Archive | February, 2012

John Da Silva: leading archivist and historian will give a presentation on Zanzibar’s history on Saturday 25 February

25 Feb

Don’t miss the presentation on Zanzibar’s history

Saturday: 25 Feb      

Time: 19:00      

Where: Matemwe Beach Village     

Entrance: Tsh 10,000      

John Da Silva remains one of the most prolific and acclaimed artists of Zanzibar and Tanzania in general. John Da Silva was born in Goa and found his love for art when he fell in love with Stone Town. Later he said “I never went to an art class but I just wanted to keep the memory of Zanzibar forever”. Starting with painting and re- the Catholic Cathedral in Zanzibar, he moved on to sketching, drawing and painting the one love of his life- Stone Town. He has immortalized Stone Town through making art lovers encounter the present and the past in his furtive water colours. He sketches, draws and paints post cards, stamps and even dabs at photography, in his effort at conserving memories found in multicultural Stone Town.

John Baptist da Silva will tell you a lot about Zanzibar and Stone Town history, especially if you have the chance to have him as you tour guide. He will tell that the Omani sultans derived their love of concubines and carved doors from India. He also tells that the Indian crows brought to the island as scavengers in the 1900s are going to be exterminated because they have made many indigenous species extinct.


Swahili House: at the top of Stone Town, it’s a kind of magic…

17 Feb


Located in the bustling heart of Stone Town the building was originally set up and used as an Indian Merchant House in the 19th century. In the 125 years that were to come the building was home to one of the many Sultan families and then became a hotel some years ago.



The Swahili House has 5 floors that are all built around an inner court yard – an ideal spot to enjoy a quiet moment away from busy Stone Town life. The floors are all accessible via traditional Zanzibari steep staircases. The Swahili House would definitely not be the same without the rooftop terrace, a long way up but very rewarding views!.



The rooftop terrace houses the bar, restaurant and a very relaxing Jacuzzi overlooking the Indian Ocean. Enjoy a cocktail, lunch or dinner while indulging in stunning views of Stone Town and the Swahili Coastal area! The á la carte menu is a combination of Eastern and Western influences, spices and flavors and includes a wide variety of freshly caught fish and seafood.



Bi Kidude: Queen of Sauti za Busara 2012!

11 Feb

Fatuma binti Baraka (aka Bi.Kidude) is a Zanzibari Taarab singer. She is considered the undisputed queen of Taarab and Unyago music. Bi Kidude was born in the village of Mfagimaringo, she was the daughter of a coconut seller in colonial Zanzibar. Bi Kidude’s exact date of birth is unknown, much of her life story is uncorroborated, giving her an almost mythical status.

As a child, she was singled out for her fine voice and, in the 1920s, sang locally with popular cultural troupes, combining an understanding of music with an equally important initiation into traditional medicine. At age 13, after a forced marriage she fled Zanzibar to mainland Tanzania. Bi Kidude toured mainland East Africa with a taarab ensemble, visiting the major coastal towns and inland as far west as Lake Victoria and Tanganyika. She walked the length and the breadth of the country barefoot in the early 1930s fleeing another unhappy marriage. In the 1930s she ended up in Dar es Salaam where she sang with Egyptian Taarab group for many years. In the 1940s she returned to Zanzibar where she acquired a small house to be her home. She is known for her role in the Unyago movement which prepares young Swahili women for their transition through puberty. She is one of the experts of this ancient ritual, performed only to teenage girls, which uses traditional rhythms to teach women to pleasure their husbands, while lecturing against the dangers of sexual abuse and oppression.

Bi Kidude is both a repository and a leading exponent of modern Swahili culture. The recordings (Berlin 1988, Zanzibar 1993 and 1995, the UK 1995 and Finland 1996) bring together for the first time Bi Kidude’s full range and versatility as she performs everything from cultural drumming, through classic Zanzibari taarab to modern Tanzanian ‘dansi’ jazz.

The music was ‘dumbak’, based on an African drum rhythm, and early forms of taarab, the ubiquitous music of the Swahili Coast which combines the violins, ouds and ganoons of the Arabic tradition with the drums and flutes of Africa. The messages were provocative, often referring to men’s sexual behaviour and sometimes decrying the abuse of women.

‘I learned all my songs from Siti Binti Saad, the first woman singer in Zanzibar,’ She recalls. ‘We both had to cover our faces with a fine cloth. Then she passed away but her voice was still in the air. She had a very powerful voice, like mine. There was no difference. So people, some of the highest in the land, said you must do something to show who you are. . . and so I raised the veil.’

