Basic info!4 weeks of playlistsHow to win CDsUncle Sam's profileAfrican music sitesStudio guestsMore photosSpecial showsRead special featuresAddresses
Vote!
For detailed profiles of African musicians, click on the logo below:

An article by Freddy Macha that was published in The Tanzanian Guardian, Dar es Salaam. It is one of Freddy's regular 'Letter from London' columns, published on 16th December 2003

Tanzanian Independence Day Abroad
“Uhuru Day” for Tanzanians abroad, especially London may not be that of a big issue. At least in the few years I have lived here. 9th of December, for the majority just comes and goes unnoticed. But this year it was different.
An African DJ of the popular black music station London radio, CHOICE FM, invited me to be part of his programme on Tanzanian history. Uncle Sam, as he is known here, usually plays African music on Sunday nights. The programme is liked because of the choice of good music from practically every corner of Africa.
Sam Tsipotey began working as an accountant in CHOICE FM in 1991. He got the radio slot in May 2000 and by May this year had managed to get the prime time of Sunday night, between 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. An ideal time to get most listeners who are at home.

In an article by Kwaku K published in Gargamel, The International Word in Reggae & Urban Music Issue 15, Autumn 2003, Sam is quoted as saying: “African music is more closely related culturally than I used to think. The basic underlying rhythms are quite similar to the trained ear.” Kwaku quotes him saying he believes his show is opening up African music to a wider market. “I try to play from as many different areas of the continent as my collection and time can allow in order to broaden the appeal of the music. Everyone is bound to hear something they would like, I just want to make the show a complete one, in the sense that by the end of it, you'd have learned something new about Africa.”

Readers back home, you have to remember that African music is passing through a bad season. Not much of it is heard in mainstream television or radio abroad. Many African musicians in London for instance, are forced to do other jobs to survive. Some of these musicians used to play every night 7 days a week back home. In Europe they become “guards” at supermarkets, taxi-drivers or even menial labourers. I have been in Britain since 1996 and in my life here, have only witnessed one regular television programme which focused solely on African music.

But as we hear Salum Abdullah’s music, the two hour programme, has the task of going through the coming on Germans. Carl Peters who passed around tricking Chiefs in Tanganyika to sign “agreements” to annex their lands to German companies. Carl Peters work was helpful in peparing “spheres of influence” and by the time the Berlin Conference happened in 1884 chaired by Emperor Otto Von Bismarck, Europe was ready to “Scramble for Africa.”
The next few minutes sees one of the most bloody periods of Tanganyika history. Ironically, Uncle Sam has Mbaraka Mwinyeshehe’s music to play. Ironical, because Mbaraka died bleeding in Mombasa back in 1978. Sam does not know Mbaraka died from the loss of blood in Kenya. Yet he has intuitively chose to play tracks from the great Mwinyishehe. I knew the man while studying at Mzumbe Secondary School back in 1973. His Morogoro Jazz would come to play at our school parties. The first time I was on stage with my school band “The Earthquakes” we used Mbaraka’s instruments. He had no qualms about giving those instruments to novices like myself. I don’t recall playing anything brilliant. In fact, I made a fool of myself, trying to “show to the girls” that I also was a musician. Time to laugh.

Sam’s programme in a known station such as CHOICE FM then is helping boost this music. On many of websites related to Uncle Sam, including his own site, there is a link to the only African musicians website in the UK: http://www.africanmusiciansprofiles.com, which is run by a lady called Anne Wanjie. Mrs. Wanjie although English has a family with a Kenyan national and speaks a bit of Kiswahili.

But the man from Ghana not only ends with African music. Through sheer initiative, as is the trait and character of most West Africans, he has managed to include an informative aspect to his show. On every African Independence Day he discusses, while playing music as well, the history of that country. He calls it “History through Entertainment.” When possible he also invites a national of the said country, who of course should know his/her history well, to help in with the light but educational show. It is in such a show I was part of last Sunday’s show to help celebrate Tanzania’s Uhuru day on Tuesday 9th of December.

Reflect on another thing about living abroad: You are a mere dot in the lives of many other people from all over the world. Also in a society where the majority of the population is white, a day such as the 9th of December means “nothing.” It won’t even get a mention in the local international news. What Sam does is dedicate two hours of his three hour music show to a country in question. Two hours for a mainstream programme is plenty of time for an African show in Europe.

