Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Mbaraka Mwinshehe - Tanzanian classic
I just returned to London from a month travelling with my girlfriend in Tanzania. I grew up in Arusha, so it was a chance to go back home and check things out. One of the great pleasures was listening to the great east african sounds blaring out of sound systems in roadside shops and little tinny sounding radios everwhere I went. I managed to pick up about 40 cassettes and a few cds, many from artists whose music doesn't seem to appear anywhere on the web. So I am going to try to do a blitz of the better stuff I got for the next few weeks and then return to my regular programming.
First of all I want to add that there are others much more knowledgeable than me about this kind of music, and others who write about it all the time. Awesome Tapes from Africa covers nothing but african tapes, but it does seem to be mostly west african. He has nothing on Tanzania from what I can tell, though there are some gems from Kenya here. I find that I do usually prefer the instrumental sound from east africa (kenya, Tanzania, and sometimes Zaire (now known as Congo)). This may however be partly because I understand Swahili and the lyrics. Steve Ntwiga's blog is the only one I have found that consistently covers east african music also, but I think he has more of a Kenyan bent. Benn Loxo du Taccu's blog is fantastic for covering lots of african music, but his east african coverage has been thinner. He has covered some Tanzanian stuff before though all links are now dead.
Most of the music I'm going to cover will be of the Taarab flavor or old dance band sound. Tanzania has been crazy about bongo flava for the last few years and some of it is quite nice. But in my view it's just an interesting variation of hip hop and rnb with Swahili lyrics and I'm not really into that sound right now. So I didn't really collect any. Taarab often sounds like a mix beween middle eastern/arab and tanzanian pop. But it varies and sometimes sound a lot more like traditional pop, like the sound on this cassette.
This first cassette I'm featuring is of Mbaraka Mwinshehe who is one of the classics of east african music. His track Shida can still be heards playing out of bars/sound systems all over the country. I had not had a chance to play the cassettes much when I was in Tanzania. But one day we were travelling from Tanga in the north down a really bad dirt road to Pangani (which I highly recommend as an unspoilt beach spot). The driver was playing his Bongo Flava so I asked him if he would mind trying one of my cassettes. We popped this in and when Shida came on he suddenly laughed and started to sing along. I also love the authentication stamp, with signature, on the back of the cover (click on it for a better image).
[I've tried to provide swahili translations of song titles to the best of my capacity.]
Shida Part 1 & Part 2 (Problems - part 1 and 2) "Problems"
Nisalimie Wanazaire "Greetings to the Zaire people"
Mapenzi Yanitesa "My Lovers are Bothering Me"
Choyo Uache "Don't be Petty" (cassette cover says this is the song, but not sure)
Tutakuja Gombana "We will Start to Argue"
Dr. Kleruu "Dr. Kleruu"
Esta Wangu "My Esther" (cassette cover says this is the song, but not sure)
Download the complete album here (Sharebee).