Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Lurid, Torrid, Tanzanian Hip Hop Ruffles Old School Moral Assumptions...

Condoms for cunnilingus. Torrid May to December younger man- older woman romantic flings. Child labour. Tribalism. Gays. Lesbians. Class struggles. Racism. Drunken Driving.

These are samplings of the many themes explored in just TWO songs by young Tanzanian hip hop artistes who are featured among the handful of CDs that I picked up in Nairobi when I was there in the fall of 2003 (that is September and October my tropical Kenyan compatriots).

Quite a far cry from Mbaraka Mwinshehe and Morogoro Jazz’s classics, “Dr. Kleru” or “Nikupendeje” is it not my friends?

I am sure it is just not just the Tanzanian parents and grandparents in their fifties, sixties and seventies who are SHOCKED and APPALLED by these explicit lyrics, but also the older brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts of this teen/twentysomething Tanzanian Hip Hop Nation who have launched their own sonic assault on the moral assumptions, political hypocrisy, bureaucratic morass and economic wasteland bequeathed to them by the older generation in that east African nation.

And in this current dispensation, it is an equal opportunity never ending DISS Session with a growing number of Tanzanian women (many from "Bongo" or Dar es Salaam) stepping up to the mic to do their thing.

The Dar es Salaam based East African television channel, (truly REGIONAL in the sense that it is carried by networks in neighbouring Kenya and Uganda) has tapped right into this livid, vivid, live wire rage among the East African youth who have turned their back on dry and “boring” academic discourse to seek musical conduits to unleash their rage.

If one stops being judgmental and stuck up for a second (as in, “I never listen to that crap, give me Wynton Marsalis, Placido Domingo and Chopin ANY TIME”) and actually TAKES a LISTEN to what these young people are SAYING, it is immediately crystal clear that there is a lot militancy, heightened class consciousness and a very deep understanding of political power dynamics among members of the younger generation- even though they may name check Jay-Z rather than Ho Chi Minh; Queen Latifah rather than Angela Davis and Mos Def rather than Amilcar Cabral.

Still don’t believe me?

Let me make my case a little stronger.

I will play three tracks for you.

First there is this humorous track that sends up stereotypical ethnic images from a hip hop artist member of the Tanzanian Masaai community.

It is a song about the popular notions of who is a Maasai by a native from that community.

For my Kenyan readers, let me emphasize that I am talking about TANZANIAN Maasais here...

Here it is

Next is a piece called “Sipendi”. It is the song that talks about a range of social issues and political observations that I spoke about at the beginning of this section:


Our last selection is called “Nyambisi” which is about how the up and coming Dar hip hop star Prince Sykes seduced a woman who was twice his age:


Wait a minute!

I have a TANZANIAN hip hop VIDEO to show you which proves that African rappers can recycle the same clichés of their New York and California cousins:

Visit this page


Scroll down, choose “listen/watch and bonyeza the links to videos of songs like "Msimu kwa Msimu” “Aha”, “Bamiza” .