It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been over two weeks since I’ve arrived in Tanzania. Starting with a great welcome at the airport by Benson and Rebecca of course! [See photo #1]
A typical day has been a meeting with either the TBC or one of our partners and consultants in the area, followed by working at one of the local co-working hubs, and then catching a show (and getting some footage for all of you!).
(Some Traditional Dancers & Musicians) at the French Alliance. [See photo #2]
We’ve been able to talk with many of the musicians in the archives. Their continued passion for spreading the music and performing definitely rubs off on you!
Rebecca with King KiKi! A great Congolese Musician who’s been based in Dar for 25+ years. We’ll have some great footage of him up soon. [See photo #3]
Over the next couple of weeks I hope to get up a lot of new content for all of our Radio Tanzania fans. Once I find a fast Internet connection we’ll have some great content like:
1: Local live shows from DAR [Dar Es Salaam]
2: Radio Tanzania’s Presentation at the Ethnomusicology Symposium
3: A history of the archives through photos.
I hope you’re looking forward to it!
11 February, 2012
Leo Mkanyia, a Tanzanian musician with an open face, quick smile, and deep laugh, walks the narrow alleyways of Stone Town, Zanzibar looking for a quiet place to play guitar. He is on the island to play at East Africa’s largest music festival, Sauti za Busara, or “Sounds of Wisdom.” The streets are busy with chatter and barter. Tourists and motorcycles clog the paths, and it seems as though there will be no quiet corner in which to play.
Stone Town is a place of secrets and visions that reveal themselves one by one, around corners and through doorways of crowded stone buildings. In the labryinth of the city, every few steps brings a new sight into view, as if you were not traveling in one place but to several in quick succession, like moving from dream to dream.
Leo finally finds a low bench in front of an ornately carved wooden door. The deep brown of the wood contrasts with the bleached wall and exposed gray pipe that frames it. He settles the small guitar into his arms and begins to play.
Young Leo rarely sees his father, Henry Mkanyia, because of Henry’s schedule as a well-known musician with the top muziki wa dansi band, DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra. His father is out all night playing live shows at the various pubs and bars around the city, sometimes long enough to see the sun rise. He sleeps or rehearses much of the day. When he is at home, Henry tells Leo never to become a musician. He wants a better life for his son. He hopes Leo will do something that will enable him to make enough money to survive without struggling to support a family.
But starting when he is eight-years-old, Leo sneaks Henry’s guitar out when he gets home from school. He plays until just before his dad gets back from practicing with the band. Leo sings for his mom in the kitchen while she cooks, trying to pick out the melodies he has heard his father play. She tells him someday he’ll be a musician like his dad.
One evening, when Leo is eleven-years-old, Henry comes home early and finds Leo playing. Leo hangs his head and prepares for a scolding. Instead, Henry laughs and says with surprise, “You know how to play guitar?”
Henry teaches him all he knows.
Leo wants to extend his understanding of music beyond his father’s Muziki wa Dansi style, so he travels to his grandmother’s village to learn the traditional songs of the elders. He transcribes her songs and learns their melodies.
Later, he’s amazed to discover that the pentatonic scales of the WaGogo and WaZaramu tribes are similar to those of the American blues. His songs are already a unique blend of Tanzanian influences. He adds a blue note to his repertoire and dubs his personal style the “Swahili Blues.”
Soon, Leo is a popular musician in his own right, and dozens of musicians want to join his band. He chooses his friend Juma to play drums and convinces the best bass player he knows to join them: his father.
Fall of 1978
In the early 70's, Henry Mkanyia is invited to be the guitarist for Tanzania's army band, JKT Kimulimuli Jazz. Though he won’t be expected to engage in battle, he must first train as a soldier.
Just a few years before Leo is born, the dictator Idi Amin sends a mocking telegram to Tanzania’s president, Julius K. Nyerere, who has been outspoken against Amin’s reign of terror in bordering Uganda: “I want to assure you that I love you very much, and if you had been a woman, I would have considered marrying you.”
Nyerere responds succinctly, “He’s an idiot,” and mobilizes 100,000 troops.
Before long, Henry finds himself in Uganda in the Tanzanian war against Idi Amin’s brutal rule. He prepares to play for the soldiers relaxing in camp, strapping a machine gun onto his back, then slinging his guitar over the other shoulder.