‘Zanzibar’, her first solo album, demonstrates Bi Kidude at the peak of her performing power. The first two tracks, recorded in Zanzibar, typify classic small-band taarab. Tracks 4, 5 and 6 were recorded during a tour of Finland with a similar line-up. Tracks 3 and 6 exemplify the Unyago drumming style, and are Bi Kidude’s first commercial recordings of this important social music. The latter track, however, is ‘culturally incorrect’ as she is accompanied by men in what is an exclusive women’s format. Track 7 was recorded with an ‘All Star’ band during a tour of Germany.

During the mid-1990s Bi Kidude joined forces with the Dar es Salaam band Shikamoo Jazz, whose musicians of Zanzibar origin – Ali Rashid, sax and Madar Mselem, trumpet – provided a solid base for her exploration of taarab/jazz fusion. Track 8, an experimental recording which combines two orchestras, is followed by two tracks recorded at Womad in 1995, during the ‘East African Legends’ tour of Britain.

Other countries were represented:

Hanitra is a singer and guitarist from the “red Island” Madagascar. Underpinning her tunes with the charming essence of the island’s rhythms, with hints of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian percussion, she draws on traditional songs to dynamically represent the new Malagasy generation. Her voice, both deep and sensual, leads the way to authentic roots and her interpretation of the ballad “Maninona” has for the past 20 years been considered a sort of national anthem in Madagascar.

Hanitra began singing and playing the guitar at the age of seven. In 1979, she took part in a national competition in which her talent was recognised, and joined with the band Lolo Sy Ny Tariny. She left Madagascar and recorded the first album in France. In 1997 she returned to the Madagascan for a sensational come-back. Hanitra currently lives in Reunion Island and is enthusiastically celebrated by fans all around the Indian Ocean.

Ogoya Nengo is a legendary Kenyan folk artist who has had an immense career spanning decades as a professional dodo singer. Her music is characterised by her powerful, passionate and compelling voice, backed by traditional drums and percussions, the one stringed orutu and the oporo horn.

Utamaduni is Swahili for “culture” and the group Utamaduni JKU presents Swahili culture at its best. They are performing a rich variety of traditional dances from all over Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar Island including msewe, gonga, kyaso, uringe, pungwa, kibati, bomu, kunguwia, boso, kibunguu, ngokwa, sindimba and lizombe. Each of these dances has its own specific cultural reference. For example ngokwa is a dance style played by the Mahiwa, a Makonde community from the southern part of Tanzania. It is performed in celebration after the killing of a dangerous animal, which has harmed the community by damaging crops or attacking people.

The group was founded in Zanzibar, their permanent base, in the year 1983. They are known for their powerful performances and have played all over the island and beyond. Their 30 members present an ambitious performance with a contemporary edge.

Kozman Ti Dalon is a group of 6 young performers from Ile de la Reunion who live for their culture and their music. All were born in the Reunion city of Saint Louis. They draw inspiration from the maloya kabaré that the late Granmoun Bébé Manet proudly pioneered. Their first album in 2005 entitled Gras a ou pépé was a tribute to him.

Kozman Ti Dalon represent the new generation of maloya musicians honouring their heritage and wanting to share it with rest of the world. Their music is heavily percussive, traditionally played with a variety of drums, kayamb and bamboo piké rattles. The tempo can vary from slow and reflective to fast-paced and charged.

The group is led by vocalist Jonathan Camillot, grandchild of Gramoun Bébé Manet. Passionate about maloya from a young age, Jonathan rallied with his cousins and formed the group during the 1990s. Since then Kozman Ti Dalon continues to reconfirm their commitment to the promotion of maloya music wherever they go, performing to huge festival audiences at home in Reunion, in Canada, France, and other Indian Ocean islands.

Kandili Villa, Zanzibar: short and long term rental

9 Feb

We also propose this 4-bedroomfully serviced and furnished villa on short and long term rental opportunity. It is ideal for singles, families and couples who are coming new to Zanzibar, looking for a relaxed and well styled and furnished accommodation away from town. Please contact us for more details:



Don’t miss Busara Xtra at Mtoni Palace on 8th February

7 Feb

The Makonde art in Tanzania

3 Feb

The Makonde are an ethnic group in southeast Tanzania and northern Mozambique. The Makonde developed their culture on the Mueda Plateau in Mozambique. At present they live throughout Tanzania and Mozambique and have a small presence in Kenya.

