Friday, September 17, 2010

Music and Politics: Tanzania

Last week, President Goodluck Jonathan used Facebook to declare his intention to run for office. I thought it wasn't the most presidential of platforms, but thanks to Manuel Manrique for pointing out this informative post on the Africa Works blog.

It appears that Goodluck isn't the only one who is being innovative in his use of media. Last week, I was handed a CD full of political tracks in support of CCM. Political music is hardly news, I know. What makes this Vijana Zaidi effort interesting is the fact that the CD has re-recordings of popular songs done by the artists themselves. You read that right: the artists re-recorded their own creative works with CCM-positive messaging instead of the original lyrics. So Bongo Flava, which used to be the art form of urban youth protest and political consciousness, has been co-opted by The Establishment.

Since the tunes are catchy and familiar, the CD works on a subliminal level making it a brilliant piece of marketing. I had a whole spiel prepared about independence, integrity, art and politics, but life is too short. If the big time BongoFlava artists want to be part of the state propaganda machine, I'm sure they have thought through all the consequences for their subsequent careers. On the flip side, the always brilliant EATV Channel Five has started up a youth talk show centered around the elections called Uchaguzi Express Live- Mondays and Thursdays at 9:00 pm hosted by Modesta Mahiga. Today's topic was the media's contribution to the elections.

One thing is for sure: this election is nothing like the previous one. People are interested in policies and manifesto rather than parties and personalities. TAMWA, HakiElimu and Policy Forum are only three of the NGOs that have put out non-partisan messaging encouraging citizens to vote. Every political discussion makes clear that negative campaigning is unwelcome, and CCM's inexplicable reluctance to join in political debates organized by media organs is undermining its public image.

41 days to go and counting...


  1. two words: Kelley Askew.

    Otherwise, I bumped into the guy who appeared to be the main man for the chadema cd. Overheard him say "well what can I do? The party has no money!"

    In the interests of balance, they do have II Proud whose Ndani ya Bongo whose 96 or 97 release Ndani ya Bongo still represents the Bongo Flava peak. Nice guy too.

  2. I have been disappointed myself with some of these BongoFlava artists for doing what they're doing. Its almost like a BIG contradiction, of what they rap about and what they do (Prof Jay can you hear me).

    I have no problem if a certain artist a member of CCM and whats to support, but this things of being bought and selling, just doesnt sit well with me. But like what the previous person said, it comes down to money. CCM has the money, and most of these bongoflava artist want that money.

    I guess it all comes down to principles, if you hold you ground and firmly stand for your principles, then you say NO to CCM money, but most artists have proven to us that they are nothing but hypocrites & easy.

    I am done listening to some artist, done done done. They are done just like the party they are singing for. I guess using these artists is CCM initiative to lure the youths to vote for them. They want to paint themselves with this image of, caring for the youth, but we have seen through it, only unfortunately its only a few of us.

    I better end here before I start naming names of some of these bongoflava artists who have made the deal with the ..................

  3. Mh. I am not principally opposed to musicians having clear-cut political agendas, but there is something quite breathtaking about being coopted en masse by any political party don't you think?

    Oh well. There's a couple of happy hotel employee in Bububu who are getting their CCM-Flava audio fix in the run-up to the election.


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