East Africa: Isimila Festival Is Back

The Isimila Festival, first held last September, will be holding its second edition from May 21-22 at the Isimila historical Stone Age site inside the Isimila African Garden, 20km from Iringa town in southern Tanzania.

Musicians Matt Van Dis, the festival co-ordinator, said; "A couple of us were playing in a small band in Iringa, and one day we were playing at a fundraiser for a school and we were surprised that a crowd of about 150 people turned up just to hear us play four or five songs. Afterwards we realised that people in Iringa were hungry for live music, so we decided to organise a day of music."

That's how Isimila Festival was born. The organising comprises Van Dis, Tom Hilton, Josephine Smit, Kerstin Scheffler and Saidy Mlewa. The former two also run the Isimila African Garden, the festival's venue.

This year's festival will feature established artists from all over Tanzania. One of the headline acts will be Jhikoman aka Jhiko Manyika, the Tanzanian reggae musician based in Bagamoyo. He has been entertaining audiences since 1994; his music fuses roots reggae with contemporary Tanzanian music. He sings mainly about social justice and uses Kiswahili, English and Kinyasa, his mother tongue.

Afro-RnB songstress Grace Matata will also headline. The petite fire cracker has been carrying the torch for female live musicians in the country since 2013. Earlier this year, she released her new single Utanifaa and signed a management contract with South-African based Panamusic. She has performed at the Doa Doa Festival in Uganda and the Zanzibar International Film Festival. She is based in Dar es Salaam and performs every Friday at the Hyatt Hotel.

"My mother is from Iringa and I have many relatives there, but I've never performed. So I'm really excited to go on stage this May," she said.

Mzungu Kichaa is also on the list of musicians. This Danish-born singer is well known in Tanzania, having featured with artists like Juma Nature, TID, Mangwaya & Ferooz in the late 1990s.

Today he runs his own recording label, Caravan Records, and has a band which has performed extensively in Tanzania and Europe.

The festival will also feature local musicians and exhibit handicrafts made by local women groups.

"It's our hope that this festival will bring attention to the wonderful tourism sites of the southern highlands of Tanzania," said Mr Hilton.

Authors: All Africa

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