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Jahazi Literary and Jazz Festival returns to Zanzibar

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After a successful second edition that saw Malian artist Salif Keita perform, the Old Fort in Zanzibar will between 2 – 4 September come alive as the third Jahazi Literary and Jazz Festival holds.

The festival will feature open-air jazz concerts, poetry readings, storytelling, literary round table discussions and cultural walks. Kenyan trumpeter Christine Kamau, Danish pianist and composer Morten Schantz as well as Cairo-born Jazz artist Fathy Salama are set to perform. The line-up will also include Danish artists Ida Nielsen and Carl Winther.

Kenyan artist Christine Kamau

Kenyan artist Christine Kamau

Christine Kamau is a multi-instrumentalist who loves playing the saxophone. Since the release of her debut album This is for you in 2012, Christine has played at various festival around the world. Early this year she was one of the acts who performed at the DoaDoa Performing Arts Market in Uganda. She is also set to perform at Karibu Music Festival in Tanzania.  Fathy Salama’s first introduction to music was through Arab greats like Om Kalthoum, Mohamed Abdel Wahab and Farid El Atrash. He started playing the piano at the age of six and by thirteen he was playing gigs in Cairo clubs. Salama went on to study jazz in Egypt and then in the United States with jazz legends like Barry Harris, Hal Galper and Malik Osman.

The only Arab composer to win a Grammy Award, Salama won the coveted prize for the album Egypt on which he worked with Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour. Although jazz is not popular in Egypt, Salama has over the years tried to raise the profile of this genre in his country. To date he has released five albums; his last album, Sultany, was released in 2006.

Ida Nielsen’s music is best described as a mixture of old school funk blended with elements from hiphop, reggae and world music, with very ear-catching melodies on top. Ida Nielsen grew up in the countryside in Denmark. Her journey as a musician only came about when Ida was 16 years. This was after hearing a local band play a version of funk music. She taught herself to play funk bass and joined the high school big band, as the first step towards becoming a musician. Since 2010, Nielsen played with the late pop artist Prince. She is currently finishing work on her third album.

Founded in 2011, the Jahazi Literary and Jazz Festival aims at enabling local writers and musicians to converse and perform on an equal level with their colleagues overseas. “We started the festival with the intention of introducing Jazz and promoting live music performances to Zanzibar, Tanzania and East Africa in general,” Abeid Karume, the festival founder says. Karume adds that the other goal was to bring together artists from different walks of life and result in possible collaborative works and ventures. He notes that this would in turn lead to new creative works and give impetus to Taarab in forming a new creative direction and guarantee taarab’s continued survival for the next century.

Karume notes that the festival is not exclusively a jazz festival and it leans more towards world music with touches of jazz. He adds that since the festival was founded, jazz music has gained recognition within Tanzania where it does not have a huge following. He says more venues dedicated to jazz music have continued to emerge in Zanzibar and other towns in Tanzania.

Besides the literary exposition and musical performances, the festival will honor Mohamed Ibrahim for his contribution to the development of Taarab music in Zanzibar.

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