The world’s first Freddie Mercury museum is on an African island

Stone City, Zanzibar (CNN) ā€” Down a small, slender alley within the historic Stone City neighborhood of Zanzibar, an outdated constructing beckons to guests. Pale pictures are pinned exterior the door whereas inside, a gallery of shiny footage and outdated newspaper clippings cleared the path to the room’s centerpiece: a black piano with an fascinating historical past.

A younger Zanzibari boy as soon as performed that piano. His title was Farrokh Bulsara, however you most likely know him higher as Freddie Mercury.

The flamboyant frontman of British rock band Queen, Mercury was born in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous island off the coast of Tanzania. This museum is devoted to his reminiscence.
Freddie Mercury (center, front) poses with Queen bandmates Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon, circa 1973.

Freddie Mercury (heart, entrance) poses with Queen bandmates Brian Might, Roger Taylor and John Deacon, circa 1973.

RB/Redferns/Getty Pictures

A melting pot of cultures and traditions, Zanzibar is understood for its sunsets and spices, and has grown in recognition as a vacationer vacation spot since Stone City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Within the wake of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the hit 2018 movie that earned Rami Malek an Academy Award for his portrayal of Mercury, the late singer’s recognition right here can be on the rise.
Zanzibari businessman Javed Jafferji is co-owner of the Freddie Mercury Museum. Jafferji was a school scholar in London within the mid-1980s when he first turned a fan. “At the moment, not many individuals knew [Mercury] was from Zanzibar,” he says.

Even as we speak, many individuals do not learn about Mercury’s Zanzibari roots, says Jafferji. His aim is to place Stone City on the rock historical past map.

Musical expertise blossoms in Zanzibar

Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on September 5, 1946, in Stone City.

The Bulsara household have been Parsis from India — followers of Zoroastrianism, an historical Persian faith.

It’s believed that younger Farrokh first began singing within the city’s Zoroastrian Temple when he was a toddler.

On the time, there have been some 300 members of the Parsi neighborhood in Zanzibar. At this time, solely a handful stay, and the temple has lengthy been deserted.

This photo, showing Freddie Mercury on his 4th birthday in Zanzibar, is one of the rare childhood pictures on display in the museum.

This picture, displaying Freddie Mercury on his 4th birthday in Zanzibar, is among the uncommon childhood footage on show within the museum.

Freddie Mercury Museum Zanzibar

Mercury spent most of his childhood in Zanzibar, and attended boarding faculty in India. Within the early 1960s, his household moved to the UK.

Lower than a decade later, Mercury shaped Queen — and went on to achieve rock legend standing. He by no means returned to his birthplace.

Honoring a hometown hero

In 2002, Jafferji opened a small memento store referred to as The Mercury Home in a former dwelling of the Bulsara household.

“I spotted that there is historical past behind this constructing,” he says.

Practically 20 years later, the discharge of the film “Bohemian Rhapsody” impressed Jafferji to assume massive. A shock go to to Zanzibar by Queen guitarist Brian Might sealed the deal.

“[May] took an image exterior the constructing and [posted it] on his Instagram web page,” says Jafferji.

Jafferji and his buddy Andrea Boero, additionally a Mercury fan, partnered with Queen Productions Ltd. within the UK to transform The Mercury Home right into a museum, chronicling Mercury’s early years in Zanzibar. The museum opened on November 24, 2019, the 28th anniversary of Mercury’s loss of life.

Nevertheless, in March, the coronavirus pandemic struck, and the museum needed to shut. Additionally they needed to postpone the launch of the Mercury Tour, a guided strolling tour to spots in Stone City the place Mercury spent his childhood.

Regardless of the setback, Jafferji and his workforce are optimistic concerning the future.

“We actually wish to create consciousness of Freddie Mercury in Zanzibar and in Tanzania general,” says Anam Adnan, normal supervisor of the museum. “We wish folks to rejoice him and to like him.”

However celebrating Freddie Mercury in Zanzibar is sophisticated. Had Mercury returned there later in life, he would have doubtless struggled to achieve acceptance in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood the place homosexuality is illegal.

“We’ve not put a lot consideration to his private life as a result of that is a controversial matter for Zanzibaris,” says Adnan. As a substitute, she says, the museum focuses on Mercury’s music and his artwork. “It is the largest tribute that we, as Zanzibaris, can do for him.”

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