Sega mystery urges revisit of slave routes

NASEEB Abdul Juma a.k.a D i a m o n d Platnumz baffled global music analysts when his collaboration with three Congolese artists; Innossy B, Fally Ipupa, and Koffi Olomide raked in over 465 million views worldwide.

In that aspect, the unknown Innocent Balume became a megastar after his Yope Remix he collaborated with Diamond hit over 208 million views, while Inama, his duet with Fally Ipupa, has drawn over 135 million views and he completed his onslaught with Koffi Olomide to produce Waah which has so far fetched over 122 million views.

In bold, Diamond’s collaboration with the Congolese megastars brought East African Coast’s Segere to Kinshasa and the whole forest of music fans reacted to it approvingly.

This somehow gives a picture of why Koffi Olomide’s styled music has been an edge over the rest of Congolese music idols; Zaiko Langa clan, Wenge Musica, or Viva la Musica as he is artistically mirrored in all three acts.

Koffi Olomide, whose motherland is Kisangani in Eastern Congo, was once labelled a strange Congolese musician with a strange name by the then Zaireans when he made a crossover appeal in the early 1990s upon the release of Papa Bonheur in the early 1990s which brought him to global attention.

Did he really play strange music? That could be for the Congolese to query, but not to the music lovers in Kenya and Tanzania where his music was and is well understood and adored today as it retains and maintains the linear notes and subtlety commonly seen in East Africa’s Swahili music.

‘Mousokousokou’ which Koffi dueted with Papa Wemba remains among the seminal works that retain allegiance with folk music played by Batetera tribes of the Eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With Beniko Popolipo’s Fender Stratocaster dictating terms in the song’s rhythm, Koffi Olomide and Papa Wemba seemed to have artistically included what Tanzanians note in Manyema folk music as both originated from the home of Malinga dance but named Kisonge by the Tabora Jazz master guitarist, Shem Kalenga. Le grand Mopao, as he is popularly known, Koffi Olomide, and his Quartier Latin band seemed to be omnipresent in all the three projects Diamond Jubilee executed with the Congolese megastars.

In Yope Remix, the suave guitar that brightened sounded like Beniko Popolipo’s Fender Stratocaster guitar tone found in likes of ‘Micko’, ‘Mousoukousoukou’, or ‘Mbirime’. What ‘Yope Remix’ would look if Koffi Olomide had added, in his rich baritone? Nakobanga binu tee nakobanga Nzembe na Ngai.. Aleluya or Ba Petit ya Kimpwanza ba schengen na rond point Mandela, suka nzile suka nzile mwana….. Ba Beniko Zero Faute… in Inama? …the added flavours will add the usual colours in them.

These popular Koffi flavours could have added some colours to Yope Remix whose suave guitar dwells on 2nd and 3rd octaves and seemed to beckon Beniko Popolipo’s Zebola rhythm style. In fusing Swahili music with Kinshasastyled genres, Diamond has brought Indian Ocean (Dar es Salaam) flavours to the Atlantic Ocean and the two genres matched well.

It is Segere to Tanzanians but to Congolese and other members of Francophone countries, the Indian Ocean music genre goes by Sega and it is well known in French-speaking countries.

Popularly known as Bi Kidude, the Zanzibar music legend, Fatuma Bint Baraka was more popular in Francophone countries than in Anglophone countries despite being a British subject as a Zanzibari.

It is baffling why the French adored her as she frequently toured France and Belgium for her music style that kept her distance from taarab whose Arabic-influenced maqamat scales to retain a pure Bantu look. ‘Muhogo wa Jang’ombe’ remains Bi Kidude’s most popular hit, which surprisingly respects the linear scales of the popular Indian Ocean music, Sega now widely known in FrenchSpeaking countries in terms of linear scales.

All the way from Mauritius, Denis Azor’s ‘Ala Li la’ made a huge global appeal in the 1990s as a Sega music masterpiece.

He and other Sega artists from the Indian Ocean helped Sega music to gain global fame and became the most popular music genre from the Indian Ocean Islands of Reunion, Mauritius, Comoro, Seychelles, and Madagascar. In an interview with one of the French magazines, Dennis Azor claimed Sega originated from Zanzibar and that can be justified by Bi Kidude’s ‘Muhogo wa Jang’ombe’ as it falls in the same linear notes with Azor’s ‘Ala li la’.

Five years later in 1997, Congolese rumba maestro, Papa Wemba took a long time looking at the face of Zanzibar’s legendary singer, Bi Kidude.

