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Music of Tanzania

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

As in other countries, the musical production in Tanzania is constantly undergoing changes. Music listened to by Tanzanians today stretches from traditional African music or the string-based taarab to a distinctive hip hop known as bongo flava.

National anthem

The Tanzanian national anthem is Mungu Ibariki Africa (God Bless Africa), composed by South African composer Enoch Sontonga in 1897.[1] The tune is the ANC's official song and later became the national anthem of South Africa. The melody is also the national anthem of Zambia. In Tanzania, Swahili lyrics were written for this anthem. - Another patriotic song, going back to colonial times, is Tanzania, Tanzania.

Gospel music/choral music

Modern Gospel, in Swahili Muziki wa Injili, musicians include:

Bongo Flava/pop music

Bongo Flava is one of the newer Tanzanian genres, developed in the 1990s, and is a fusion genre. At its inception, Bongo flava was more heavily influenced by US Hip-Hop and Reggae, fused with traditional Tanzanian music styles. Today however, the sound has somewhat changed, oscillating from its central point -music sung in Swahili- to include a variety of music cultures and styles, and can be described as a fusion of Afrobeats, R&B, Reggaeton and Taraab. Its name denotes the Swahilisation of global music forms by incorporating Tanzanian musical and linguistic elements. By adding the 'Flava' (= flavour) of Bongo, the name was born.

The current trend among Tanzanian music consumers has started changing from international popular music towards favouring products from their local artists who sing in Swahili, the national language. Popular artists include Bill Nass, Vanessa Mdee, Diamond Platnumz, Harmonize, Mbosso, Jux, Alikiba, Navy Kenzo, Shetta, Ben Pol, Lava Lava , Dully Sykes, Rich Mavoko, Rayvanny, Whozu , Marioo , Darassa , Jay Melody , Nandy. Some of the best known producers include Tudd Thomas, Mesen Selekta, P-Funk Majani, Nahreel, S2Kizzy, Lizer classic , Abbah Process , Kimambo Beats, Bonga de Alpha, Blaq, Mr T-Touch, Daxo Chali and Mocco Genius.[2]

Traditional music

The more than 120 ethnic groups of Tanzania have developed a large number of specific traditional musical and dance styles with corresponding instruments. The Zaramo people, for instance, perform traditional dance, such as "Mitamba Yalagala Kumchuzi" on tuned goblet drums, tuned cylindrical drums, and tin rattles.

The multi-instrumentalist Hukwe Zawose, a member of the Gogo ethnic group, was the 20th century's most prominent exponent of Tanzanian traditional music. He specialized in the ilimba, a large lamellophone similar to the mbira.

Saida Karoli is a famous traditionalist Tanzanian female singer and performer, who sings in Haya. Karoli's music is described as natural with mellow vocals and hypnotically rhythmicism. Her songs Ndombolo Ya Solo or Maria Salome were huge hits in Tanzania and the countries around; she was nominated at the 2005 and 2006 Tanzania Music Awards in the Best Folk Album category[3] and for the Best Female Vocalist category.[4]


A mtindo (pl. mitindo) is simply a rhythm, dance or style identified with a particular band. Sikinde, for example, is associated with Mlimani Park Orchestra, and is derived from the ngoma (musical events held by the Zaramo). Some bands maintain the same mtindo throughout their career, while others change with new personnel or popular preference.


Taarab is a music genre popular in Tanzania and Kenya. It is influenced by the musical traditions of the African Great Lakes, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. Taarab rose to prominence in 1928 with the advent of the genre's first star, Siti binti Saad.

History of dance music

The first popular music craze in Tanzania was in the early 1930s, when Cuban Rumba was widespread. Young Tanzanians organized themselves into dance clubs and their bands, like the Dar es Salaam Jazz Band, which was founded in 1932. Local bands at the time used brass and percussion instruments, later adding strings. Bands like Morogoro Jazz and Tabora Jazz were formed (despite the name, these bands did not play American style jazz). Competitions were commonplace, a legacy of native ngoma societies and colonial beni brass bands.

Tanzania was influenced heavily after the 1960s with the influence of African and Latin music. Tanzanian soldiers brought back with them the music of these cultures, as well as Cuban and European music, when returning from World War II. These musical influences fused and brought together the Tanzanian people. Eventually the country and its people created its own style of music. This style, called "Swahili Jazz" is a mix of beats and styles of Cuban, European, Latin and African music. Swahili jazz gave Tanzania a sense of independence and togetherness as a country.

Independence came in 1961, however, and three years later the state patronage system was set up, and most of the previous bands fell apart. Musicians were paid regular fees, plus a percentage of the gate income, and worked for a department of the government. The first such band is the Nuta Jazz Band, which worked for the National Union of Tanzania.

