge because no one seemed to know which way it was. Most tourists were walking up and down the town asking about it. I was later to learn that the locals are not very keen about such.




The Opening Ceremony:

The finger

Circled is the finger that must survive

This was held at Old Fort, in Stone Town. A couple of speeches, lotsa live music, food, drinks, locals and tourist and businesses displaying items in tents-even our very own publishers Kwani? were there selling books.

Ary Morais really got be dancing

Ary Morais performs at Sauti ya Busara

There were plenty of great performances  but I especially remember Swahili Vibes and Ary Morais. Ary is a Norwegian based musician-originally from Cape Verde, and his music got everybody dancing.

THUMBS DOWN: Eti, if you left the event even for a second, you were not allowed back in unless you buy another ticket.


I had to leave my new found Island and miss the rest of the festival to get back to Nairobi for other commitments. I was especially sad about missing Bi. Kidude’s performance and Nigerian-German Nneka.  I told her (Zenji), rather happily that I’d be back in more relaxed circumstances to explore her mystique.

My flight back to Nairobi on Fly540 was departing at 12.20p.m so I was already checking in by 11 am. Unfortunately, we did not depart until 8.30 p.m-on an ‘East African’ branded plane. They did not quite explain the delay but they gave us lunch at the airport’s Palm Tree Restaurant. If it wasn’t for the red wine, the new friends I made and the whole season of Blue Mountain State on my laptop, I’d have been bored stiff. When we made a stop in Mombasa, there was even more drama at the immigration counter where we spent ages and kept being moved from line to line. Unable to stomach anymore crap, two people screamed and complained.

I recall finally getting into my bed at midnight that day, thanking God.

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