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ONCE again the Dar es Salaam-based Wahapahapa Band proved they could hold their ground in front of any audience.

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WELL, if the groups that took to the stage, within the Mambo Club on Thursday night, is anything to go by, this year’s Sauti za Busara (SzB) international music festival, has certainly returned with a bang.

The last four bands that climbed the stage, between 7pm and 12 midnight, were certainly proof of this fact. It started with a collaboration of musicians from the Mainland, Isles and Morocco, which was aptly called Swahili Encounters. They did justice to the space, which they occupied during their performance, which even they could be seen enjoying every second they were on stage.

Judging from the audience’s reaction to their music, it can honestly be said that the only problem they saw was the group having to stop, after the allotted time was over. However, all is not gone and interested parties don’t have to wait for the next SzB festival, to hear and see such innovative sounds again.

Actually, the musicians who made-up the band on Thursday are some of those who are in regular collaboration, at the Dhow Countries Music Academy (DCMA), here in Stone Town, Zanzibar.

Actually, throughout the year and particularly during the week, before the festival starts Busara Promotions (BP) works in collaboration with the DCMA to provide opportunities for musicians of different backgrounds to meet and learn from each other, together with create new musical fusions, as was seen on Thursday night from this group of Swahili Encounters.

There was Mehdi Nassouli on guembri, ghaita, percussions and vocals, Foulane Bouhssine on rbab, Anas Chlih on traditional banjo, Mohammed Issa Matona on oud, violin and saxophone, Victor Lolinga on zeze, marimba and vocals, Kauzeni Lyamba on percussion, Andrew Ashimba on guitar and vocals, James Clement Simon on drums with Gora Mohammed Gora on ganun.

Bearing in mind the excitement these musicians brought to the stage, it was with great anxiety that the ‘Daily News on Saturday’ waited for the next group on the bill - Grace Barbe - from the Seychelles. After-all, how can a group of only three follow nine competent musicians, as the Swahili Encountered just proved themselves to be?

To cut a long story short, from the time this trio came on stage, the statistical fact that there were only three people, cease being a factor any more.

The huge sound made between Grace, herself on bass and lead vocals, together with her younger sister, Joelle on drums and Jamie Searle, her Artistic Director on guitar, took care of that. The tightness between these three professionals stood witness to their playing regularly together.

Another factor, which was noticed right from the beginning, was that Grace never forgot her audience and kept an on-going conversation with them throughout her time on stage. Now that is while managing to play the bass as if it was a lead guitar, providing the lead vocals to all the compositions and incorporating her particular dance moves, all together.

However, no matter how interesting the discourse between her and the audience got, at any time, it never pulled the three musicians away from their arrangements. Whenever it was for them to come out of a format and into another, they all just did on the note.

This must have something to do with each individual’s familiarity of their instrument and playing together, as professionals.

There is a possibility that none amongst the audience would have known it was a lady on the drums, if Grace had not introduced her. Just trying to keep-up with her alone was amazing, much less when Grace seems to get into one of her moves, turns towards her two companions and they go deeper into the music.

Once again,after this group had left the stage, with the audience begging them for more, there was a feeling that the organisers must have got it wrong putting the Dar es Salaam-based Wahapahapa Band, next.

These fears of anguish disappeared within seconds of these six local lads taking the stage. Who was is who said Tanzania doesn’t have “good, professional and talented” musicians? It’s sufficient to say if Grace and her trio had set the place alight, Wahapahapa band came with enough fuel for the flames not only to go upwards but equally underground. These six musicians gave the audience a good dose of soothing, lively music with a heavy local flavour.

They certainly proved that their “unique blend of home-grown” music, which is inspired by various blends of local traditions and influences of contemporary world music, works. None can accuse them of going against their moto, which is “Good music, good life and harmony begins at home”.

Now that the Wahapahapa local lads had given the audience a dose of their music in a way they will never forget and left them demanding more right then, what was the point of bringing on another band? , yes, Sami Dan & Zewd Band from Ethiopia, are a Reggae band but will they be able to keep that audience up in the air, where Wahapahapa left them?

Well, the Ethiopian band, which had two ladies on background vocals were certainly able to take the already bursting atmosphere to another level, with their own Roots Rock Reggae sounds. And just in case anyone had a doubt about their musical ability they finished with two familiar traditional African rhythms, to crown their repertoire with.

When all has been said and done, it is a fact that the music started at this year’s SzB episode on a high sounding note, for each group came with their own unique sound, to show that Africa does have some fantastic music and musicians.

They only thing that was left troubling the mind is when will indigenous local people show up in their numbers to such shows?

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