Early this week I heard a beautiful Swahili masterpiece specifically composed for our dear President John Magufuli. Back in -- Mwalimu Nyerere, Sheikh Karume -- days, musicians wrote song after song in praise of our leaders, policies and the party. There was no questioning or difference of opinion. It was considered normal. The old adage that art serves the ruling classes was used to the hilt, appropriately, or as they say in Latin: proprius...
Salum Abdala the Morogoro musician (who died in 1965) is recognised as one of our best national “singers of praise.” He not only applauded efforts for Uhuru, he sang for the women, for progress and of course Mwalimu Nyerere and the Union with Zanzibar.
Listen to the chorus of the best eulogy to Tanzanian women. You think he would just talk about the ladies? Only ladies? Wrong.
“Wanawake ! Tanzania!
Warembo ! Tanzania!
Motomoto ! Tanzania!
Wanawake ! Tanzania!
Maendeleo ! Tanzania!
Miaka Mitano! Tanzania!...”
Miaka Mitano is reference to the 1961- 1966 Five Year Plan. The man is aware of the policies as well as beauty and gender of the young nation. Would you hear that verse interplay in 2019? Tell me...
In 1970s, all bands were doing it. Kilwa Jazz, Dar Jazz, Kiko Kids, Tabora Jazz. Leading was the talented Mbaraka Mwinshehe whose signature is the “positive lyric.”
Consider how this other Morogoro star, attended the International Trade Fare in Osaka, Japan (Expo 70)... and returned with a big tune. Not only telling us what happened. How Tanzania was represented. How grateful he is, how Mzee Morris the blind percussionist shone with his ten drums, etc...
Two years pass and, Mwinshehe offers a poignant eulogy for Xmas 1971, Dr Kleruu’s assassination:
“O Dokta Kleruu...
Ukalale salama Kiongozi wetu shujaa.”
Marijani Rajabu, the oily Dar singer, has to be mentioned. Check out his tune with Dar International, same decade.
“Nyerere, wa kwetu Watanzania
Ndiye nguzo yetu wote wananchi...
Remmy Ongala, exiled and eventually top class citizen musician had a huge Nyerere praise song in mid 1990s. The Swedish film maker, Jan Roed, repeats the piece in a London Channel Four documentary of 1996-97. Kicks off with a “Nyerere!” yell.
Not only were band composers doing it throughout the decades, ngoma songwriters joined. The Union with Zanzibar is re edited into a Mawindi dance song of the Nyaturu.
“Simba Anguruma Bara na visiwani...”
A traditional tune about harvest, food and feasts turned into a policy anthem. That is how it was.
Then...da –da- dang!
Enters Bongo Flava and the Millenials- keen to change things. With Sugu (then known as Mr Two) down to the now famous household names: Diamond, Lady JD...I cannot recall them doing what Salum Abdallah and Mwinshehe and Ongala were doing. Simply praising. Being partisan. They are coming from the hip hop , creative, thinking poetry. Rappers question and ask and speak up... however, I do not know a big praise chant Mwinyi, Mkapa, Kikwete or Magufuli...it might be there, but it does not stand out, as brightly as say, Salum Abdala’s “Wanawake wa Tanzania Wazuri Sana...”
The new generation loves smooching and gyrating and what else? Being a frog and teasing an area called Nyegezi. While these guys turn millionaires before they are 30- Michael Enock (Dar Jazz) and Mwinshehe died, pennilessly, bleeding. Fruits of ancestors.
This is the era of multi parties. Where opposition leaders flaunt and speak openly without fear that was abundant in the 1970s.
London HAS A SONG about President Magufuli.
It is still unreleased - with many verses. Swahili singer- songwriter, Fab Moses has said he wants the President to know WE ARE BEHIND HIM. In 2015 he wrote Kanyaga praising CCM and Magufuli’s election victory. Fab Moses’s vocals are superb. In fact we could compare Fab Moses to the late Marijani Rajabu. Apart from sing-praise the new composition is about the opposition and corruption.
“Magufuli Twende kazi tu tusifate ya mafisadi
Kwao wanakuona mbaya pale Bandarini sasa mambo Safi
Kwa kuwa wanakuona huna makontena dili ukayazuia
Kwao wanakuona hufai...
Shamba la Bibi ukalizuia Zile ndege wajiulize zatoka wapi...”
People must question why such a song. Why praise the nation’s leader. Perspective is key here. As we approach 20 years... Many been watching Mwalimu Nyerere’s videos online. In Reverence. During his time, Mwalimu was ridiculed and feared. We humans lack perspective...
We only see the front of our noses. We are incapable of seen substance. Only death seems to wake us up. The perception of Magufuli right now may be partly be compared to those Mwalimu days. We are moaning and using the word Dictator. London based Fab Moses’s tune which will soon reach our radios, reminds us to see the germ in our midst and stop whinging.