Saturday, November 26, 2011

TEDxDAR 2011: Msafiri Mzawose

Talking about culture now: Msafiri Zawose is a musician from a family of musicians, at least a second generation performer himself. I am listening to his take on the history of culture in Tanzania, stating that under Nyerere culture was supported by the state. Especially traditional music. His father, Hukwe Zawose, was a world-reknowned musician who had many recordings, he was also one of the first musicians to teach traditional music at the Bagamoyo School of Arts. Hukwe Zawose passed away in 2003, but as part of his legacy he left behind 18 children- some of whom have followed in his footsteps.

I actually got to see Msafiri Zawose perform with some other family members at a Pen&Mic event, and his music is lovely. He pointed out that music is dynamic when asked how he differed from his father, in that it keeps up with the times without necessarily departing from its roots. Currently traditional forms of art including music are struggling, in large part because the government hasn't been interested in traditional arts since Nyerere gave up the throne.

It has to be said: he has a point. We're at the National Museum and I can't claim with any honesty that the government has put much effort into curating what few displays it has. There is that sense hanging about the air of- this is nice... but it could be so much bigger and better if somebody actually cared. However, Msafiri's observations have raised a question: would it be possible to stimulate some kind of commercial interest in traditional music? Can consumers, in this particular case, bring Zinjanthropus back to life?

Excuse me now, Msafiri is playing a song about modern life accompanying himself on the illimba and I want to really get into those Gogo harmonies. Familiar as they are, it's a hard sound to hum along to, and try as I might I can't get that ka-inbetween beat down...

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