Though he didn’t disclose why he took a long time to look at her admiringly, unmistakably Papa Wemba thought Bi Kidude might be one of his lost sisters from one of the Eastern Congo tribes; Tetera, Bembe, Kusu, Bangubangu, Manyema, or Bware, the tribes whose ancestors were chief players in the slave trade routes coming to Zanzibar from western regions of Tanzania and Eastern parts of Congo DR. A Tetera himself, Papa Wemba thought Bi Kidude’s music influence might be from the Tetera with Franko Lwambo Makiadi, Luciana Demingongo, Koffi Olomide, and Ramadhani Mtoro Ongara(Dr Remmy) being the most notable figures.

Bi Kidude didn’t sing taarab, but her music was labeled Msondo, a women’s dance that aims to educate girls on the principles and manners of modest living as married women.

No trace of taarab in ‘Muhogo wa Jang’ombe’ as it lacked maqamat scales identified through its prolonged harmony (ghani ) and 2/2 or 3/2 meter. Shakira Saidi’s ‘Moyo Unalia Macho Yanacheka’ she released with Lucky Star Musical Club of Tanga in the early 1970s, best describes both the maqamat scales and the 3/2 meterstyled taarab. ‘Muhogo wa Jang’ombe’ which was later re-flavored by Judith Wambura (Lady JD) remains the model of what the Francophone world sees as Sega and Segere or simply Mwambao style to mean music from Swahili people of the East African coast. Bongo Flava, the music of the new generation that previously borrowed heavily from American pop, has been into what the French world terms as typical Sega, but it is Segere here as a music genre from Coastal Swahili mainly Zaramo of Dar es Salaam and nearby coastline and it has been widely played by Bongo Flavor performers in joyful events like weddings.

Among the best and most popular hits styled in Segere that French-speaking people might term it Sega, include ‘Aiyola’ performed by Harmonize, ‘Waache Waoane’ by Chege, and ‘Nasema Nawe’ by Diamond featuring Taarab Queen, Khadija Kopa as all these fall into 6/8 or 3/8 meter without a trace of maqamat influence.

Harmonize seems adept in Coastal Swahili Segere as his hit Happy Birthday has been doing well in expressing joyous occasions. Also worth to be considered in the Sega-Segere debate is the defunct Yamoto Band whose hits ‘Niseme’ and ‘Nitakupwelepweta’ take Segere very close to the Lizombe dance from the Ngoni tribe. …Nenda kalicheze Segere, Segere Mama Segere… sings Dogo Aslay in one of the Nitakupwelepweta verses.

Yamoto band’s works add a little complication since it temporarily removes Segere from the Wazaramo Wanyamwezi lineage. Almost fifty years now, Tabora Jazz early 1970s under the patronage of guitarists Shem Kalenga and Kassim Kaluona introduced the Segere Matata dance style and the band had sky-high fame through Dada Asha No 2 and Dada Remmy.

In one of the interviews, Kaluona, the band’s rhythm guitarist, said Segere Matata is the dance for the Nyamwezi chiefs and the genre is a fusion of Hiari ya Moyo(Nyamwezi) and Kisonge dance from Manyema land. Wafuma mwi Ikulu Mwangaruka mwana wa Ntemi.. alulu yaya… this has been a popular Nyamwezi traditional music song that needs close examination. Citing an example, Kaluona said, at Lumumba Hall in Tabora where the band was playing in the early 1980s, Dada Remmy released in 1973 was a seminal hit that equally blended the Nyamwezi-Manyema artistry.

Ten years later in Dar es Salaam with the reformed Tabora Jazz becoming Tabora Jazz Stars, the band’s guitarist Issa Ramadhan(Baba Isaya) claimed Sega and Segere Matata were one and came from Western Tanzania and the name is derived from Nyamwezi’s Masegesa, which normally serves like Kayamba or Maravane as it is called by Sega practitioners in Mauritius, Reunion, and Seychelles.

Baba Isaya issued his comments about Sega after Tshimanga Kalala Assosa’s composition ‘Mambo Bado’ became a huge hit in the early 1980s and that hit paraded the dance style he and Orchestra Makassy band paraded as Sega Dance.

In an actual sense, Orchestra Makassy’s ‘Mambo Bado’ missed some key elements of proto-Sega since what it parades is wholly or partially the Zaramo marching dance known as Mdundiko. “The beat and 6/8 meter responded well to Mdundiko, Coastal Wazaramo’s popular marching dance,” noted Baba Isaya in his interview with the writer who was then writing for the Express newspaper.

