Freddie Mercury (Farrokh Bulsara) was born on 5 September 1946 on what was then the British Protectorate of The Sultanate of Zanzibar.
He would have turned 70 in early September 2016 had he not passed away in 1991 at the age of just 45. Taken far too young.
Farrokh Bulsara’s parents moved from India to Zanzibar where his father worked as a cashier in the High Court. In 1954, at the age of 8, Farrokh was sent to India where he completed his education at St Peter’s English Boarding School just outside Bombay (today Mumbai). It is here his interest in music began, at the age of 12 forming a rock & roll band – “The Hectics”.
It was also during this time he started to us the name “Freddie” rather than his given name.
In early 1963, on the completion of his education in India, Freddie returned to Zanzibar. Little is known to us about what he did for the next year on the island. Given his remarkable talent for music, one could speculate he honed his skills on a number of musical instruments, particularly the piano, an instrument on which he excelled.
January 1964 witnessed one of the bloodiest revolutions in history.
The islands population were mainly African, but the majority of wealth and governance lay with the minority Arab & Indian population.
The revolution overthrew the then Sultan, ending nearly 300 years of Zanzibar being ruled by an Oman dynasty. The exact number of Arabs and Indians who were slain is not known, but it does run in to 5 figures.
The revolution saw the mass exodus of the remaining Arabs and Indians, including the Bulsara Family who fled Zanzibar and migrated to England.
In England, Freddie enrolled at art school and obtained a diploma in Art & Graphic Design, subsequently played with several bands until 1970 when the group, Queen, was formed. And the rest is history…
Surprisingly Zanzibar does not dwell excessively on its association with one of the greatest rock musicians of all time.
There are a few buildings which, rightly or not, claim to have been where the Bulsara Family lived – and they may well have lived in different abodes.
There is one restaurant called Mercury’s, near “the big tree” (a local landmark) and close to the harbour from which Freddie and his Family would have sailed from the island.
A dhow departs from Zanzibar at sunset
(We regret that copyright laws do not allow us to include an image of Freddie Mercury. But people who lived through the era of Queen do not need an image – Freddie in his pomp & glory will live forever in our minds.)