Every year, culture-thirsty tourists flock to the exotic “spice islands”, where music and film festivals showcase both local and international talent.

Zanzibar’s beautiful beaches, warm water and rich history and culture set the scene for many annual festivals, one of which occurred last month. Every year, Busara Promotions, a non-profit cultural organisation, holds the Busara Swahili Music Festival in the charming Stone Town. The Festival provides opportunities for talented local and international artists to gain recognition and aims to build international networks and foster social, cultural and economic growth. During the Festival, a workshop known as Swahili Encounters, also run by Busara Promotions, brings performing artists and local musicians and students together.

The Festival kicked off on Thursday 11 February with a colourful street parade filled with the sounds of drumming and a beni brass band and featuring dancers, stilt walkers, acrobats and wanandege (umbrella women). Ten local and international groups performed each day and provided eager listeners with performances both modern and traditional, acoustic and electric. The audience gathered under the open skies above Stone Town’s Old Fort. Hungry and curious spectators drifted between various stalls, browsing the snacks and drinks, traditional clothing and other crafts on sale. The following Tuesday brought the last day of celebrations where festival-goers wandered off to the beach and danced till dawn.

Stone Town, a World Heritage Site is beautifully marked by the diverse cultures it has been home to. Amidst all the events which occur during the festivals, there are countless activities available for visitors to get a glimpse of the rich history and culture in the town, such as trips to Priston Island beach and Mbweni Ruins.

Zanzibar

If you happened to miss Busara Swahili Music Festival, never fear. Coming up in June, another renowned Festival will take place on the island’s sandy floors. The mysterious Stone Town will once again call tourists from all over, this time to be entertained by the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF).

Also a non-profit organisation, ZIFF aims to protect and conserve Africa’s rich cultural heritage. The Festival is the largest annual event in East Africa and has drawn attention from tourists worldwide interested in African culture, international film and music and those simply wanting to enjoy full days of art and fun.

This year will be the Festival’s thirteenth year and will run from June 10 to July 18 with a theme of ‘Hopes in harmony’. Like the Busara Swahili Music Festival, ZIFF is held in an ancient amphitheatre in the Old Fort. There are also showings in the House of Wonders, Zanzibar’s Museum of History and Culture and other venues. Also on the menu are street performances, story telling, live music and dance, art exhibits, and a range of film and video industry workshops, seminars, screenings and social events.