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Thousands of hours of Afro-jazz and dance music on damaged reel-to-reels are in danger of being lost forever. Help us digitize them.
Thousands of hours of Afro-jazz and dance music on damaged reel-to-reels are in danger of being lost forever. Help us digitize them.
235 backers pledged $17,040 to help bring this project to life.

Recent updates

Our Kickstarter Experience

A couple of weeks ago a journalist contacted me with a few questions about our take on Kickstarter. I was happy to answer her questions, and in the process had the opportunity to reflect more on our experience with the crowdfunding model of fundraising. You can see the article in the European webpage "The Beginner" here: http://www.thebeginner.eu/economy/all-in-finance/712-internet-capital-sourcing-model-gives-hope-to-small-businesses

The article is great and we're quoted twice! I decided to post the full answers to the questions here for any of you who might be interested.

How did you hear about crowdfunding and why did you decide to give it a go? What has been your experience? What in your view are the drawbacks to such a system? Would you use it again? Would you recommend it to others?

I first heard about crowdfunding because of my interest in social enterprise, which led me to the person-to-person microlending platform Kiva.org. This site allows individual "investors" to back small loans to entrepreneurs around the world. What Kiva does for development, poverty alleviation, and entrepreneurs, Kickstarter does for creative projects and artists. And I think it's fair to say that artists always struggle more than they should to be able to do their work free from financial constraints. 

Our project, an effort to digitize and promote more than 100,000 hours of incredible East African music from the Radio Tanzania archives, is extremely urgent because the reel-to-reels containing the music are in an advanced state of deterioration. I decided to give Kickstarter a try because it gave us an incredible platform to spread awareness about our project and raise funds immediately. I also love the way that crowdfunding via Kickstarter gives us the direct, individual connection to our backers. One of the best parts of running a Kickstarter campaign is interacting, through messages, comments, and updates, with our supporters. The rewards, once they come out, are a way to show our gratitude to each and every person who chipped in along the way. The relationship is ongoing, and hopefully the people who back us now will remain a part of this endeavor in the future.

Our experience so far has been exciting, rewarding, and yes, at times anxiety-ridden. It's such a rush to see backers coming to the project, and also very stressful when there are lulls in backing. Before I had recruited a few people to help me run the Kickstarter and social media campaign, I was working on this project solo and just keeping up and recruiting backers became a full-time job. Luckily, I had some time on my hands between my last Kiva Fellowship with Kiva in New Orleans and my preliminary trip to Tanzania (where I am currently). Once I got here, however, it was vital to have extra support. 

Some people have suggested to me that just working a paying job would allow me to make as much money as we've raised on Kickstarter in the same amount of time. I think this approach misses the point, though. Yes, it takes a lot of time and energy to run a successful Kickstarter. In fact, we're only at $9,000 with a $13,000 goal and we have just two weeks to go, so the work is not finished yet. But Kickstarter is about much more than just the money-- it's about involving people in a project you care about and want to share with the world. For me, it really is about the community effort to see positive change and bring beautiful art into the world, or in our case, to revive a cultural treasure that has been forgotten. In Tanzania, people speak of "Ubuntu"-- which means, "I am because we are." Kickstarter illustrates that principle. It brings us together and takes us on a journey together. One of our backers, Nila U. posted about us on her Facebook to encourage other people to support our Kickstarter. She said, "What's more essential to the human experience than art?" She's right. And I'm thankful to her, and all of our backers, for being a part of this important work of preserving and celebrating art.

As I said before, the drawback to the Kickstarter system is the amount of time that goes into promoting the site and the chance that if you don't reach your goal, you won't receive any funding at all. It requires a great amount of effort and sustained commitment, so if you're not ready for that sort of investment, in time and emotion, I wouldn't do it. But for people who want to make their supporters and fans an intimate part of the process of creation, I whole-heartedly suggest using the Kickstarter platform. For us, the amount we are raising on Kickstarter is only enough to give us a start. Our fundraising will continue, and we will likely target larger, institutional donors, but I am really glad we were able to use Kickstarter for our start-up costs. I would certainly use Kickstarter again in the future-- and I'd benefit from the knowledge I've gained in this first effort.

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Like I said in the short piece above, I'm so grateful for the existence of Kickstarter. Before crowdfunding-made-easy like this, it would have been impossible to raise this amount in the timeframe that we did. It has been one exciting and crazy ride, and I thank you all for being a part of it. But the biggest point, and the one I want you all to take away from this, is that we still have a few days left and it would be really amazing for us and for our project to raise a few thousand more dollars. We set the $13,000 goal because we didn't want to set a goal to high and not reach it. It's clear we underestimated you guys! So please, in these last few days, keep spreading the word, consider upping your pledge (which you can do if you go to 'manage my pledge'), and encourage your friends to chip in, too.

