Just over a decade back popular music was just rap. There was no record label to sniff out talent. There was no record label to do project and manage potential artistes. However, two young men who had grasped the trends in the industry wanted to provide an opportunity for young artistes to grow, and thought out a fresh Clouds Media Group project.
Who am I describing here? Having been all over the world and known the tricks of the game, Ruge Mutabaha and Joseph Kusaga eventually decided to set up a record label known as Smooth Vibes. The year was 1999, and to date, the label is hailed as a ground-breaking success story for much of the genres of music and the talents behind them in the country.
The first record label, which set foot on the industry in 1999, has created flourishing music stars in various genres we have today.
“When we started, the aim was to look for potential musicians and to have a platform to support them, “says Ruge Mutabaha, Director of Strategy and Programming at Clouds Media Group.
At the time, he adds, the industry was not yet big so they never had anything to start with. He notes that people were doing hip hop largely, with examples of Prof Jay-which he notes was not bad but that they felt a need to broaden genres in the growing industry.
“So, we started with one artiste. The concept was, the first artiste pays for the next artiste etc, “he says. “The idea was to do projects, not management but we realized that artistes could not manage themselves, so we added the concept of management as well, “he adds.
Then, as the label sniffed out more local talent, Lady Jay Dee’s album was ready and people noticed the growth in artistes’ voice and the kind of music they did. “That was in 2001.The album was a huge success. It was the first singing album since, initially, everyone was rapping, “adds Mutabaha.
Fast rising and hotly tipped for international fame, Jaydee, became the forefront of the burgeoning Swahili ‘r’n’b’ scene. Recalling the first day when she realised that she has a great voice, Jaydee says she wouldn’t have gotten where she is today without the great help of God and recording Machozi at Smooth Vibes in 2001.
For a lady who has been singing for the past 10 years, her success is a telling insight of the stamp the record label has made on the industry. With the Label, then came Mr Paul, Ray C, Q Chief, Banana Zoro etc. He also notes that Smooth Vibes did the first Star Search in the country in 2002
The Label also found talents such as, Q Chief, Banana Zoro, Jay Mo and Mchizi Mox, known as Wateule. It was one of the biggest breakthroughs, for a thing done for the first time in the country. “From there, we expanded because the record label was meant to do projects, “he says.
They also went on to revamp old songs, for example, Patricia Hillary, Shikamo Matona, Mwanahela, Baba na Mwana, Seya between 2003 and 2004. “We also did the first gospel album that found Flora Mbasha,“adds Mutabaha. It was he who discovered Flora Mbasha and brought her out to the market.
At the time, he says, “We did something called the first Gospel Search in 2005. “ It is from here that Smooth Vibes continued with other projects like recording. “By 2007, the artistes we had started out with hard become so big, so we decided to stop for a while and do other things, “says Mutabaha.
He says the artistes became so big, so since they were aiming for a Television station at the time. “We did not want it to appear like we were only pushing for artistes that we had made because they were the ones who had taken over the industry, “he says, adding , “so we took a break. “
“I mean, the world would be so boring without competition. In fact, I get excited by fresh talent, because it gives the industry different genres of music to listen to, “he says. But he recalls that a record label was something that was needed at the time, he said, noting that now, many companies want to deal with artistes but they would prefer doing that through institutions.
Mutabaha notes, "The Smooth Vibes was beautiful experiences that availed young people with the opportunity to record and widen their fan base and have the chance to guide talented people to the right path.” Any advice to those in the industry?
"Stay focused and know what you want. Never let any negative energy put you down. As long as you know what you want, mark it as the beginning of getting to the top, "he says.
Kitangoma, How the little Mag grew big How kitangomas telling of the local music story contributed to the success of the Groups growing publishing stable. The varied output of the Kitangoma Magazine has a distinctive Kiswahili music sensibility. But it is sometimes difficult to characterize, which particular genre it concentrates on.
In its various editions, spanning a decade– there is an almost defiantly a diverse content and design aesthetic- with each edition different but similar in many interesting ways. Looking at the first edition ten years ago, to a fresh copy released recently,-combine that antiquated typography with a more modern taste for illustration and you come about as close as you can to defining the Kitangoma style.
According to different accounts, a sense of growth and survival is what the magazine represents. A true Swahili product that has stood the test of time in the last decade. While its focus is expanding, it’s an entertainment bi monthly publishing entertainment information of all areas such as music, beauty, style, dance, film etc mostly from the music industry with a touch of international content mostly from U.S and the U.K. Kitangoma concentrates on highlighting and promoting talent and the entertainment industry.
Having joined the market in 2001, to provide first hand compelling analysis of how the music industry was progressing, why it was the way it was, the turns through which Kitangoma has been are a telling example of where it is heading 10 years after.
At the time, it was being published in Dubai at M&M Graphics.
To many, Kitangoma was the most influential magazines to appear in the country as the century took a fresh turn. Largely through the high-quality articles and photos it pioneered, this publication opened up new vistas of cultural awareness and understanding of where Tanzania’s music was coming from, and perhaps would head.
The setting is in Dar es Salaam, in 2001.The Magazine industry did not have any Kiswahili publication. The audience, it seemed, had the thirst for a local analysis of the drastically growing music industry at the time. At a time when so much of conventional publishing was on its knees, ,hose who thought out the idea of the Kitangoma magazine knew they would have to roll out a product to revolutionalise the entertainment industry in a way that told its story, as it unfolded.
At the time, Kitangoma’s mission was to accurately depict the industry in which different cultures and genres were shaping out to move the industry forward, says Mr Balozi Kindamba, the operations manager for Clouds Media Fast forwad, over the years, Kitangoma has had notable "firsts, going on to win some awards too.
As it started out with 3000 copies in 2001,it eventually moved the numbers to 10,000 copies. It started in 10 regions but has now moved to 14 regions. Kindamba says the response from the readership was good from the start. The demand is high, we are improving it and we are flexible through getting peoples diverse opinions, he says.
He notes that for now, they want it to be more comprehensive, by exploring diverse angles so that they go with changing editorial times. It will be the sort of products that serves everyone’s needs, he says, adding that subsequent editions will see a shift in content. It was the first magazine in the country, so we did not expect any competition.
It’s very interesting that many magazines have started since then, but have not survived.Kitangoma has been able to survive. It’s the only Swahili magazine which has been able to survive. He says the challenge, at first, lay in soliciting for advertisement deals from companies, given that many decision makers in big companies are non Swahili speaking.
Therefore, we have decided that Kitangoma will be more comprehensive. He says editorial is going to focus on Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Congolese music and make comparisons on how far each country has moved in the music industry. But impressed by their work, he says, a growing number of corporate organizations eager for sponsorships to make things move, have shown interest as the product grows.
To a man like Kindamba, who has seen Kitangoma grow, says it is still idiosyncratic and driven, at least in its first decade, by its team. And there is this wholly optimistic conclusion: -we are going to do more creative, humorous, society and serious things in the product and grow further, he says