True Sega music was brought to Tanzania in 1978 by the then Seychelles Army Captain, David Filo, who teamed up with Mwenge Jazz members to record Aiyo Panga in the studios of Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam(RTD).

Like Segere, Sega is danced without the feet ever leaving the ground, instead, the rest of the body moves and that correspond well with Segua Segua, a dance style Tabora Jazz Band developed in the early 1980s.

For East Africans, especially Kenyans, Tanzanians, and Somali, Chakacha has been the name of a traditional music and dance style of the Swahili people in coastal areas of Kenya and Tanzania, originally associated with weddings and performed and watched by women.

In all three associated dances, women dress in very light, transparent clothing and have a belt around their waists for ease of movement. It has been very baffling to find where exactly Sega originated despite the presence of strong evidence that people who were enslaved and sold to Frenchmen to work in their sugar plantations came from Congo and some areas of Western Tanzania.

The puzzling resemblance is seen in the hipswaying dance movements of Chakacha which also bear some resemblance with both Congolese dances and the Middle East’s belly dance, mainly Persians(Shirazi) who intermarried with Zaramo in the 18th century.

To Wazaramo, the Persians were known as Washomvi and their influence is seen even today. Dar es Salaam’s Young Stars Modern Taarab with Siza Mazongela on lead vocal, almost single-handedly brought a modified Segere and created a new style in Dar es Salaam with her hit, “Segere Origin” in 2001. Oh Shabani Madobe kataka kumsola Imwana, Imwana naye kalema kasola migulu kabana…. The song was especially noteworthy for its 6/8 rhythm directly descending from Zaramo cultural traditions!

Akin to a similar synthesis of the same in Mchiriku–another modernstyle take on Zaramo musical traditions from Dar es Salaam. But Diamond featuring Khadija Kopa in Nasema Nawe strongly defends Zanzibar as the origin of Sega and is at par with claims echoed by Sega artists from both Reunion and Mauritius. Also worthy to consider in what declares that Sega was brought to the Indian Ocean by slaves taken from Western areas of Tanzania and the Eastern provinces of Congo is Clip Ultimatum released by Koffi Olomide and his Quartier Latin band in 1997.

Somono Parabilque’s Mbirime and Sheraton Sega penned by guitarist Felly Dimbedi Tyson best describe Koffi Olomide’s allegiance with music and folk dances of the tribes residing in Eastern Congo and the two songs tell it all. Guitarist Felly Dimbedi Tyson noted that Koffi Olomide’s source of inspiration is hardly known as Artistic Director, he does everything in making his music retain the form he wants.

“Koffi Olomide does everything in creating the real sound of Quartier Latin music. I have penned many songs and so did Sam Tchintou and Luzubu Suzuki, but the final product will retain Quartier Latin look at the end,” explained Tyson at the defunct Embassy Hotel in Dar es Salaam in 1998.

Listen to Sega’s hit titled Agatha by Warren Palmar and Heaven is worth listening to, but listen carefully to the opening guitar section and, it looks as if Koffi Olomde guitarists; Lebou Kabuya or Beniko did that guitar piece. In Alain Ramanisum’s La Reunion Le la you can notice Mbirime’s leading rhythm and so in Li Turner, a popular hit in Reunion since 2021.

Others like Mo Capitaine by Michel Legris, Mootia by Elijah, and Linz Bachotte seem to parade Muhogo wa Jang’ombe’s phraseology in vocal lineage. Though they identify their group as Chakacha from Comoro, their wedding song titled ‘Wawili Wapendanao’ seems to insist Sega originated from Swahili of the East African coastline.

That in general goes contrary to the reality as slaves from Western Tanzania and Eastern Congo were shipped to Reunion, Mauritius, and Seychelles after being bought at Zanzibar Slave Market, and Sega dance was not performed during their early tenure as slaves.

They were not given an opportunity to perform in Zanzibar or Bagamoyo, hence they left no trace of their music to Swahili coast dwellers.

JKT Taarab’s Patricia Hilal may somehow defend claims that Bi Kidude originated from a Zigua clan most notably of areas Pangani river and that can be highly connected through ‘Ni Mdodo’, a popular Tanga-styled taarab of the early 2000s.

Sega origin remains a puzzle and that urges a revisit of major routes that brought East and Central Africans to alien lands through the Indian and Atlantic oceans.

Do we really need a revisit? If you approach any East African for the comments, you will be told Acha Maneno Weka Muziki; Let the music play on.

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