Pamoja (together),

Rebecca and the Radio Tanzania Team

A Special Message from Benson

Hi guys,

With just four days left in our Kickstarter campaign, I'm sharing a special message from Benson Rukantabula where he performs an original song and makes a plea for your continued support! 

Hope you enjoy it!

Rebecca

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Pictures from the Inside!

Hi everyone! We hope you're having a great weekend. I started off my weekend right by catching the Kalunde Band at Triniti in Oyster Bay, Dar es Salaam. I met the legendary John Kitime there (who has been telling me amazing stories about life as a musician during the Nyerere era, not to mention helping me practice my Kiswahili). He introduced me to Anania Ngoliga. Both of these hugely talented musicians were featured in Bela Fleck's musical documentary "Throw Down Your Heart." I recommend the film to anyone with an interest in African music! 

The music last night was a mix of the old Zilipendwa music, modern Congolese and South Africa hip-hop, Tanzanian "Bongo Flava," and even some covers of Enrique Iglesias and, my favorite of the night, an energetic performance by Mr. Ngoliga of "Blue Suede Shoes." I have a few pictures from last night, but they're not uploaded yet, so for today's update I'm sharing a couple photos from our meetings with the TBC.

The first is Erasmus, Bruno Nanguka, and Benson (from left to right) in Mr. Nanguka's office. The second is myself, Mbwilo Kitujime (Director of Special Programs at TBC), and his assistant in charge of the digitization project, Elizabeth Malimbo. 

Like I said in my last update, we're so thrilled to have met our Kickstarter goal, but now we want to take full advantage of the excellent Kickstarter platform and keep fundraising til the very end, 1:37 EST on February 4th. The $13,000 budgeted for the minimum requirements for basic digitization, but to do this right, and to do it in a timely fashion (remember, those reels are deteriorating by the minute!), we will need a lot more than what we have right now. Please continue to spread the word!

As a reminder, please like us on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/RadioTanzania, where you can see more photos and updates on the minute!

Thanks for following along!

Pamoja kwa musiki,

Rebecca

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Nashukuru

One evening in the Fall of 2010, my mom and I were up late changing the bandages that covered the wounds on my leg that were refusing to heal after my motorbike accident in Tanzania. It was slow, painful, and difficult work, made more frightening by the fact that the doctors were--at that time--unsure of how to beat the chronic bone infection festering inside my leg. "Amputation" was not a word I was ready to hear, so I denied to myself that it was a possibility, despite my doctor's warning that if things didn't get better eventually there would be no other option.

So completely wrapped in shadows, full of fear, we did the work we had to do. And it was then that my mom looked at me and said, "When this is all over, you should get a tattoo. A victory tattoo." I was surprised that my mother would suggest ink, and took it as a sign of how dire the situation must be, but smiled and said, "Sure." I didn't think about it much again. But when my birthday rolled around the following May and I had nearly made a full recovery, mom asked what I wanted and I said, "How about that tattoo you promised me?" I was sort of joking, and she said she didn't remember making that offer (of course), but the more I thought about it, the more appealing the idea became. But a tattoo of what? What could be good enough to inscribe permanently, irrevocably onto my skin? I realized that a memory and a word had been locked in my mind for some time, ready to be called upon for inspiration.

When I was living in Tanzania in 2009 I worked for Kiva.org, the microfinance platform, at their partner institution Tujijenge Tanzania, Ltd., a microfinance bank that serves poor entrepreneurs, most of whom are women. Part of my job as a Kiva Fellow was to visit the borrowers at their homes and businesses to interview them. I was in a remote part of the city to track down a borrower one day, and despite the oppressive heat, I felt comfortable, at ease walking the sandy streets with a Tanzanian scarf around my head, calling out greetings in Kiswahili, avoiding chickens and goats as I passed. I paused against the side of a building next to a small girl whose yellow dress had fallen off one shoulder, revealing her thin frame and warm, brown skin. She looked at me shyly and said, "Shikamoo, mama mdogo." My respects, little mama. I responded with the customary, "Marahaba," which in Arabic means, "I am delighted." She smiled and said, "Nashukuru." I am grateful. 

