The Voice of Stone Town (Short Documentary)

Coming from mainland Tanzania to Zanzibar is like entering another country, almost another world. Which isn’t far fetched actually, since Tanzania is a bit like Belgium, an artificially created country. The union of former Tanganyika and Zanzibar. Tanzania is indeed the contraction of the first syllable of both countries put together. However, that’s where ends the similitude with Belgium. If the demarcation line of the European country is a linguistic one, in Tanzania, it’s a religious one. Mainland is merely Sunnite, while Zanzibar island is 95% Chiite. The former complaint about the supposed negative religious influence of the latter, while the latter would suffer from a systematic unfair sharing of wealth and revenues originating from the international trade, allegedly dictated by Dar Es Salam.

The island capital, Stone Town, ows its name to the obligation imposed on all builders to use the same kind of stones anywhere in the city.

When I was 17, I was invited to stay at in-laws in Israël. However, at some point, the wife decided I was to find another place because she changed her mind and imposed it on her husband. Overnight, I ended up forced to find shelter for the upcoming ten days or so, until my flight back to Brussels was scheduled. I eventually met Avi and Benny Braunstein. They were the managers of the Moadon Habalon, the Balloon dance club, in Tel-Aviv. And I’ll never forget Benny, because he offered me to stay at his place, which was where he introduced me to his collection of LPs of a singer I never heard of hitherto. His name was Freddie Mercury. Benny was a first hour fan of his.

Mercury was born in 1946 in Stone Town, where you still can find the house him and his family lived in. In that time, he was still known as Farrokh Bulsara.

“Oh, I was not made for heaven. No, I don’t want to go to heaven. Hell is much better. Think of all the interesting people you’re going to meet down there!”

“I always knew I was a star, and now the rest of the world seems to agree with me.”

“I won’t be a rock star. I will be a legend.”

If you can, just watch the movie Bohemian Rapsody. It’s a masterpiece. Rami Malek is just wonderful. But make no mistake. Even if it’s filled with the music of Queen, Boheminan Rapsody isn’t a movie about music. It’s about loneliness; the loneliness of a creator, the loneliness of every human being.

I’ll leave you here with a short documentary I made when I was in Stone Town. An old city of slavery, a city of contrast, in a country where kids will never cease playing.





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