TZ @ 60: The rich history of music and entertainment in Tanzania



Dar es Salaam. The new generation music “Bongo Flavor” has now gained popularity and earns artists millions of shillings compared to their past counterparts.

Before the country’s independence, group music and orchestra dominated the entertainment industry over other forms of entertainment like taarab, nightclubs, cultural dances, and cinemas.

History shows that dance music began in the 1930s in Dar es Salaam, where most bands come from, and is still popular in Tanzania, although young people are more likely to listen to music. bongo flava or other forms of pop music.

Bands like Nuta (at the time), Western Jazz, Mlimani Park (later known as DDC Mlimani Park), Dar es Salaam International, Kilwa Jazz, International Orchestra Safari Sound, Maquis du Zaire (later Maquis Original ) and the Makasy group were well known by people of different age groups.

Other notable groups were Super Matimila and Vijana Jazz, Morogoro Jazz, Cuban Malimba, Tabora Jazz, Kimulimuli, WashirikaTanzania Stars, Bantu Group, Polisi Jazz and many more.

Besides entertaining, the groups, through their songs, were educational and promoted modern agriculture, health and other things in society.


After Tanzania’s independence in 1961, a sponsorship system was introduced by the government of the late Julius Nyerere, whereby groups would be supported financially by government departments or other national institutions.

One of the main groups of the time was the Nuta Jazz Band, now known as Msondo Ngoma.

At the same time, the bands are gradually managed as companies owning instruments, and musicians considered as employees, who receive salaries.

NUTA Jazz Band was one of the first groups to adopt this model.

Group music dominated the market while taarab followed suit. There were famous taarab groups like Cultural Music Band founded in 1958 with famous song like Wahoi.

There was also a famous taarab group like the Egyptians and famous musicians like Siti Binti Saad, Bi Kidude to name a few.

Basically, entertainment revelers had to choose either group music or taarab for recreation, despite the fact that there were also nightclubs that were normally considered for young people.

The entertainment industry continued to grow, and many government and private institutions formed their own groups to create more jobs.

Musicians like Mbaraka Mwinshehe, Marijani Rajab, Omari Kungu Baya, Ahmed Kipande and others laid the foundation for dance music in the country.

A famous band, Bima Lee, was created by the National Insurance Corporation and whose famous musicians were then known.

Bima Lee musician Jerry Nashon aka Dudumizi was well known in the late 70s and 80s with his famous Mesenja number.

There were other groups including Tancut who was based in the Iringa region. The group also had twin brothers Kasaroo Kyanga and Kyanga Songa who catapulted the group into popularity with their Safari song Siyo Kifo and many more. There were also other groups including Urafiki Jazz under the direction of the late Juma Mrisho Feruz aka Ngurimba wa Ngurimba and Mwenge Jazz.

The rivalry between one group and another has spiced up the entertainment industry and accelerated the development of the sector.

For example, Orchestra Safari Sound (OSS) with King Kikii then the late Ndala Kasheba were rivals with Orchestra Maquis du Zaire under the late Tshinyama Chianza; Juwata Jazz (Msondo Ngoma) was against DDC Mlimani Park. Groups have spiced up the development of music and created jobs.

Group music revolutions

In the 1980s, there was a famous band The Kilimanjaro aka Wana Njenje who did a tremendous job of promoting the country’s music abroad.

The band was previously known as The Love Bugs, then known as Revolutions and moved to Dar es Salaam, where there was stiff competition from older bands. The group has started performing in the best hotels and tourist centers in Arusha and Dar es Salaam.

In 1989 the group toured London and changed their name to the current name. The group released their debut album known as Kata Kata, in which their song known as Njenje became their nickname “Wananjenje”.

In London, the Kilimanjaro Band has performed with great African artists like Baaba Maal and Sam Mangwana.

The group toured Japan in 1992 and 1994 to become the first group to perform in famous hotels.

In 1997, The Kilimanjaro Band released their second album ‘Maua’. With Nyota Waziri’s female vocals now adding more flavor to the album, the album continued to sell despite rampant piracy still plaguing the music industry in Tanzania. However, in 1999 the group spent time performing at various hotels in Tanzania, Muscat and Bahrain to win the hearts of many revelers. In 2000, the band released their best-selling album to date, “Kinyaunyau”. The song contains works of art with influences from different ethnic groups in Tanzania. It was followed in 2005 by ‘Gere’. The Kilimanjaro Band has won several awards, including the 2000 Best Band M Net Award and the 2001 Kibo Gold Best Band Award.

The group is well known for its mduara (circle) dance style, which is very common to many ethnic groups in Tanzania and Africa. A UK tour in July and August 2004 proved that the band also had many fans outside of Tanzania.

Besides Njenje, the Super Matimila Orchestra conducted by Ramadhan Mtoro Ongala (DR Remmy) performed at the Womad (World of Music and Dance) festival in Reading, England, in 1988.

The late Ongala started making studio albums in England with Real World, which released “Songs for the Poor Man” in 1989 and “Mambo” in 1992, both albums contained songs in English as well as Swahili.

During the 1990s, Ongala and his band toured Africa, Europe and the United States.

Later, Twanga Pepeta toured the Scandinavian countries in 2005 and released a special album known as Safari. The group also participated in the Muscat Sultanate Music Festival in the mid-2000s.

New generation music

In the 1990s, there was the existence of young musicians who participated in various music concerts in Dar es Salaam. A group like Four Crewz Flavor was famous then.

Famous places were Empire Cinema, Korean Cultural Center, and Starlight Hotel in the city center.

There were other bands like Kwanza Unit which had famous musicians including Fresh G, Dar Young Mob, Untouchable. In addition, solo artists like Saleh Jabir played their part.

The musicians took part in a famous music concert known as Yo Rap Bonanza, which was normally reserved for hip hop musicians.

Since then, the music has grown in popularity and has inspired many young artists to get involved. Some groups formed after the Yo Rap concert including Weusi Wagumu Asilia (WWA) and Hard Blasters of which the famous musician, Professor J was one of their members.

Others were Diplomatz, Gangwe Mob, Mabaga Fresh, Fun with Sense, Manzese side connection (Manzese crew) and others. The music grew and caused other groups like TMK to form under Juma Kassim aka Nature to change the direction of dance music.

It is a fact that the musicians of Bongo Fleva countered criticism from music lovers and were called thugs because of their dress.

There were some fleva bongo performers who didn’t reach their goals and jumped while others stood firm to develop their careers and then started to beat band music.

Musician Judith Wambura also gained popularity with her group Machozi after recruiting various musicians like Jonico Flowers and others.

Also on the list were Banana Zorro, Bob Ludala and others.

Many music lovers may still remember Bongo Fleva Nice artist Lucas Mkenda aka Mr Nice, who played a role in promoting Bongo Fleva music at home and abroad.

His songs like Kikulacho aka Kuku Kapanda Baiskeli, Kidali Po, Fadilia were loved by my people from different age groups.

Mr. Nice was the icon of Tanzania during his prime time.

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