For some reason, that brief exchange filled me with unbridled joy. I felt absolutely present in the moment, truly myself in a foreign land, wearing foreign clothes, with a foreign word still lingering on my lips. "Asante" is usually the word used to mean "thank you" here in Tanzania. Nashukuru seems to be used less often, and with more reverence, just as there is a subtle difference between our concepts of thankfulness and gratitude in English. So after it all, the five surgeries, the months of IV treatments, the pain and depression, I still remembered that moment in the sun, and recognized that I would not trade them. Not for any other life. And that if there were anything I wanted on my body, to remember and to celebrate, it would be this: Nashukuru. A few weeks later I had a tattoo on my right shoulder, a reminder that in the midst of all of life’s struggles, I am grateful.

But what does that have to do with Radio Tanzania, and my connection to you? I guess because it’s the only real way I can give you the full story of why I am here in Tanzania working on this project, and why it means so much to me that each of you have decided to be a part of it with me. Today we reached our $13,000 goal on Kickstarter. So instead of saying nashukuru to the world like a prayer, I now say it directly to each and every one of you. Thank you for contributing to the digitization of this incredible music. 

We still have seven full days left to continue to raise money, and I know from my research of Kickstarter, that often the last few days of a campaign can be the most fruitful. It’s my new goal that we raise $20,000 by February 4th, which will allow us to give a larger percentage in royalty payments to musicians, to hire a small Tanzanian staff for research, book-keeping, and translation services, and to purchase equipment for four digitization stations rather than just two (doubling the speed at which we can digitize-- which means you get music faster). 

Tyler, Benson, Erasmus, and I have made the decision to personally cover all of our own living expenses (flights, accommodations, food, visas, medicine, etc), so that the Kickstarter money can go directly to the digitization, but we are also currently spending a lot of our own money for business purposes, such as registering as an NGO, making copies of Radio Tanzania documents for meetings and proposals, transportation to business meetings, etc. Easing this financial burden would make our project more sustainable in the long-run, as our savings are dwindling already.

Please join us in pushing hard for one more week to gain as much support as possible for the digitization of the Radio Tanzania archives. Thank you for getting us here, and for caring about the music.

Rebecca

Do you know where the real music is?

Jambo, rafiki (hello, friends)!

We have just nine days left in our Kickstarter pitch! In the homestretch, I've challenged myself to write a brief update each day to help push us to the finish line. I'd be so grateful if you could each challenge yourselves to recruit a few more supporters to the cause! Together, I know we can reach our goal and help to permanently preserve this historic collection.

So, the title of this update is, "Do you know where the real music is?"

In one of their songs, the Kilimanjaro band says, "Wangu ngaie ngoma iko huku." Or, "Hey people, the real music is here." When I heard John Kitime and his bandmates sing these words, man, I really knew them to be true. So much of the stuff on the radio, the throw-away culture that plays a song to death for a week and then throws it away forever, the songs that are more machine than man... perhaps they have a place, but do you know where the real music is? It's being played live, in little bars and pubs and basements around the world, by people who live and breathe music not because it's a quick way to fame and riches, but because it makes us all feel alive. That is where the real music is, and that type of music, the real stuff, is worth keeping around.

But what makes the Radio Tanzania even more interesting is that it's this incredible rich, real music played by true musicians-- yet the lyrics and content were heavily censored and supervised by the socialist Tanzanian government. Now, before you denounce Tanzania's early leaders as opponents of liberty and truth, let me remind you that the nation had just gained independence after the brutality of colonialism and the early leaders saw music as a way to unite the fractured country. The bands were themselves sponsored by government agencies, so one could argue they wouldn't have been able to exist without the government in the first place. But still, to hear stories about musicians being forced by bureaucrats to change lyrics because they didn't want a love song to end in anything other than marriage, well it's shocking to modern democratic sentiments about creative expression and freedom of the media. What do you think? Was this sort of censorship ultimately a fair price to pay for Tanzania becoming a peaceful, stable country free from ethnic conflict and strife like many of her neighbors?

This is one of the questions we'll be exploring through this project. I'm happy to say that Nils, a Dutch master's student, has recently decided to write his master's thesis in African Studies on Musiki wa Dansi, the Radio Tanzania archives, and our digitization project-- which will provide a much-needed critical/theoretical look at issues of censorship, cultural preservation, and the role of music in shaping the national discourse. We can't wait to read it! And we'll make sure to share any interesting insights Nils discovers in the course of his research with you guys.

Thanks again for following along on this journey. In Kiswahili, they say, "Tupo Pamoja," or "We are together."

Pamoja kwa musiki, together for the music,

Rebecca