After a good 2 months spent in Tanzania, East Africa trying to map the local hip hop culture(s) and making a video documentary about it, your correspondent Thomas (Juma-4) is here with some more knowledge about to drop. Read all about the rap scenes in Arusha, Zanzibar and Dar.

NOTE to other authors - as with the other info on the Rumba-Kali site, you may use this article to cite from, but first let us know, and don't think of using the info or ideas without clearly mentioning the source! Same goes for the pics which are copyright Madunia/Rumba-Kali. Respect the architect!

a somehow enigmatic sign along the road in Dar

In Tanzania, trying to get anything done as a hip hop artist is a little more difficult than in many other countries because of several reasons. First of all, as Tanzania is among the poorer countries in the world, the urban infrastructure has been bad and even though it improved a little recently with cell phones, cybercafes, new roads etc there's still many obstacles to easy communication with your partners in rhyme & business. What must be equally frustrating is the large amount of people who act to the opposite of their promises. People in the Tanzanian music business hardly ever say 'no' if you ask them for a service, but this does not always mean that they will want to help you. In this way groups can spend months trying to get some sponsor money together for their upcountry concert tour. Then there's the promoter figure who is notorious for trying to squeeze out the last shillings of the emcee. All this and the general daily 'mission' for food on the table has left the average mc in Tanzania with a lot of bitterness about his carreer prospects. Now imagine the perseverence of those who made it... Generally the people who have spent a few years in hip hop in in Dar es Salaam are totally dedicated to their music and culture.

Despite these difficulties, in the last years in Tanzanian hip hop there's been a development for the better on many levels. Not only skills have over the years progressed from amateurism to professional attitudes towards the music. Also the industry - until recently consisting of a few rich people doing cheap copies of local music, and a mafia-like organization of mostly African Asian pirates making 'fake originals'- has shown signs of waking up, with good new recording studios in the making, and people spending a lot of money on equipment which might eventually serve a healthy local industry. Since April there is even an updated copyright law which is intended to punish fake copiers with serious fines - until recently one could get away with paying a few hundred shilling (less than 10 U$) or a small bribe. It is to be hoped that this new law with its millions-of-shillings fines won't give way to more severe bribing....Anyway, rapper Mr 2 announced that any pirate dubbing his album would be taken out by him and his crew in person - Big Punisher style....

The Chelea Pina pirated cassette... who got all the money from sales? The pirates....We experienced this piracy first-hand. Yours truly had made a compilation cd with new American hip hop (early 98, so the new ATCQ was there) and a few local unreleased tracks, as a promo for radio dj's to play. However someone got hold of it and sold it to the pirates... As a result this so-called 'Chelea Pina Collection Volume 1' was sold all over East Africa, and according to the rappers whose music was on there, even in South Africa copies had been found. The pirates had copied everything on there including the pictures, which they used to make their own sleeve - with the same title! In 1996 we already learnt that the first Rumba-Kali release, the Kwanza Unit tape 'Tropical Tekniqs' had been pirated in Zanzibar. However, only few copies had been spread while the tape is still available there - with its original 'promo only' sleeve...!

International level
It seems that the foreign trips of most well known Tanzanian rapper Mr II have shook the hip hop nation, in that suddenly rappers were aware that the rap game is not just a game but that it may actually lead to some serious changes in their lives, if not in the whole society. All over sudden the guy who used to be in the audience at the early nineties' rap contests was there, performing in Sweden at an international world music conference.
Other people have been travelling too, on their way finding that rap from Tanzania may very well attract the attention of outsiders. Then there's the websites: both the Rumba-Kali site and Krister Malm's site on East African rap are there for all local mc's to go & see in a cyber cafe. They did go and see, and before long the word was out on the streets: 'this & that crew are on the internet!'

Old school still rocks
The old school crews have been practicing and became better. Hard Blasters, the crew that won rap contests around 1995, are still there, making plans for a year 2000 come-back. They also show up at concerts and prove that they can still rock the mic.

A rare picture of Hardblasters gathering at a hip hop show

Kwanza Unit have been trying to get their tape on the streets of Dar (they refused to make a deal with the pirates because they wouldn't benefit) and now at last it seems they might get somewhere, and plans are to make the cd available online with us! 'Kwanzanians' as a master tape is ready and we can offer you a preview: check out 'Kamari' a piece of the action with a freestyle felling to it. Click here to listen (realaudio G2 only).

The KU crew in various forms has been showing up at concerts from time to time, but sometimes the audience complained as it was announced 'Kwanza Unit' while the most important members were hardly all there - leader 'Chief' Rhymson is now in Canada with his wife & newly born kid (congratulations from all the Pan African hip hop heads!), and others are busy at work or studies (Y-Thang is at university and KBC is working as a radio dj). Fortunately at the time when they can't make it, there are other young talented rappers from the same camp such as Gaddy Groove and KRV who can represent the KU crew.

Dreadlocked mc Killa B who has been around since the early nineties, is still with his crew Immeditation Kingdom. They performed at 'Mwaka Elfu Mbili' and proved a solid group who with the right beat sound straight up dope.
Sos-Bi, known from his hits 'Kukuru kakara zako' and more recently 'Mr zig zag' and 'Saturday' came back from Arusha, where he was working with a radio station. Now he has started out with Radio One in Dar as a presenter. He is still active, a little underground for now, but you'll hear more as he is co-operating with Dola from DPT.
While in Dar we wanted to talk to some of the real old school guys but they were hard to get hold of, a few of them travelled such as Saleh Jabir from the early nineties 'Swahili Rap' cassette.

Also read the updates on:
Zanzibar live at Bwawani swimming pool
Arusha straight from Arusha's open sewer
Dar es Salaam and the Rockdown Africa concert
Producers and a new studio in Dar
Short updates who & why
The Mwaka 2000 hip hop event of April 1999