Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Laid back in the city of Peace: Dar Es Salaam Jazz Band (restored)

There is a strain of tv reality show, at least down under, in which neighbors encroach upon each other’s property then threaten them with court action in loud voices. Neighbors from Hell. Monster Neighbors.

Its funny how people who live in such proximity can’t stand each other and want to kill one another from time to time. Of course, this is human nature and the micro-reality of individuals is writ large on the world stage. Pakistanis and Indians are basically the same bunch and live cheek to jowl yet have gone to war several times.  Yugoslavia was once one country. Now its 4 with hardly a nice word passed between the once former neighbors, spouses and friends. 

For some years East Africa was the main hub of my life. I lived in Kenya and then a couple years later spent six months (which actually seemed like 2 years) in the Rwandan refugee camps around Lake Victoria in the northeast part of Tanzania.  For people who speak the same language (Swahili) and share a common colonial and ethnographic background, you’d be hard pressed to find two countries with more different attitudes than Kenya and Tanzania.

To grossly over-generalise Kenya always struck me as a country and a people still chafing from the colonial past. Relations between the ‘races’, (various Bantu peoples, Indians, Europeans, Arabs) were functional but never really cordial. Skins were thin and people fast to complain or criticise the others. Sullen was how I remember many Kenyans.  Of course, in recent years there has been much inter-tribal warring and bloodletting. I once saw a movie in Nairobi, Mississippi Masala, which touched upon the expulsion of Asians from Uganda by Idi Amin. Throughout the film,  in scenes where Indians were insulted or humiliated, loud cheer, jeers and clapping erupted.

During my (admittedly short) time in Tanzania, Kenya’s southern neighbour, I never got that Kenyan feeling.  Tanzanians seemed completely laid back and ‘cool’ with the way their country was (quite a bit more underdeveloped than Kenya). The Indian (and Iranian) business people I talked with seemed relaxed and didn’t badmouth the ‘Africans’.  Whether this is a fair conclusion or not, it made the time in Tanzania extremely ‘groovy’ and it is a country I’ll always remember fondly.

Dar Es Salaam Jazz Band

Today I share a slice of musiki wa danzi (Swahili: dance music) from one of Tanzania’s premier and most influential bands, Dar es Salaam Jazz. Tanzanian musiki wa danzi was the local interpretation of Congolese soukous and rumba mixed with indigenous influences and rhythms. The leading light of Dar es Salaam Jazz was one Michael Enoch a guitarist (and later) sax and trumpet player who founded many a band and mentored many of Tanzania’s musicians. He joined Dar es Salaam Jazz in 1960 guiding it to the number one position in a hot Dar music scene where inter-band rivalry, like in Kinshasa, was fierce.  In the 80s he co-founded Tanzania’s best known big band, Milimani Park Orchestra.

The sound of this music is gentle, understated and subtle. Very laid back, like the country.

            Track Listing:
Vyombo No.1
Vyombo No.2
Dora Acha Kutangatanga
Fitina Niyingi
Mpenzi Maryna
Mpenzi Sema
Mpenzi Una Nini
Mpenzi Usemayo
Rafiki Juu Ya Mlima
Selina Ana Nini Leo
Tulinde Kenya
Viongozi Wa Afrika


guillermo said...

from here in mexico city, i have been following -for more than a year- washerman's dog steps, and certainly enjoying your careful and generous projection. thanks a lot, and receive my sincere best wishes for your enterprise.

Anonymous said...

Nice. It brightens up the rain in Sydney.

ajnabi said...

@ guillermo.
Gracias! From Down under!

ajnabi said...

@ anonyous

Apurva Bahadur said...

Thank you Ajnabi. Apurva from Pune, India.

Bhowani said...

Thank you for your writings...and the Music..

You are quoting the name of this Tanzanian Big Band..Is it jazz ? I'll do some researches. Thank you for stimulating my interest !

ajnabi said...

Bhowani, you are welcome. It is African jazz which is often a term used for 'westernized' music. But it is excellent!

soukousman said...

Can you repost the link please??

Nathan Rabe said...