It’s Shu time versus East African classic hits

BLARING Diamond Platnumz ’ latest hit, Shu along the Konoike Road in Mbezi Luis, Dar es Salaam, a youthful Bodaboda raider tears dust past Miti Miwili Bar as he speeds towards Magufuli Bus Terminal in his daily routine to ferry back home workers and travellers from the terminal.

His high-volume music is short-lived and didn’t disrupt Les Wanyika‘s classic hit,Amigo which, together with Sina Makosa and Afro, are favourites at the bar and thousand of others across East Africa.

Diamond’s new release is trending now and it has come into the limelight less than a month after Mbosso had taken over the podium with Amepotea.

Shu has wholly or partially removed Aslay’s Arejee, is also a recent trend.

Prior to the comeback of both Mbosso and Aslay, Diamond took over the Bongo Flava helm with Yatapita which, as per a situation in Dar es Salaam, it challenged the dominion of Zuchu’s Nani.

Bodaboda riders are trendsetters of Bongo Flava music and its musicians, especially in big Tanzanian cities like Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, and Mbeya.

“Bodaboda riders will fast bring to the audience the music that trends and they are the one who remove it fast by bringing the new releases,” noted Mwenge Jazz vocalist Hussein Mtamile at Dagaa Dagaa Bar, Ubungo Kibo where his band performs every Saturday.

Bongo Flava hits rank high in local and regional charts, yet experience shows that these productions enjoy status just briefly because people soon get tired of listening to them.

Serious thinkers, however take that as a sign of achievement that shows an abundance of talents and opportunities to produce hits.

“What others might see it as a problem, Bongo Flava artistes ‘come and go’ almost immediately, without maintaining or sustaining their fame.

This in one way or another means there is a stiff competition for both appeal and market,” commented Ally Yahaya, the former trumpeter with DDC Mlimani Park Orchestra and Mwanza-based Les Kamanyola.

The majority of youthful music fans in Dar es Salaam and other parts of Tanzania believe that if other artistes wouldn’t come up with new innovations, popular Bongo flava hits such as ‘Nikusaidieje by Professor J, Awena by Kassim Mganga, Dar Mpaka Moro by Juma Nature could be still aired today.

“They were once very popular on radio and television stations. It is not surprising, they are no longer appealing today because others like Diamond, Alikiba, Marioo, Zuchu or Nandy have taken over the podium,” he adds.

Bongo flava megastar Ali Kiba, was once quoted as saying: “The country had only one radio station in the past, but today there is an opportunity on different radio and television stations to play music on.””

With all that, there are a score artistes who deserve recognition as their works helped to reshape Bongo Flava into universal appeal and create the track road for their disciples.

New hits being recorded by Bongo flava artists, seem to be released almost daily. However, the problem is that the artistes of the new hits ‘come and go’ almost immediately, without maintaining or sustaining their fame.

By contrast, Les Wanyika ‘s golden trio; Sina Makosa, Afro and Amigo continues to dominate stages, especially in Bar, Hotels and wedding ceremonies and other social events for town folks.

At the moment the three classic hits continue to dominate in dance halls all over East Africa where Swahili language is spoken.

Saturday night in Dar es Salaam from wherever you are, you won’t miss the Les Wanyika trio being played and to accompany them most often are tunes of ‘Rangi ya Chungwa by Nyanyembe Jazz, ‘Georgina,’ a well-known rhumba Nawashukuru Wazazi beat by Marijan Rajab, by Mlimani Park Orchestra, all are today aged over 40 years.

The surprise package in the gallery of the region’s golden hits is Sauti Sol whose hit, Suzana is the ‘youngest’ classic hit todate.

It has been widely played by many bands as classic music despite being a aged less than ten years.
Though old, these classic hits and many other oldies continue to capture easily the ears of music fans.

“Yes, our old hits constituted very good music, they continue to win the hearts of town folks, unlike that of today,”

Amani Temba, popularly known as Mheshimiwa Temba, from Wanaume TMK Group, once said some Bongo artistes themselves, are to blame because of their habit to play irrelevant themes.

“If you sing a song portraying love, everyone is touched in one way or another. But if it is on imaginary themes, then you will not last,” he said during his heydays in the early 2010s.

A decade ago, FM Academia of Dar es Salaam toured a county in the Arabian peninsular on invitation from music enthusiasts.

Prior to traveling there, they were dully told by the promoters that their tour won’t get due recognition if they don’t include Swahili classic song in their repertoires.

‘Rangi ya Chungwa and Sina Makosa were top priorities as per the promoter’s directive.

Played and recorded by Radio Tanzania studios, Rangi ya Chungwa as well as ‘Georgina,’ composed by Marijani Rajab in 1973 while with Safari Trippers, are currently top placed Swahili classic hits.

A survey done in Dar es Salaam’s popular dance halls has noted a big demand of the mentioned the aforementioned classic hits.

“I remember composing the song in 4/4 time signature. My fellow singer and I did the vocal in C major key,” said Kitambi who traveled all the way from Kigoma to fight for his composition rights after the song was copied and re-recorded by Arusha-based band, Serengeti Band.

He said Rangi ya Chungwa which he composed soon after joining Nyanyembe in 1973 talks about a school love affair with an orange-skinned beauty.

Les Wanyika are back to the game after over four decades in obscurity.

Les Wanyika band owns three classic hits; Sina Makosa, Afro and Amigo and all three dominated the airplay for over three decades.

As explained by the band’s trumpeter, Sijali Zuwa they were forced to regroup after finding many fraudsters who have been masquerading as Les Wanyika and riding on their fame.

“There are many people who don’t know our faces, some even think we are all dead, but I assure you we are here and ready to thrill our fans,” said bassist Tommy Malanga in an interview with Kenyan media outlets.

“We are back due to public demand, though as a band we have not played in 24 years, our songs have grown stronger than ever,” added Zuwa, the band leader.

“Les Wanyika is an evergreen band we make classic hits.”

The youngest member of the band, 25-year-old, John Sappy who handles the rhythm guitar like Professor Omary Shaaban.

The iconic band initially comprising members from Tanzania and Kenya came to life when drummer Rashid Juma, guitarist Omar Shabani, bassist Tommy Malanga, trumpeter Sijali Zuwa and Joseph Justy left the Simba Wanyika Band.

They were joined by guitarist John Ngereza and vocalist Issa Juma.

However, the death of band leader, John Ngereza in 1998 broke up the ensemble.

Four of the founding members are now deceased.

“During our times, we didn’t have any structures in place and the death of a band leader meant the death of the group as well,” said Zuwa.

As Zuwa puts it, their comeback was due to public demand.

The news les Wanyika consists of trumpeter Sijali Zuwa, bassist Tommy Malanga, trumpeter, Bernard Kilindo, lead guitarist Albert Oguro, rhythm guitarist John Sappy, drummer Msabaha Zuberi, vocalists Rama Kocha, Charles Obala, Rajab Kadima and percussionist Hassan Muhammed.

•Miguel Suleyman is a Tanzanian ethnomusicologist based in Dar es Salaam

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