I touched down in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania a few months ago and my time here is winding down. There is much to showcase about the hip hop movement in Tanzania – where it’s been, where it’s at and where it’s going – so for the next 4 to 5 months I will be reporting on the scene here with profiles of artists and events, album reviews, interviews, and more.
Joining me on the blog is Malle, a Tanzanian hip-hop artist and journalist. He has been writing rhymes since 2003. In 2012, the 25 year old joined Tamadunimuzik, and released Kitabu Mixtape. Also, as a self-published writer on hip-hop, Malle penned, Chuo Kikuu Cha Hip-Hop [University of Hip Hop], which addresses the history, elements and positivity of hip-hop to Tanzanian society. He is currently working on another book titled, Swahili Rap due out later this year along with his second rap album, Changomoto [Challenges].
We are calling our column, ‘Tembeza Kinasa’ [Kiswahili for ‘Pass the Mic’].
Here’s a little history brief for all those who may not know. Like other countries around the world, the seeds of Tanzania hip-hop were planted in the early 1980s largely through the circulation of hip-hop commodities. For Tanzania, it was the art of b-boying that arrived first via bootlegged VHS tapes of Beat Street, and Breakin’ 1 & 2. Then came the “Golden Era of Hip Hop” in the USA and the end of socialism in Tanzania, which proved to give birth to MCs, DJs, Producers and hip-hop heads who had greater access to and identified with the beat aesthetics and socio-political messages of Public Enemy, Gang Starr, Boogie Down Productions, 2Pac, the X-Clan, Ice Cube, Brand Nubian and the Native Tongues.
Since the mid-1990s, when Tanzanian hip-hop truly came into its own, hip-hop has gone through its ups and downs. It still gets lumped in with ‘Bongo Flava’, local pop music, which is a shame because the sound and lyrical style and content are totally different. “Real hip-hop” gets little love on the radio, and the record industry is still shady as ever. The bootleg industry has pretty much made hustling one’s cd a fruitless exercise in self-entrepreneurship. So hip-hop artists have come and gone. Some are government ministers now while others are lawyers, accountants, and salesmen. Some quit. Some moved abroad. Some got hooked on drugs. Some died. But hip-hop here endures.
Today, Tanzania hip-hop is on the cutting edge of Kiswahili lyricism with flourishing movements in Dar es Salaam and Arusha, the country’s two major cities. Some of those MCs who have been in the game for over 10 years are still finding ways to stay relevant while a new generation of rhymers are capturing the attention of a younger generation that worships flat brimmed hats, stylized tees and skinny jeans. Graffiti, referred to here as “Wachata”, is still on the steady rise thanks to the extensive work of the WCT crew. More and more beat producers are emerging claiming Primo and J-Dilla as their stylistic mentors. There rumblings of b-boy crew in the making. Add all of this up with a set of hip-hop themed radio shows and weekly and monthly open-mic cyphers and you got a dynamic hip-hop movement on your hands.
Twende! [Let’s Go]
Words by: Malle
There are so many events happening in Dar es Salaam on Saturday, but the only one dedicated to hip-hop is one I never miss. It’s called “KILINGE”. Kilinge (a Kiswahili word which stands for “Cypher”) is a Hip Hop Cypher organized by Tamadunimuzik. Held every Saturday at the New Msasani Club from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm, this cypher has been going on for a year and a few months now. The entrance fee of 1500/=Tsh is affordable even for broke hip-hop supporters and artists.
Initially, Tamadunimuzik was named the CultureMuzik when it was co-founded by Duke Tachez, Lindu, Nash Mc and Den Texas at Kinondoni Biafra, the former location of M Lab studios, where the first event of Kilinge was organized. In November 2012, the cypher shifted to the New Msasani Club. Today, Tamadunimuzik is an independent record label that includes a multiplicity of studios (both visual and audio), emcees, producers and other non-musician members. MCs are P The Mc, Nash Mc, Songa, Zaiid, One da the Incredible, Nikki Mbishi, Kad Go, Azma, Philly Technique, Ghetto Ambassador, more and myself. Tamadunimuzik also boasts of producers like Duke Tachez, Den Texas, Willie HD, Ray Tek No Hama, Palla, AK 47, D Classic, Lindu, Ngwesa, and Mecky Kaloka (Ngome Videos) and affiliate producers Kalulete, Troo, and Dabo.
Kilinge aims to preserve the elements and pillars of Hip Hop culture by creating a platform for emcees, deejays, graf writers, break dancers and other activists who have knowledge about Hip Hop Culture to exchange ideas with and educate the younger generation. It is not only an open-mic for aspiring emcees, it also serves as a marketplace for different hip-hop products for sale like t-shirts, mixtapes, albums, magazines, and books sold by Tamadunimuzik and other non-affiliated artists and independent labels.
However, Tamadunimuzik has been faced with a lot of challenges to achieve its mission for Kilinge. The biggest problem is shortage of funds to run the event effectively, and help develop and sustain other Kilinge in other regions apart from Dar es Salaam.
If you are in and around Dar es Salaam, got roughly a dollar or a Euro (1500 TZ shillngs) to spend, and love hip-hop, then you should come to New Msasani Club right next to the U.S. embassy, and see for yourself how we Tanzanians celebrate Hip Hop culture.
If you can’t make it, then check out our live stream: www.ustream.tv/channel/hiphop72.