In an interview, Tanzanian singer, Stara Thomas, declared that sexual harassment at work is a serious problem and can happen to both women and men, the harassment has turned out to be rife in the industry because it involves music managers, promoters, producers and even media people.
“The female artistes have been abused in the music industry, but I’ve never heard any of the victims make reporting on the incidents, some musicians have been forced to engage in sexual harassment acts while others voluntarily offered their bodies to get rewards,” she said.
Another female singer, who preferred anonymity, said: “Most musicians have been experiencing violence and harassment from those we believe the most, the ones with power in the industry, but they couldn’t come forward with those stories not because they were happy with the abuses but merely to look for their income.”
According to her, there are talented singers, who survived in music industry, simply because they agreed to be used by the perpetrators, though others quit the industry due to sexual harassment despite their extraordinary capacity in singing and playing music instruments.
A section of singers said the issue of sexual harassment among female artistes is seemingly handled appropriately by the mandated authorities, they have called upon music stakeholders, the government and music bodies to rescue up-and-coming female singers from sexual harassment by coming up with useful measures.
The situation has driven the East African’s premier festival, popularly known as ‘Sauti za Busara’, meaning ‘Sounds of Wisdom’, to break the silence and chip in with a campaign dubbed Raise Your Voice ‘Paza Sauti’, Say No to Sexual Harassment.
This year’s Sauti za Busara festival, the 17th edition of the festivals, will take place in the historic Ngome Kongwe (Old Fort), Stone Town in Zanzibar from February 13-16 as the past editions were also held at the venue. The artistes will unite for a special song composed to give the public awareness on sexual harassment at workplaces and to inspire the latter to protest against sexual abuse.
Addressing the journalists and festival stakeholders in Dar es Salaam over the weekend, Festival Director Yusuph Mahmoud said sexual harassment is a thorny issue which will be tackled under the campaign during the festival with the aim of encouraging action against sexual harassment.
“Apart from delivering African rhythms, this year's festival carries the campaign which aims at changing attitudes, promoting dialogue and respecting women by raising awareness about sexual harassment. African music is not only about entertainment, it can also be about sharing important messages,” he said.
Mahmoud said there was a reason for people to celebrate, given the diversity and opportunities the event continues to offer. This year's edition joins efforts to promote love for live music whilst at the same time denouncing sexual harassment, an issue that continues to plague the music industry and the society at large.
“We recognize the vital role artistes can play in society, as a spokesperson storytellers, visionaries, activists, and healers. The festival supports freedom of expression for musicians and provides a perfect platform for local and international artists to reach wider audiences with spaces that amplify their contribution to the community,” he said.
Mahmoud disclosed that currently in Tanzania there is only a handful of women making original and amazing music.
‘’his is why for the Sauti za Busara 2020 edition we selected artistes who are passionate women who use music to powerfully communicate and express themselves,’’ he noted.
He mentioned artistes who are all great entertainers including Siti & the Band (Zanzibar), Thais Diarra and Mamy Kanoute from West Africa, Pigment (Reunion), Evon and Apio Moro (Uganda) and others from East Africa region as some of artistes who will participate in the festival.
Norway’s Ambassador to Tanzania, Elizabeth Jacobsen, promised to stand together with organizers of the festival to support the empowering of women in the music industry.
She said: “Discrimination and harassment prevent girls and women from practicing their cultural rights, freedom expression and hinders economic development as well.’’
“We also like to join hands with like-minded partners, I encourage public officers, business communities, donors and individuals to support Sauti za Busara music ecosystem, let us together promote access to cultural rights and empower women in the cultural sector,” she insisted.
A representative from the Netherlands Embassy in Tanzania, Lianne Houben, said prevention of gender-based violence is one of the embassies working areas.
She disclosed: “We are very happy with the festival podium to Say No to Sexual harassment; music connects but also can give very strong messages especially through the theme of this year’s event.”
“You might know somebody who was affected by sexual harassment, who was intimidated and feeling embarrassed, uncomfortable and ashamed because this can take place not only in the entertainment industry but even in the government sectors and elsewhere, both women and men can be victims of sexual harassment, it is not normal and we hope that Sauti za Basara will have strong voice and sessions to give out the clear message,” she said.
Festival Manager Journey Ramadhan said for close to two decades Sauti za Busara has been at the forefront off efforts to promote Zanzibar and Tanzania across the world, attracting international promoters and offering opportunities for musicians to share their work with global audiences.
“Since 2004 when the festival first opened its doors, our focus has been to showcase music that is unique and with cultural identity. We have consistently demonstrated there are a market and demand for new, exciting and original sounds that are uniquely local,’’ he said.
Aziza Ongala from British Council said: “We are very happy to support the organizers of the event through the newly launched project, namely FestivalConnect, which intends to strengthen the union between the UK and East Africa, supporting projects, art forms like music, film, performing and visual arts, architecture, design, fashion, and literature.’’A representative from CRDB Bank, Farid Seif, said the bank will use the platform to open investment doors for tourists who will come for the festival as well as being part of advertising tourism to the foreigners.
“The bank encouraged people to avoid carrying cash and use the money banking services through its money systems,” he said.
The Mafik Afropop band from Dar es Salaam is among Tanzania’s troupes which will perform at the festival. The band was established in 2018 it was formed by three upcoming musician Salehe Hussein (Rhino King), Hamadi Hassan (Hamada) and Abdallah Yusuph Matimbwa (Mbalamwezi), but in the short time of its existence the group faced tragedy after one of the artistes, Mbalamwezi, died and his body found on a street in the city.
Other artistes from Tanzania, Nadilkhwan Safaa (Zanzibar), TaraJazz (Zanzibar), Ison Mistari a.k.a Zenji Boy (Zanzibar), Mapanya Band (Zanzibar), Sina Ubi &Zawose Spirit Group (Tanzania Mainland), Rahat Zamaan Taarab Orchestra (Zanzibar) Wakazi (Tanzania Mainland) and Mopao Swahili Jazz (Tanzania Mainland), will take part in the Sauti za Busara.
The 17th edition of Sauti za Busara festival is powered by the Norway’s Embassy in Tanzania, Africalia, Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Tanzania, British Council, Zanzibar Media Corporation, Zanlink, Memories of Zanzibar, Embassy of France, Emerson Zanzibar, Chuchu FM Radio, Mozeti Music of Africa.