Sunday, October 22, 2017

Tanzania Edition

Today's post features classic muziki wa dansi from the late 1970s. This album (the first LP edition on Tanzania Film Company TLP001?) showcased NUTA Jazz Band and J.K.T. Kimbunga.

NUTA Jazz Band was at the core of Tanzania's dance music scene, with the prolific singer-composer Muhiddin Maalim Gurumo, guitarist Abel Balthazar,  and singer-composer Hassani Bitchuka (who later all joined Mlimani Park Orchestra at the Mlimani Park Bar in Mwenge, Dar es Salaam). Joseph Lusungu (trumpet) and Mnenge Ramadhani (saxophone) made up the core of the brass section.


The bands in the 1960s and 1970s were tied to Tanzania's state and parastatal bodies - these could their hands more easily on restricted import items like musical instruments and amplifiers. NUTA Jazz was the band of the National Union of Tanzania Workers, later changed into JUWATA, and even later into OTTU.

The NUTA Jazz tracks on the A side are great; I love the B side with J.K.T. Kimbunga even more. There is not much info to be found about JKT Kimbunga (aka Kimbunga Stereo): it was the band affiliated with the National (Army) Service, Jeshi la Kujenga Taifa. Some of its members also came out of NUTA Jazz, like Capt. John Simon (who was part of Shikamoo Jazz).

JKT Kimbunga

Like many Jazz Bands, the lyrics focus on love affairs -- when they are not concerned with building the nation. JKT's lyrics are a delight: Ushirikina deals with a woman who seeks a love potion from a witchdoctor and feeds it to her love interest, the next morning the man is found dead. Wachuma watatu describes a woman with three lovers: "Abandon your ways, sister. What's worse, you're taking money from all three!" In Cheza Rumba they warn dancers to watch their clothes, "Don't let them be blown away by the fierce wind (of Kimbunga's rumba)."

Further reading:

Askew, K. (2002). Performing the nation: Swahili music and cultural politics in Tanzania. University of Chicago Press.

Graebner, W. (2007). The Ngoma Impulse: From Club to Nightclub in Dar es Salaam. Dar es Salaam: Histories from an Emerging African Metropolis, 177-97.

Perullo, A. (2008). Rumba in the city of peace: Migration and the cultural commodity of congolese music in dar es salaam, 1968-1985. Ethnomusicology, 52(2), 296-323. Download here.

TLP001 NUTA Jazz Band - JKT Kimbunga


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

a seven-year itch

Well, my last post was about 7 years ago. Life happens and you move across the continent and live/work 5 exciting, hot years in Burkina Faso. 

You meet interesting characters like Ali.

"Ali Ouedraogo, 70 years old. He lost his eyesight at age 15, which stopped his carpentry apprenticeship. So he started dj-ing, animating 'bals poussières' (dusty dances) in the north of Burkina Faso. He is spinning a 78 rpm: Baba Soumano et son Orchestre Soudanais Kita. Loving meeting people like him!"

Or this man, a pirate-bricoleur, who tinkered together a microtransmitter from old radios and stereo equipment, supplies his village with rebroadcasts of his favorite radio shows, music, his version of the news, and even manages live remote broadcasts of soccer matches - provided they're not further than 2-3 kilometers. His radio station: "Radio Bouche Qui Ne Parle Pas" (Mouth Which Does Not Speak).

You enjoy live music, like this gathering at the Fechiba festival (2014) in the north, near the border with Mali.

Fechiba, the festival of the horse, is an ancestral tradition to pledge allegiance to the traditional chef. Until last year, it was held annually to celebrate the peaceful coexistence of the agropastoral populations on the borderzone of Burkina Faso and Mali. 

The horsemanship goes back centuries: Almamy Samore Lafiya Toure (c. 1830 – June 2, 1900), the Guinean muslim cleric, founder and leader of the Wassoulou empire, was said to have his troops fetch horses from the Barani area. Toure, who resisted French colonial rule until his capture in 1898, was the great-grandfather of Guinea's first president, Ahmed Sékou Touré.

You restore another Vespa.

And you ride it...

Some of us who made/make these music blogs have met in real life, some of us keep in touch via the interweb. The music is still out there, in multiple guises: vinyl (I find a trickle of decent 45s or 33rpm's once in a while), cassettes, on flashdrives and in mobile phones.

John brought Likembe back to life. At Wallahi Le Zein Matthew lets us listen to rare cassette recordings and adds fascinating stories. Another Matthew, at Matsuli Music reissues amazing LPs from South Africa and beyond: I love Black Disco's Night Express

Surprisingly I am now back in Tanzania (with decent bandwidth) and I have been itching to post music again, so...

These past years, with more direct exposure to Sahelian sounds and thanks to Sahelsounds (the blog, the mixes, the releases), Habibi Funk, Arab Tunes, I have been listening to a lot of North African/Middle Eastern music. There's a wealth of music on the edge of and in the Sahel. 

My itinerant vinyl vendor here brought this Sudanese record a couple of months ago. I knew the Munsphone label but didn't immediately recognise the singer (and the one year of Arabic I had 30 years ago didn't help). Pierre Kahane helped to identify it as Mohammed Wardi, the Nubian Sudanese legend.  

Mohammed Osman Hassan Salih Wardi (9 July 1932 – 18 February 2012) is a musical legend in Sudan, Egypt, the horn of Africa and the Arab world. A prolific composer, politically outspoken - I read that one of his first songs dealt with CIA's involvement in Lumumba's assassination - to the point he fled Sudan and went in exile in 1989. 

I'd love to understand his lyrics, and would love to know if there are transcripts and translations of his songs out there.

For now, enjoy Mohammed Wardi.


Here's Mohammed Wardi live in the 1960s (?): a string section, brass, a guitar, accordeon, and a golden voice.

Live in Addis: not sure if this is the legendary 1990 concert where he played for 250,000 Sudanese refugees.

Finally, Al Balabil, "The Nightingales," of whom I also love to hear more of. There used to be some files via Ghostcapital at The Audiotopia but they're now also defunct.

Tanzania Edition

Today's post features classic muziki wa dansi from the late 1970s. This album (the first LP edition on Tanzania Film Company TLP0...