Dar es Salaam updates

Dar, or 'Bongo' as they say, is not Tanzania's capital (Dodoma is officially) but it is the biggest and most live city in the country. To get from the city center to residential areas like Ubungo or Vingunguti may take over one hour in the afternoon traffic jams. In this big a town there are hundreds of rappers, at least every secondary school has its own groups, every neighbourhood got its stars and as Sebastian Maganga (dj at Radio One) explained to us: every 'hood has its own style reflecting the lifestyles of its people.

Sebastian himself is from Sinza, a middle class area where most people are not struggling every day to get food on the table, they may think of other things such as going out on the beach in the weekend, and that's what the lyrics are about. Examples are the Unique Sisters, Afro Reign, Deplowmatz (Saigon is from Sinza) and even Hashim. Indeed their styles and the content of their lyrics are way different from Gangsters With Matatizo and Gangwe Mob who are from Temeke (TMK) area. In that part of Dar, many young people are unemployed or get a 'deiwaka' job (day worker: one day's job just to get some money for food or clothes). With them, not only the lyrics are different; also the music, flow and stage-act are more 'sewersided'. But to divide the crews by area would be a disservice to them, and many crews are 'Pan-Bongo', where one rapper lives in Temeke, the next one in Oyster Bay and the others elsewhere. Kwanza Unit is a good example, and in this case every single individual in the group has his own program, own flow, although there's only one mic. Fortunately they get it all together somehow, as their latest album Kwanzanians (available online soon) proves. The concerts can be a little hectic at times.

Abbas from Underground Souls (left) guesting at KBC's weekly underground hip hop show

Most of the time, the core of the KU consists of Chief Rhymson, D-Rob, KBC and Y-Thang. Old time members Fresh-G and Eazy B don't perform with them these days. Rhymson is now staying in Canada with his wife and his son but his heart is still with the Ku and if he goes back he will join in. KBC has since the opening of commercial radio Clouds FM, been working as a radio deejay. He got one of the prime time shows together with dj Bonnie Luv. In their 'Dr Beat' daily from 14 to 16 hrs (competing with Radio One's dj show!) they play mostly American r&b and rap, mixed together flawlessly by Bonnie and with Clouds Fm jingles thrown in every now and then ('if you are in a car and the radio is not tuned to Clouds FM... GET OUT!').

On fridays KBC has his own show where he is behind the decks, that's when he will play mostly underground hip hop. He's the first to do so since many Tanzanians don't have a clue how to get hold of rap that's not in the charts. So these days, Organized Konfusion or Rasco get a chance to be heard, and also local hip hop hasn't been forgotten.

Cartoon from local paper. The competition between the Dar es Salaam radio stations is a popular subject in the press

Clouds FM is the station that came out of Mawingu (Swahili word meaning 'Clouds') promotions, led by businessman Joseph Kusaga and his relatives. Their dance parties have been shaking Dar since the early nineties, Bonnie Luv being their secret weapon among other deejays. That same Bonnie has been producing tracks for many local rappers since 1994. Some guys from around the studio had a succesful single in '94 with 'Msela'.

Bonnie at workSince someone broke in to their studio a few months ago taking away the ADAT and other equipment, there won't be any more producing. But it seems like Clouds are busy enough with the radio. Soon after they started out in 1998, Clouds became the most popular FM broadcaster. From the tiny studio on the 15th floor of the Kitego Cha Uchumi building in town, a team of young and enthusiastic deejays announcing in English and Swahili captured the airwaves. In Dar es Salaam this meant that virtually all public transport were tuned into Clouds all the time. They tend to play more hip hop/rap and r&b than other local stations. Also Clouds are willing to promote local upcoming artists; during ramadhan holidays in january this year there was a Clouds talent night in Club Bilicanas with many rappers. Apart from the music, there was also a 'kanga party', a fashion show where the local Swahili dress is shown. Some people in power recently complained about the Clouds kanga parties which they deemed 'immoral'. They tried to forbid these parties; we're not sure what the outcome was.

Clouds and the Rockdown Africa concert

At the time of our visit, Clouds radio had a few artists on a cd-recordable; it was live recordings from a night at the Slipway Inn, where South African tv station M-Net ('Rock down Africa') had been recording rappers to be featured in their Tanzanian special. Most noticeable, all tracks on the cd had been produced by Bonnie Luv. There's one guy from Arusha called Bobby (BBY), a very talented rapper that nobody had ever heard of before, and Hashim, solo artist who used to be in the Black Houndz crew with Sos-Bi. Hashim did his track 'Shadow of a dark destiny' which starts out in English with the last verse in Kiswahili. His lyrics are advanced, compare to
Scaramanga with all dictionary-kind of stuff which in Tanzania would be called ;Kiswahuli cha ndani' (insiders' Swahili). Hashim has one of the most interesting voices in Dar these days and a tight flow. With producer P-Funk he put down 6 VERY fat tracks, including 'I smoked an mc but I did not smoke his dj'. He has an online freestyle cypher with a few other Tanzanian emcees including KBC, the idea is that they send each other battle raps by e-mail to which everyone can reply. They are reluctant to show the rhymes to the outside world for fear of 'biters'. So we can only guess at the quality but there's no doubt that they are on another level, just listen to Hashim's rhymes and you will know. Other new talents on the Clouds cd are Bad G and Dataz, two girls who used to form the duo Dream Team. People know them from their song 'Kimtimtim' and after splitting up each one of them still performed that song. We invited Bad G to come and perform at the Mwaka Elfu Mbili hip hop event, and she can hang! A posture like Missie Elliott's and a voice like Patra's makes the act, and the flow is somewhere between rap and ragga.