The Makonde successfully resisted predation by African, Arab, and European slavers. They did not fall under colonial power until the 1920s. During the 1960s the revolution which drove the Portuguese out of Mozambique was launched from the Makonde homeland of the Mueda Plateau. At one period this revolutionary movement known as ‘Frelimo’ derived a part of its financial support from the sale of Makonde carvings. The Makonde are best known for their wood carvings and their observances of puberty rites.

They speak Makonde, also known as ChiMakonde, a Bantu language closely related to Yao. The Makonde are traditionally a matrilineal society where children and inheritances belong to women, and husbands move into the village of their wives. Their traditional religion is an animistic form of ancestor worship and still continues, although Makonde of Tanzania are nominally Muslim and those of Mozambique are Catholic or Muslim. In Makonde rituals, when a girl becomes a woman, Muidini is the best dancer out of the group of girls undergoing the rituals.

The art of the Makonde must be subdivided into different areas. The Makonde traditionally carve household objects, figures and masks. After the 1930s, the Portuguese colonizers and other missionaries arrived at the Makonde plateau. They immediately showed great interest and fascination for the Makonde wood carvings and began to order different pieces, from religious until political “eminences.” The Makonde sculptors, after noticing such interest, decided to carve the new pieces using pau-preto (ebony wood, Diospyros ebenum) and pau-rosa (Swartzia spp.) instead of the soft and non long-lasting wood they had used before. This first contact with the Western culture can be considered to be the first introduction of the classical european style into the traditional Makonde style. Since the 1950s years the so called Modern Makonde Art has been developed. An essential step was the turning to abstract figures, mostly spirits, Shetani, that play a special role. Makonde are also part of the important contemporary artists of Africa today. The most internationally acknowledged such artist was George Lilanga who (1934–2005) gained world renown with his shetani sculptures and paintings.

The unique Mapiko masks, have been used in coming-of-age rituals since before contact was made with missionaries in the 19th century. These masks are carved from a single block of light wood (usually ‘sumaumeira brava’) and may represent spirits (‘shetani’), ancestors, or living characters (real or idealized). The dancer wears them so that he sees through the mask’s mouth and the mask faces straight when he bends forward. Unusually realistic heads, they include strong, portrait-like features; real human hair applied in shaved patterns and raised facial scarification. They represented an ancestral spirit in initiation ceremonies and served to express their moral code.

Male Makonde dancers, taking the role of a woman in a ceremonial ritual would, in addition to a helmet mask, wear a female body mask. Carved thin, painted, tied onto the torso and combined with mimicry of female movements the body masks created an effective illusion.

Makonde game boards range from everyday objects with monumental, simple forms to ornate pieces bringing status to the owner. They all show the creativity and power Africans put into functional objects.

Three styles of modern Makonde wood carving can be identified:

Shetani. According to the Makonde, shetani are creatures that neither human nor animal. They occur in five forms: human, mammal, fish, bird and reptile. Shetani are believed to be still around, though most artist never actually saw one (many claim that their parents and teachers did encounter shetani). The sculptures are often heavily deformed giving it an abstract appearance. A large number of different shetani exist, each with their own purpose and powers (not always evil). There is a contemporary East African shetani cult, and reports of sightings of individual shetani are cyclical, with Popo Bawa panics having occurred in 1995 in Zanzibar and 2007 in Dar es Salaam.

Ujamaa: Ujamaa is Swahili for the ideology behind Tanzania’s socialist politics, back in the 1960’s. The name ujamaa is given to this style during a 1967 exhibition. Before this the style was referred to as dimingo (Bantu for strength). The ujamaa sculptures are characterised by poles of people, displaying everyday activities. There is always one big figure at the top of the pole, nowadays often female. The “Tree of Life” depicts the members of an extended family, including past and present generations, gently supporting each other, generation after generation, around the family ancestor. This motif speaks to a common human ancestral heritage–all that we have achieved collectively in our various civilizations has been literally built upon the backs of those who came before. “Tree of Life” carvings can be as large as six feet tall, encompassing the work of one carver for at least nine months. They exhibit an intricacy of design and detail which would not be possible to achieve in a wood less dense and strong than mpingo.

Mawingu: Mawingu is Swahili for ‘clouds’. With this style, the aim is not to depict a clear image but more to work with forms, inspired on the early morning clouds. It is nearest to the western conception of modern art.