An award winning intimate portrait of the legendary Bi Kidude, one of the most renowned African singers of the twentieth century. Her home island of Zanzibar has long been a meeting point for black African and Arabic influence and the island’s music is its most potent expression.

Bi Kidude beguiled audiences on her frequent worldwide travels but domestically she continually courted controversy, as an unrestrained free spirit living on a conservatively minded small island. 

As Old As My Tongue reveals the dramatic contrasts in the life of this iconic musician and features a classic soundtrack spanning one hundred years of Swahili music. 


WINNER - ‘Most Human’ Documentary Film: FESTIVAL DU FILM INSULAIRE; WINNER - Best International Documentary Film: ZUMA International Film Festival; WINNER - Best Documentary Film: IMAGES INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL; WINNER - Best International Documentary Film: WIFF (Women’s International Film Festival); JURY SPECIAL MENTION - VUES D’AFRIQUE; PAN AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL. Montréal; Best of the Festival Selection - AFRICALA FILM FESTIVAL; Best of the Festival Selection - PAN AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL DU CANNES; Audience Award Selection - MOFFOM (Music on Film, Film on Music)

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Andy Jones

It wasn’t hard to be drawn to Bi Kidude. The first time I saw her perform, I was transfixed. Earlier that day I had seen her sitting silently as a panel of ‘experts’ discussed Bi Kidude’s role in African Feminism. She had seemed disinterested, distant. But her performance I witnessed later that night was something special, a raucous rhythmic workout, in front of  an enraptured crowd.

 Three years later we began filming in Zanzibar. It would take another four years and many more journeys to complete AS OLD AS MY TONGUE but right from the very first screening, at MOFFOM in Prague, with the audience clapping along to the credits, we realised that we had managed to do what we had set out to achieve: To make a film which would celebrate Bi Kidude, which people would watch, and then remember this remarkable, strong and generous woman.

 Bi Kidude challenges our perceptions; of age, of stardom, and of the role of women play in an island which embraces both Islam and African heritage. She would never call herself a rebel, but neither was she bound by the traditions which formed her. She broke the rules ever since she was ten years old and ran away from Koran school to hang out with travelling sailor musicians at the Stone Town docks.

 In a world where the old are often seen as useless and dependent, Bi Kidude gave us a counterpoint. When she had money, which she often did after a concert tour or a recording session, she was surrounded by hangers-on looking for a handout. Those closest to her often grew frustrated by her generous nature while she herself drew strength from her ability to care for people around her, however tenuous their family connection.

 So join us again as we celebrate Bi Kidude’s life. I don’t want to give the ending away, but if you’ve read this far you’ll either know what a special woman she is, or you’re about to find out. Enjoy, Kufarahia, and please do help share her story with the world.

All from this director.