He picks out melodies high on the neck of the instrument, repetitive riffs in major scales that sound carefree and lively. But the muscles in his shoulders are tense, and he’s ready to drop the guitar for the gun, should there be an attack.
15 February, 2012
Leo practices in his apartment in Dar es Salaam. “Mwanangu, we imara,” he sings.
My son, be strong.
“A sharp wind is shaking our boat, but you young people, you’re still sleeping.”
Leo has no children of his own, but his lyrics borrow wisdom from the ages.
“Like me, your father, if I had slept, where would you be now? Au Nyerere, baba wa taifa letu. Angelala, leo tungekuwa wapi?”
Or Nyerere, father of our country. If he had slept, where would we be today?
“Young people have to take part in decision-making,” Leo says after the strings of his guitar have stopped vibrating their notes through the room. “They can’t just complain. We have to learn from our fathers and our mothers from those days. We have to listen to their songs.”
He smiles wistfully and shakes his head. “We have to.”
seconds to go
Pledge $10 or moreYou selected
THREE DIGITAL MP3 FILES of songs from the archives + your name listed in the "Thank you for Helping Digitize the Radio Tanzania Archives" section of our website with a link of your choice-- your blog or website, a cause you support, your twitter feed, your business, etc.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $25 or moreYou selected
The RADIO TANZANIA SAMPLER CD with not five, not ten, but TWENTY ONE hand-picked songs from the archives. This mix will be a preview of what the "Best of Radio Tanzania" CD will be like once we've digitized more music, remastered the tracks, etc. These songs are the jam and most of them have not been available to the public for nearly 50 years. CD will come with a handwritten 'thank you' note. Plus rewards above.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $30 or moreYou selected
ADVANCE DOWNLOAD of the "Best of Radio Tanzania" compilation CD with PDF version of liner notes and photos (when it's ready), and you still get the sampler CD now! + rewards above.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $50 or moreYou selected
25 backers Limited (50 left of 75)
HARD COPY of the "Best of Radio Tanzania" compilation CD with liner notes, and a glossy 5x7 print of a photograph from the archives with lyrics from one of the songs (and its translation) on the back + all of the above.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $75 or moreYou selected
9 backers Limited (91 left of 100)
RADIO TANZANIA HOME MOVIES DVD (the rough-cut of the documentary film that we'll put together while we're working on the archives). This will be an inside look into the digitization process, Tanzanian music, and Swahili culture as we see it on the ground. It will include interviews and performances with musicians we meet along the way. At this level, you'll also get your name in the liner notes of the CD, an 8x10 glossy print of a photograph from the archives with the lyrics of a song from the archives and its English translation + all of the above.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $100 or moreYou selected
36 backers Limited (64 left of 100)
RADIO TANZANIA T-SHIRT (limited edition) with our awesome logo on it + all of the above.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $250 or moreYou selected
1 backer Limited (19 left of 20)
A Skype interview with myself, AND Totoo ze Bingwa or Benjamin wa Mambo Jambo (both popular Tanzanian musicians), a Skype tour of the Radio Tanzania archives, an ASSOCIATE PRODUCER credit for the "Best of" CD, a professional photo book of prints and lyrics from the archives, a hand-carved Tanzanian craft or necklace + all of the above.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $500 or moreYou selected
9 backers Limited (1 left of 10)
UNLIMITED free downloads of digitized songs from the archives (once we have set up a website), EXECUTIVE PRODUCER credit for the "Best of Radio Tanzania" CD, the photo book of photos and lyrics, the Skype tour and interviews, a hand-selected Tanzanian "kanga" cloth with a Swahili proverb on it, and a Tanzanian carved wood handicraft + all of the above.Estimated delivery:
Pledge $1,000 or moreYou selected
3 backers Limited (2 left of 5)
Come to Tanzania and participate in the digitization yourself. Get a tour of the Radio Tanzania archives, attend 2 live music shows and explore the city with the Radio Tanzania team, meet the musicians whose work is contained in the archives, see some music digitized and create your own mixed CDs with your favorite tracks, and take a swim in the Indian Ocean. PLUS all of the above. (airfare not included).Estimated delivery:
- (60 days)