Keeping our traditional music alive

Tuesday May 28 2013

Man on a mission: Msafiri Zawose has travelled

Man on a mission: Msafiri Zawose has travelled far and wide promoting Tanzania’s traditional music. PHOTO I COURTESY OF INTERVIEWEE 

By Esther Kibakaya Success Reporter

There is no denying that Western beats dominate the local music industry. From Bongo Flava to rhumba artistes, it seems the hip-hop culture came and conquered. Yet there are few individuals who are keeping the spirit of traditional music alive.

They chose to remain true to their culture in music. One of the remaining few traditional musicians in the country is Msafiri Zawose, a Gogo musician, who has not only managed to keep local fans in this corner of the market, but also has attracted an international audience.

Performing as a family outfit, the traditional musician tells Success that his aim is to keep the rich heritage of Tanzania through music:

What does your work entail?

I am an independent art and craft professional, who deals mostly with music. My music is a mixture of traditional instruments and vocals. I also compose and teach various traditional music instruments such as zeze, ngoma, ndono, and flute.

Who are your students?


I teach beginners and seasoned musicians, both young and old.

How did you find yourself in this field?

I was born and raised in a family that honours tradition. So I grew up learning from my father, who was also a musician.

Did you go to any music college to fine-tune your skills?

I later joined the Bagamoyo College of Arts for a six-month course. This is where I learnt how to compose and play music instruments.

But I also learnt some of the skills in the streets. A lot of my friends were in this field. I must say I grew up in an environment that was perfect for what I wanted to be in life.

Since when exactly have you been in this field?

I started when I was just 12.

What moves your heart when it comes to your career?

The fact that I have managed to create my own identity using traditional music. They say the world is now a village, but I can still stand and claim a different identity.

What can you say about the local music industry?

Tanzania is still struggling. Obviously, you can’t compare us with other African nations. At least a few years ago, our leaders tried to support the industry. Now they are devoting their energy to other issues.

What do you mean by that?

For instance, it is no longer easy to get sponsorship even from institutions that deal directly with culture.

You have gone beyond our borders. How did you manage to break through?

All it took me was individual effort.

In which foreign countries have you played?

I have been to several countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America. I can say the shows were a huge success considering the fact that I have managed to penetrate the competitive market.