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.]

Side A

Shida Part 1 & Part 2 (Problems - part 1 and 2)
(listen below)

Nisalimie Wanazaire "Greetings to the Zaire people"

Mapenzi Yanitesa
"My Lovers are Bothering Me"

Side B

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).


Jesse Kanda said...

this makes me feel better.. thanks todd

Anonymous said...

This sounds like it's from South America. I love it!

zim said...

if you like mbaraka, you may be interested in this:


Yo man I just discovered your blog, upon hearing these sounds I held back on a major tear of happiness. For see I am from Tanzania too, well I was born in London but both my parents were born in Dar es Salaam. I can taste the Madafu when hearing this eclectic sounds, great post. Can't wait to hear more, have a splendid holiday. Peace.

Anonymous said...

Mbaraka is a legend. Apparently he was known as "the Franco of East Africa" which is nonsense of course because Franco couldn't hold a candle to him in terms of technical ability, inventiveness and subtlety! Franco's main talent was as a bandleader, and using others' talents... Anyway, couple of tracks here I hadn't yet got, so thanks.

http://wrldsrv.blogspot.com/search/label/tanzania -- this is also a GREAT blog! Also http://www.voanews.com/english/africa/blog/ has some nice Cuban Marimba Band.

Timothy said...

"Esta Wangu" is correctly labelled. Thanks for posting this wonderful music.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! Many thanks. Apurva from Pune, India.

Unknown said...

I cannot thank you enough for the music.You just made my day. I really like his music it takes me back years ... when I was little and you would hear his music play not only on radios but every little corner you turned, at shops, resturant, clubs etc in Kenya. Mbaraka Mwinshehe was a true music genius.

Anonymous said...

Asante! Many thanks for sharing this most festive and uplifting music. Only regret, a great deal of this music is not available for purchase in the U.S. :((((

Anonymous said...

Still enjoying the tracks.


- Ntwiga

Brian Shimkovitz said...

great post dude, really cool!

kennedy said...

Am a young man in Kenya and my friends usually think am wierd listening to Mbaraka but I don't really care coz i think the guy is a legend like MJ!

bathmate said...

As always an excellent posting.The
way you write is awesome.Thanks. Adding more information will be more useful.


Unknown said...

Thanks very much for keeping the music of my childhood hero alive. Mbaraka died relatively young on the Nairobi-Mombasa Road, but the majesty of his work is still evident decades later.
Your translation: Mapenzi Yanitesa "My Lovers are Bothering Me" is not correct. He is smitten by a girl and is appealing to her, begging and even declaring that death would be a better option than not having her. Hence, the translation is "I'm tortured/tormented by love".

Anonymous said...

this is absolutely awesome. I've found so much great african tunes on this blog, it's is probably the best musical blog i've ever seen.