Dar es Salaam. Four weeks ago veteran singer Nguza Mbangu Viking and his son Johnson Nguza aka Papii Kocha were released from prison on a presidential pardon after they had spent over 13 years serving a life sentence.
This week, the family paid a courtesy call to the President at his Magogoni residence, it was something that they had longed for, and finally their wish was granted.
This did not sit very well with certain circles as they went on a rant on social media platforms.
Whatever the President discussed with his guests is something that we cannot delve into unless it is offered through the approved channels.
All that the public was made to understand was that they are ready to return to work as entertainers and that the President had given them the green light to return to work.
In his own words, the junior Nguza aka Papii Kocha said they were set to take dance music back to its glory days when they filled halls across the city.
Their return to music industry is one that their fans are eagerly waiting for given the pedigree that they once had prior to their incarceration with hit single Seya enjoying massive airplay.
The Nguza family’s views on what the industry has become isn’t very far from the truth, the genre is in tatters with nothing to show.
Times have changed indeed, the space that was once reserved for Nguza and co have long been taken over by some new kids on the block as Bongo Flava rules the roost.
The truth is that bands like FM Academia, Twanga Pepeta, Akudo and many others are struggling; they have been relegated to playing in dusty halls in the city’s periphery.
As valid as the Nguza’s claim of reinstating dance music to its rightful place could be , it remains interesting to know the route that they are likely to take in this era of social media.
But as many have observed before, dance music has probably been its own enemy in the past decade despite enjoying a massive following amongst what was the perceived middle class.
Creativity within these bands is questionable as the quick fixes that some of the bands have sought hasn’t worked; many are accused of being copy cats.
The realisation of this once protected fact drove most young fans away who were supposed to be the potential fan base for the future survival of the bands.
“For example when Akudo came with ‘Mapenzi Yako Wapi’, we realised that it wasn’t their own composition, all they did was to put in some Kiswahili words and with time fans learnt about the truth,” says himself as Rajab Juma, 29.
In a world where visibility and image is everything most of the bands are yet to compose songs that bear their own identity and stick in the memories of fans as in most cases the story line is jumbled to the extent that one can’t tell what the song is about.
According to pundits the bands are stuck with the old compositions which do not address today’s issues.
“If you are going to compose a song that doesn’t relate these young people’s needs there are always going to be a problem,” says on pundit.
However, some blame it on the new media that has made Bongo Flava what it is today, and therefore, enjoying massive radio and TV airplay in comparison to Dance music.
“There was a time when a radio like Clouds had special session to play our kind of music on a programme called Afrika Bambata, this helped to market the music. How are people going to like something they don’t hear?” she questions.
She adds that even those at the helm of the radio stations that have an inclination towards Bongo Flava and that is why they have been banished to the shelves.
Though she maintains that their fan base hasn’t been depleted as many suggest she says it is important for the bands to go back to the basics.
The advent of social networks has in the last couple of years acted as a major marketing tool in the industry.
However, most of these bands are yet to embrace the social network as way of publicity and marketing which leaves them dependant on yesterday’s ways of doing things.
To stay relevant there are some like Christian Bella who came to the realisation that the genre was on its death, he decided to reinvent.
According to him, Bongo Flava was just too powerful, he had to do something, though he can’t be classified as a pure Bongo Flava artiste Bella fuses some its flavour in his compositions.
Song such as ‘Nani Kama Mama’ featuring Ommy Dimpoz and later ‘Nagharamia’ featuring AliKiba was a complete change of direction from what he once was while at Akudo.
He has undergone a metamorphosis of some sort, performing at sold out concerts across the country.
The dying Libanga
There was a time at the peak of their power; bands such as FM Academia, Twanga Pepeta, Akudo including Nguza in Seya they would sing about some rich men.
Those were the days when names such as Ndama Mtoto Ya Ng’ombe, Papa Msofe, Mzamimiru Katunzi, and others could be heard during performances.
But what the majority of their fans didn’t know is that while they attempt to outclass the queen dancers, there was much more to Rumba than the writhing of waists and trouser-tearing dance antics.
Amid their crowd pulling performances singers throw in a name of a popular rich man or even a football player like their counterparts in DRC do and in the process making a quick buck.
These Pederejees have all since gone under with some lengthy serving jail terms making the industry a very arid place today.
Traditionally, from the birth place of Rumba, this is known as ‘Kobwaka Libanga’ an expression that can be used to describe a little child who throws a stone to get a parent or an older person’s attention.
It could be too soon to write off the Nguza’s desires to roll back the golden years of dance music in Tanzania, however, the truth is that while they were away so much has happened in the industry.