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Juliana waters down Uganda's gains at Sauti

Zanzibar - For the seventh year running, Sauti Za Busara music festival was back at Zanzibar’s Old Fort, a historical site that dates back 300 years.

This year’s festival took special interest in female musicians, as Yusuf Mahmoud, the Festival Director, put it that when the festival started in 2004, “it was a struggle to programme women musicians as there were so few in the region.”

And the special honour to open the four-day festival on February 11 was given to our own Juliana Kanyomozi.

Juliana was chosen for her achievements back home. She has curtain raised for big names like Youssou N’Dour and is an award-winning artiste. She was therefore perfect for the first performance before Pemba’s KVZ Tupendane and Zanzibar’s Ikwani Safaa Musical Club.

The venue was busy with visitors of all ages and background. Patrons had come from as far as the mainland Dar-es-salaam to watch Juliana’s performance. United Nations Tanzania had offered to transport her.

But at the last hour, news came in that the Ugandan diva had not turned up, disappointing her fans and losing a prime opportunity to market Uganda. This year, Uganda had three representatives, including little known Sosolya Dance Academy and Joel Sebunjo.

Sebunjo with his Sundiata band were scheduled to perform on Friday. But whoever lined up Sebunjo on the same day with Guinea’s Ba Cissoko and Senegal’s Malick Pathe Sow should have known that with the West Africans in the house, you do not crave another Kora player.

The young multi-instrumentalist looked like fish out of the water. He has camped with the Griots for a long time and he definitely knew what would come after his performance.

He looked frightened; his Kora was poorly tuned and lacked coordination with his back up team. Yet Sebunjo has shared the bill with big names such as Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, Miriam Makeba, Oliver Mtukudzi and Etran Finatawa among others.

But when Ba Cissoko came on stage, Sebunjo was reduced to a Kora student. It is like the Kora just flows in the blood of the Griots. The last born of a long lineage of the Griots who are master singers and agile strong pluckers, Ba Cissoko makes you enjoy African sound to the fullest.

And the acoustic guitarist, oh God! Where do guys like Bukko get their guitar lessons? Abdoulaye Kouyate makes the guitar speak to your soul. He plays it with a lot of passion and that smile on his face resonates well with the sweet sound from the guitar. He knows how to marry it perfectly with the Kora. For once, I thought, I could feed on music alone.

It is Sosolya Dance Academy that tried to resurrect Uganda’s hopes. In 40 minutes, the group comprising young artistes took guests through a relaxing trip across Uganda’s rich culture.

And it was a thrilling moment that captured everyone’s attention and camera. The group started off with Amagunju traded on Buganda’s local drums. They then took us to the west with Kitaguriro, Runyege-Ntogoro and Ntware. From the north, the group sampled Ajorina and West Nile’s Gaze dance.



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