The 1970s saw the popularization a laid-back sound popularized by Orchestre Safari Sound and Orchestre Maquis Original. These groups adopted the motto "Kamanyola bila jasho" (dance Kamanyola without sweating). Maquis hailed from Lubumbashi in southeastern Zaire, moving to Dar es Salaam in the early 70s. This was a common move at the time, bringing elements of soukous from the Congo basin. Kasalo Kyanga composed the 1985 hit "Karubandika", which was a popular dance song.

Popular bands in the 60s, 70s and 80s included Vijana Jazz, who were the first to add electronic instruments to dansi (in 1987) and DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra, led by Michael Enoch. Rivalries between the bands sometimes led to chaos in the scene, as when Hugo Kisima lured musicians from Mlimani Park and disbanded the wildly popular Orchestra Safari Sound in 1985, forming the International Orchestra Safari Sound. International Orchestra Safari Sound was briefly popular, but the Orchestra Safari Sound was revitalized by Nguza Viking (formerly of maquis), who became bandleader in 1991; this new group lasted only a year.

The most recent permutation of Tanzanian dance music is mchiriku. Bands like Gari Kubwa, Tokyo Ngma and Atomic Advantage are among the pioneers of this style, which uses four drums and a keyboard for a sparse sound. Loudness is very important to the style, which is usually blared from out-dated speakers; the resulting feedback is part of the music. The origin of the style is Zaramo wedding music.

Hip hop

After Tanzania gained its independence, the leaders of the country failed in their mission to produce a successful economy. Structural Adjustment Programs were put into place, which mimicked the same colonial practices that the country attempted to free itself from. Tanzanian youths turned to crime to survive. "It is not surprising that most Tanzanians viewed these conditions, especially the rise in crime, and the almost simultaneous rise or rap music, as a single phenomenon. The political establishment and older generation did not accept rap music or uhuni music- since it became synonymous with disruption and anti-social behavior. Yet for the younger generation, traditional Swahili music did not address contradictions of the ‘liberalized’ Tanzanian economy."[5]

In 1991, Tanzania hosted a hip hop competition called "Yo Rap Bonanza." While most rappers were performing American songs word for word; Saleh Ajabry, a Tanzanian, wrote his own Swahili lyrics to a song based on Vanilla Ice’s "Ice Ice Baby," and won the competition.[6]

Dar es Salaam's Kwanza Unit is the first Tanzanian hip hop crew, but technical limitations hindered commercial success. Mr. II and Juma Nature are the most famous Tanzanian rappers; Mr II's (then known as 2-Proud) "Ni Mimi" (1995) is the first major hit for the field. Groups like X Plastaz have moved away from American-style hip hop and incorporated Maasai vocal styles and other Tanzanian musics. Tanzanian hip hop is often called as Bongo Flava.

Global popular culture, particularly U.S. hip hop, has played a major role in influencing Tanzanian culture since its independence. This is most evident among Tanzanian urban youth, who have absorbed global hip hop music and produced their own varieties. With the increased mediatization of Tanzania in the 1990s, Tanzanian urban youth have had more access to hip hop music, and the incorporation of global culture has become more prevalent and visible in urban Tanzania, not only in the music, but also in fashion, food, dance, and sports.[7] Hip hop has essentially provided Tanzanian urban youth and young adults with a means of expressing themselves and forming an identity, such as the conceptual identity of msafiri (the traveler), a classic subject borrowed from Swahili lore, and a recurrent theme in Dar hip hop.[8] While Tanzania hip hop is influenced by American hip hop it is also distinctly localized. Whereas American Hip Hop is the product of black urban youth and heavily influenced by race, Tanzania bongo flava took root in the slightly better off part of the city with those that more access to the Western world. Furthermore, Tanzania hip hop artist saw themselves as distinct from American artists in that they focus more on economic issues and less on violence"[8]" Rapper Sam Stigilydaa put it poignantly when he said, "American rappers talk about crazy things-drinking, drugs, violence against women, American blacks killing blacks. I hope African doesn't turn crazy"[9] Because of the massive hip hop artist and fan base in Northern Tanzania's Arusha city, today this is termed as East Africa's Hip hop capital. Artists such as spark Dog Malik, JCB, Watengwa, Chindo aka Umbwax, Donii, Wadudu wa dampo, Jambo Squad, Nako-to-nako, Weusi, Nahreel[10] and many others who are heading Tanzania's hip-hop music are from this City.