It is not my first time to be on Sam Tsipotey’s exposé, though. In January, he invited me to speak about my music and travels. Although my presence was brief, I got a glimpse of how the man works. His choice of music ranges from the most exuberant Congolese “Ndombolo” to the ballads of the Maghreb people in Western Sahara.
As I arrive, tonight, the man is cheerful as usual. Besides Uncle Sam himself, Anne Wanjie of the “African Musicians Profiles Website” is in the studio as well as two other young African ladies. The two ladies were born in Britain. One of them, Asi Munisi, whose parents hail from Moshi, know hardly any Kiswahili, but as the night proceeds, she expresses the wish to become my student, eventually. Like some Tanzanians abroad, I teach Kiswahili privately, and over the years have become quite proficient at it.
When I first started teaching back in the 80’s, it was hard. Speaking your own language doesn’t mean you know it well. Let alone, making it clear to another person through grammar and so on. For instance, how many Kiswahili speakers back home know that the language is made up of seven classes. And what are “classes” anyway?
That is a totally different topic matter at the moment, as I watch Munisi, reading some stories with a typical English accent that many Tanzanians born in Britain have. As I always said, 90% of these children born abroad, do not know a single Swahili word. Not even the courtesies, like Shikamoo, Kwa heri etc… Most of them always end up blaming their parents who, like many Africans do not see the value of pushing and enforcing learning languages from home. I personally know it is a difficult task, as I have to work hard speaking Kiswahili to my own children. Children who are surrounded by other kids who do not speak Kiswahili. Harder even to force my own country folks to speak Kiswahili when they visit my house.
Take this scenario. A fellow Tanzanian arrives. After greetings in Kiswahili with me, the children rush and start with “Shikamoo”
The visitor is surprised. “Marahaba! So you can speak Kiswahili?”
After a few attempts, the visitor switches to speaking English with the kids. “Speak Kiswahili to them” I would keep on saying to my guest. Soon it becomes futile, as you might expect, kids born abroad, cannot speak as fast as those back home. The visitor soon looses patience, as he is not used to “speak slowly and clearly” to the unused. He switches back to English. And that is the problem.

Tanzanians and Kiswahili speakers have to learn from other races. Children will not comprehend if we do not teach them, if we are not patient with them. Go to a Turkish, Arab, Indian, Brazilian household etc. However much the kids speak English, the native speaking parent or relative will still re-enforce their own language. I have heard some colleague Africans remarking that speaking their own languages to their kids will make them “confused.” “I can’t be speaking my own African language. In school they are supposed to learn good English.” But how do Somalis and Ethiopians, who are the few Africans who manage to keep their own cultures abroad do it? Persistence. The fact is, it is easier for children to speak and learn multiple languages than adults.
The other day I was told something interesting by a visitor from home. She told me: “I want to practise my English with your children”. I think laughter is the best medicine here.
And this is one of the strands of Tanzanian independence.
The fact that we nationals have to push on with various aspects of our culture, i.e. the lingual heritage. And the fact that Kiswahili is the seventh fastest growing language in the world.

As I go through the preparations of tonight’s programme with Uncle Sam, I soon realise he has done good research. Sam kicks off by saying the cradle of humankind was found in Tanganyika. Zinjathropus. To start the show the music of Hukwe Zawose introduces the country. I don’t know how many Tanzanians realise how much Zawose is revered and respected abroad. The man’s music is played everywhere. I have heard his melodious voice and marimba in countless television programmes, from Germany, Brazil to Canada.
Know your History. The migrations of Bantu people from as far places as South Africa, through the coming of Arab traders into the East coast to Vasco da Gama, “accidentally” landing here in 1498. “The Portuguese did not stay. Vasco da Gama went to India, and in place, Arabs settled themselves in East Africa. They helped with the Slave Trade, through traders like Tip Tippu.”
Here we discuss Slavery. Bagamoyo, which Sam already knows comes from “bwaga-moyo” which is to throw or rest your heart. Bagamoyo the slave transit to Zanzibar where the big market was, those days.

