I think its ridiculous that most Kenyans haven’t been to any or all East African countries yet we harbour dreams of traveling around the world. As I head over to Tanzania (TZ), can’t help and think how ridiculous it is that before this trip, I hadn’t got myself to visit my brother who works and lives in TZ. It’s even more ridiculous that my brother had to be on leave and back in Kenya on the weekend that I am finally scheduled to be in TZ. We end up missing each other.
It’s always exciting to be around Sauti Sol, working as their publicist and discovering new places while at it. For this trip, I am accompanying them additionally as tour manager to their premiere big TZ concert. I am particularly keen to juxtapose Kenya’s music entertainment business with that of TZ’s, while there.
We depart Nairobi on an early Saturday early morning and land in TZ’s coastal city of Dar es Salaam, a few hours later. After Ebola screening and paying for work permits, we’re in and immediately TZ feels like Kenya’s coast! Our hosts in TZ, Legendary Music, have organised a mini-press conference at the airport. They’ve got larger than life bouncers for each Sauti Sol member.
The celebrated lovely nature of Tanzanians “Bongo Love” and the old adage that TZ people are slow – starts right at the airport. The officers handling our work permits seem to take an eternity. They keep eyeing us curiously. By the time, the last of us, Savara, gets back his passport, the officers start to sing Soma Kijana. They all want to take pictures with Sauti Sol and welcome us affirming, “tumewakubali sana hapa Bongo.”
Traffic from the airport to town, Southern Sun Hotel (where we are staying over the weekend) is atrocious—quite similar to Jogoo Road’s mid-morning Saturday traffic. However, this is worse because of the heat synonymous to Mombasa’s. As the boys fall into sleep, I am listening to the radio blasting some dope Bongo Flavour while fascinated by how ugly TZ public transport vehicles (matatus) are. In comparison to Kenya’s hip javs, they have no sort of graffiti. But the way people are carried in excess, with some standing, is probably worse than in Kenya and only similar to route 36 -Dandora matatus.
It’s really great to arrive in a foreign country and immediately feel at home.
On arrival at the Southern Sun Hotel, we quickly freshen up and brunch. At the hotel’s Baraza restaurant, one of the chefs comes out to appreciate Sauti Sol, saying, “Hapa bongo tunawakubali sana! Kwanza ile nyimbo ya Shukuru ambayo mlifnaya na AY”. It’s so nice for the band to be away from home and be treated like they are home. Just as we are leaving the hotel, the chef desperately wants to know our schedule. I tell him every radio station we are headed to and he says the entire kitchen staff will tune in. He would later run up to me the next morning to say Thank You because he caught Sauti Sol on radio … Soon we are headed into town for the TZ version of Sura Yako Media Tour that kick-started in Nairobi.
We first head over to 100.5 Times FM where we meet the awesome DJ Dommy and TZ media personality C Da King. I really love the questions they throw at the band. But even more, I love how sweet their Swahili is articulated.
At a different station: Clouds FM, we do a couple of interviews and drops. However, we notice that it’s almost a ghost office. “Everyone went to Fiesta,” someone mentions to us. This is in recent times, TZ’s biggest gathering of music artists and fans, happening every weekend in different counties. Fiesta brings alive artists of all calibre and different genres of music. “Oh so that’s why, all radio ads either have Fiesta or Beauty & Music Night Show (where Sauti Sol is performing tonight),” I note to myself. While coming from Clouds FM, our chaperone, Richie, tells us about how big Fiesta is and how it has managed to include all sorts of music artists, even the upcoming lot. There is a live link on the radio and a reporter is interviewing a hip hop artist we’ve never heard of.
Reporter: “Ni kipi kipya ambacho unaweza ukawaeleza wale ambao wanakusikiliza nyumbani ili wafanye kuja Fiesta kuona show yako?” (What would you like to tell those listening regarding what they should come check you out at Fiesta?)
Rapper: “Yaani mimi kwa kusema ukweli siwezi nikataka kuchukua pesa yako kwa bure kwa hivyo nakusihi uje leo unione na nitakupa bonge la kiburudisho” (To be truthful, I don’t want to take anyone’s money for free, so I beg you all to come see me and I will give a performance truly worth your time and effort).
Only in TZ do you have rappers talking like angels. But as we would later find out, almost everyone in TZ really is an angel.
Look out for the continuation of this post: To Tanzania and Back: Why Bongo Music Rocks (Part II)