Mbaraka Mwinshehe is the most popular and original musician of Tanzania, also there is a greater influx of musicians from the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), who were entering the country as refugees and made residence in the country. But in recent years, mainly from the mid-nineties, new generation of musicians has emerged and are coming up with popular tunes which are Tanzanian in composition. Bands like Twanga Pepeta have managed to carve a new tune distinct from imported Zairean tunes, and are competing with Zairean bands in popularity and audience acceptance.[citation needed]

Jah Kimbuteh is the first major reggae star in Tanzania, beginning his career with Roots and Kulture in 1985. Newer artists in the field include the Jam Brothers and Ras Innocent Nyanyagwa, who includes songs in Hehe and Swahili and uses indigenous rhythms.[citation needed]

At present, Ras Nas is considered as one of the most known reggae musician from Tanzania. Ras Nas combines reggae, afro and dub poetry. His latest release "Dar-es-Salaam" contains eight tracks.[citation needed]

Many musicians work in bands that play at a hotel, usually led by a keyboard and including a rock-based sound. The Kilimanjaro Connection is perhaps the most respected of these hotel bands, along with Bantu Group and Tanzanites.[citation needed]

Distribution and access to music

The mushrooming of FM music stations and reasonable production studios has been a major boost to the music industry in the country. Contemporary artists like Diamond Platnumz, Harmonize, Juma Nature, Nandy, Rayvanny, Ali Kiba, Lady Jaydee, Mr. Nice, Mr. II, Cool James, Dully Sykes, Professor Jay and many others command a huge audience of followers in the country and neighbouring countries.

More information about Tanzanian music and events can be found on the various web portals that have sprung up recently. Tanzania has an enormously high growth rate for internet technologies, estimated at up to 500% per year. Because costs for computers are still quite high, many users share connections at internet cafes or at business directory, Movie and Sports information, and Arusha locality information all are part of an increasing number of websites dedicated to the region. Digital Tanzania music downloads are mostly done by free download websites and music[11]platforms like iTunes, Google Music etc.

Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury, singer born in Tanzania
Freddie Mercury, singer born in Tanzania

Freddie Mercury, born Farouk Bulsara into the Indian Parsi community of Stone Town, Zanzibar, later moved to England and rose to worldwide fame as the lead singer, and a songwriter and instrumentalist, of the rock music group Queen. He died on 24 November 1991. Efforts to honour his life and work on the 60th anniversary of his birth were abandoned in September 2006 following the protests of a radical Islamic group on the archipelago, Uamsho, who said he had violated Islam with his openly gay lifestyle.[a] Mercury and the Bulsara family were Parsis from India—followers of Zoroastrianism, not Muslims.[14]

The Mercury House, a former home of the Bulsara family, opened as a souvenir store in Stone Town, Zanzibar, in 2002. It opened as a museum to Freddie Mercury on 24 November 2019.[14]

See also

Further reading

  • Graebner, Werner. "Mtindo – Dance With Style". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 681–689. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
  • Graebner, Werner. "The Swahili Coastal Sound". 2000. In Broughton, Simon and Ellingham, Mark with McConnachie, James and Duane, Orla (Ed.), World Music, Vol. 1: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, pp 690–697. Rough Guides Ltd, Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-636-0
  • Askew, Kelly M. Performing the Nation: Swahili Music and Cultural Politics in Tanzania. 2002. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-02981-6


  1. ^ Zanzibar criminalised gay and lesbian sex in 2004;[12][13] see also Islam and homosexuality.


  1. ^ Enoch Mankayti Sontonga,, accessdate 2020-1-22
  3. ^ "Kilitime". Archived from the original on 15 May 2006.
  4. ^ "Kilitime". Archived from the original on 10 November 2006.
  5. ^ Lemelle, Sidney J. "‘Ni wapi Tunakwenda’: Hip Hop Culture and the Children of Arusha." In The Vinyl Ain't Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 230-54. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Pres
  6. ^ AFRICAN HIP HOP IN TANZANIA – Highlights of a Conversation with Alex Perullo Archived 3 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine, 2005.
  7. ^ Remes, Pieter. "Global Popular Musics and Changing Awareness of Urban Tanzanian Youth." Yearbook for Traditional Music. Vol. 31 (1999), pp. 1–26.
  8. ^ a b Lemelle, Sidney J. "‘Ni wapi Tunakwenda’: Hip Hop Culture and the Children of Arusha." In The Vinyl Ain't Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture, ed. by Dipannita Basu and Sidney J. Lemelle, 230-54. London; Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press.
  9. ^ James Astil, "Tanzanian rap breaks free of past,' Guardian (London), 3 February 2001, P.18
  10. ^ "Aika & Nahreel". Retrieved 18 January 2020.
  11. ^ Dembi, Lola (3 July 2018). "Tanzania's Official music releases website, helping industry".
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 January 2008. Retrieved 8 March 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Africa – Zanzibar outlaws homosexual acts". BBC.
  14. ^ a b CNN, Lisa Cohen. "The world's first Freddie Mercury museum is on an African island". CNN. Retrieved 27 June 2020.

External links

This page was last edited on 14 June 2021, at 15:25
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