pic: Gangwe Mob (the left 2 guys) and the Gangsters With Matatizo (right side)

Then at Slipways there was a performance by Gangwe Mob from Temeke, they are very close with GWM and their style is similar. The Gangwe Mob consists of 3 boys, one of them is only 7 year sold but he's good at rapping. They were also on M-Net in one of the very short fragments that they showed.
The problem with M-Net and Sister Gerrie of Rockdown Africa was that they were looking for things 'typically Tanzanian' and instead they found many rappers trying to be western, in their flows, their beats and even the way they dress. Well that criticism may be based on the truth but there's more to it. Indeed there is no Tanzanian style that, like kwaito in SA can be hold 'typically local'. But the question is, do the Tanzanian rappers need to? Even though they use a foreign rapping style, dress in FUBU, they are very good at it. And there is a tendency towards more local style, just look at Bad G, X Plastaz or the taarap from Zanzibar. What's more, elsewhere there are rappers like Mizchif from Zimbabwe who sound like they are from the USA but it's still dope. So the M-Net crew came back with footage that they were not too satisfied with, and in the broadcast on Tanzania they sshowed very little of it, preferring to insert a foreign clip every 10 minutes. Also they refused to take with them any locally made videos, claiming that these were not up to standard. But hey it's still nice that they took the time & trouble to travel to Tanzania to see what's on. And in Tanzania it made people more aware that the outside world is looking.

At Salamander: emcees from Dar, and Ben Hewett the music man who arranged a lot of stuff for the Mwaka 2000 hip hop event

2 Proud and the DPT camp
Mr II or 2 Proud as he used to be called, has been well known since he came out in 1995 with 'ni mimi' (it's me), a tape that wasn't distributed too well but received massive airplay by Radio One which at the time was the hypest radio station. Next was the 'Ndani ya Bongo' album which introduced the world to Master Jay's production. By then all eyes were on 2 Proud. In 1998 he finished his third album 'Niite mr II' and before it dropped he travelled to Holland to smell the local hip hop flavor. When he came back in Tanzania, his label FM Music Bank started selling the tape and they must have sold a lot. In october 98 mr II went to WOMEX, the prestigious world music festival in Sweden and stayed some time in the UK. In 1999 he had to come up with something new so another journey was set for Amsterdam, Holland.

Live at the Lounge with dj Jeroen from Boombap/Bassic Groove
pic: mr 2 writing on new lyrics for his album 'Nje ya Bongo'

In June the new album 'Nje ya Bongo' was recorded in the Greenfield studio, and all instrumentals were made by Madunia's very own Mongo Star (Martin). Mongo's beats are different as he doesn't use American music samples but rather takes a Nigerian juju loop and layers it with a hip hop
break. So Mr II travelled back to Tanzania with 10 new songs, including 'Mwanamuziki', 'Niko fresh' and 'Busara'. The latter is about politics in Tanzania and ensures that Mr II has not forgotten his position as a man of the people. In July, all radio stations have started playing the promo cd and a local cassette will be out within a week. Madunia records' official cd launch for the international market will be in autumn this year.
Click here to listen to Mwanamuziki, a new song from Mr 2's album!

The DPT chilling backstage

The Deplowmatz are from the same posse (DPT family) as Mr II, especially Mr II and Dola of the Deplowmatz can be seen together quite often. Now that other Deplowmat Saigon has left to UK for studies, and other members being out of town, it is to be expected that Dola and Mr II will tour together frequently. Dola has a very interesting solo project coming up, under his name 'Balozi' (meaning 'embassador'). Production is by Master Jay and featuring is about every single rapper that's hot in Tanzania. So far, there's no news on distribution of that tape. Also we don't know what will happen to Saigon's solo plans, as he will stay in UK for some time. Deplowmatz isn't finished though; as the embassador says 'DPT will never die, only multiply'. In the last half year, we heard two new Deplowmatz singles. There's 'Piga Bao' which you have already heard here at Rumba-Kali, and 'Too rough too tough' which is a party track like you never heard before from Tanzania.

(to next page: Production updates)