 

We say “those days” and as we do, Sam plays Tanzanian music as you have never heard before. Salum Abdullah’s “Ukitaka Ngoma, Ngoma iko huku” recorded in 1955. Long time ago. It is my turn to speak about Salum Abdullah. His music charted the woes and feelings of the struggle for independence until he died in 1965.
But we are talking serious now. Sam admits he did not know there was chief Mkwawa of the Hehe. That the man resisted German rule fiercely, until he killed himself rather than be captured in 1898.
“Many people think the only heroic African chief was Shaka of the Zulus. But there were many others” he says.
It is my turn to be surprised.
We take our heroes for granted. Did you know Mkwawa’s heroism is not as popular internationally as Shaka’s?
Mbaraka sings: “Majivuno yako yamekwisha sasa, heshima iko wapi?”
And then Sam brings in two songs by Simba wa Nyika: “Pamela” and then “Pole pole ni matatizo ya dunia” Both brothers of the famous band (now dead) veer us towards the famous Maji Maji Resistance of 1905 to 1907. Africans believed they could turn bullets into water. I mention Ebrahim Hussein’s play “Kinjeketile” based on this rebellion. Asi, the young British born, Tanzanian, never heard of the play, nor of the playwright and actor, Ebrahim Hussein. “Can I get it? I would like to stage it here in the UK” she wonders seriously. The play is in Kiswahili. The young woman looks lost. It has to be translated.
Theatre artists in Tanzania are you listening? If the play is still around and if it is being used in schools, help translate it into English. It would be very educational to young Tanzanians abroad wanting to be conscious of their roots like Miss Munisi.
German suppression of the Maji Maji war was ruthless. Sam says Arabs did not attempt to colonise anyone. European colonialism was so ruthless.

In his book published in 2001, about his experiences in Tanganyika as a British colonial officer, between 1951 to 1962, Michael Longford, quotes estimates of 75,000 killed during the suppression of Maji Maji war. The number rose to almost 300,000 Tanganyikans who died as a result of the famine later.

Writes Longford in “The Flags Changed in midnight”: “I formed a high regard for the skill of Germans in putting up buildings which were attractive to look at and comfortable to work in, but did not like what I heard about the way they governed the country...
Certainly there were many rebellions against the German rulers, and such uprisings were not repeated in Tanganyika during the period of British rule.”

We go from the end of German rule after the European war of 1914-18, through to the formation of the Bunge then known as “Legco” or Legislative Assembly. Both Germans and British rule introduced European forms of development, including infrastructure, cash crop farming, schools and administration. As we discuss this Uncle Sam plays Remi Ongala’s “Kilio cha Samaki” and again is my turn to speak about Remi, who I know personally having written his biography back in 1985. Sam chirps and laughs about Remi’s mastery of metaphor. Remi’s defence of the fish which “shows no tears” when taken from water and cooked, is a vivid picture of suffering.
By this time we have come to the time of Independence, as TANU is established in 1954 by Julius Nyerere and Oscar Kambona. But there would be no Tanzania without Zanzibar, hence a look through Zanzibari history, from Seyyid Said right to the time Afro-Shirazi and Umma party won the Revolution in 1963, led by the late Karume.
Sam plays Taarab and I have to explain what the music is all about. Apart from Taarab, there is music from Mlimani Park and the Swahili rap group : X-Plastaz. Unfortunately African rap is not yet getting much air play internationally. Says Uncle Sam: “African Hip-hop is not quite popular here yet, even though Hip-life and Hip-juju can do well if the music gets a bit more polished and more Africanised. At present the artists are trying too hard to sound American or European”.

It is Tanzania’s history through music and tales of domination and resistance, done in a very light but educational style. In between all this, my own music, from the Constipation CD is played. Sam has chosen the upbeat reggae song, “Abiye biye” but I insist on playing one of my Swahili poems: “Zarina” “What is it about?” Sam asks of the lyrics which if I may quote myself say:

“Kibogoyo ati nani?
Mapengo ati nini?
Dogo dogo, Bwa mdogo bado hawatafuni
Tabasamu zao makini
…Hesabu yake milioni.”

Children growing up, losing their teeth. Just like a country as huge and old as Tanganyika celebrating its 42nd birthday. Growing up and looking back.

www.freddymacha.com