2019 A tough year for Tanzania's media industry

Friday May 10 2019


By Mpoki Thomson

In the words of Joseph Kusaga, head of Clouds Media Group; “2019 has been a trauma year for the media industry.” Indeed, this year has been devastating for Tanzania’s media. In the first five months of 2019 we’ve already experienced more deaths of key figures in the media field than we can handle.

The loss of such influential individuals has left a gap in the industry which almost seems unsurmountable.

Tributes have poured in from different corners of the world, showing how significant these media moguls were.

Ruge Mutahaba

These past three months (between February and May), we’ve witnessed three media influencers leave this earth.

First it was Clouds Media’s Ruge Mutahaba, a media magnet, who by his sheer ingenuity was solely responsible for crafting successful careers for some of the very best artistes we have in today’s Bongo Flava.

Not only is Ruge’s name synonymous with ‘Godfather of Bongo Flava’, he is also one of the key people at what remains to be one of Tanzania’s prominent media companies – Clouds Media Group.

He is credited for initiating different projects in the local entertainment industry, projects that have seen the rise of musicians who’ve gone on to become great success stories.

Ruge is the brain behind Tanzania House of Talent (THT), a talent factory that has nurtured great artistes, grooming them to become the very best in the industry. From the likes of Linah Sanga, Mwasiti, Barnabas, Amini, Nandy and many others, THT has cemented its name among the best talent factories in the country, a legacy that is directly attributed to the late Ruge as its founder.

But before THT was born back in 2007, Ruge tested the waters in the local media industry by starting what is believed to be the first record label in the country – Smooth Vibes, in 1999. After signing a number of artistes he later transitioned into something more elaborate in the entertainment field.

Such were the exploits of Ruge, a media genius who dared to commercialise Bongo Flava, a feat which is one of his biggest legacies, for it afforded local artistes to get commensurate pay for their hard work.

When he passed, thousands mourned his death. Streets were crowded and sorbs echoed in every corner of the city. But behind him he left a legacy that will forever be remembered.

Ephraim Kibonde

No sooner had the nation finished moaning the loss of Ruge, than we were hit with another death notice.

This time it was someone who had made his way in to the hearts of many by the prowess of his voice.

Ephraim Kibonde, a radio personality, who coincidentally worked at the media house co-founded by Ruge (Clouds Media), suddenly died while overseeing burial arrangements for his departed colleague and boss.

Ephraim will always be remembered in the broadcast media industry for his witty charm and charisma while on air.

He embraced an aura of exuberance that attracted listeners by the numbers in the afternoon show of Jahazi on Clouds FM. His was a personally centered around humour while on air.

His offbeat remarks, often catching people off-guard, were some of his unique and adored traits as a radio presenter.

His death was unexpected. At a time when the nation was nursing fresh wounds after the loss of Ruge, no one ever imagined that another media heavyweight would depart this earth so soon. An untimely death it was, and one that was moaned by hundreds of thousands of people across the country.

Dr Reginald Mengi

It is an undeniable fact that the passing of Ruge and Ephraim touched the lives of many Tanzanians in different respects, but as the nation and the media fraternity in particular, was trying to adjust to the vacuum that was left by these two greats, doom struck again.

This time it was the death of not only someone who defied all odds to become one of the wealthiest men in Africa, but he was also a media mogul who built an empire in the name of IPP Media, home to a host of newspapers and media broadcast channels.

Dr Reginald Mengi’s death shook the nation, and the world at large. No one had anticipated that he’d leave this earth in 2019.

At the age of 77, Mengi was still a people’s person. He was loved by many. His ambitions and aspirations saw him traverse media boundaries.

He was not only at the helm of the media world, but his philanthropic endeavours had equally become monumental.

Perhaps what is more impressive when looking back at the life that Mengi lived, is his ‘rags to riches’ story, and how much he abhorred poverty.

He didn’t confine himself to the poor-state he was in. Fueled by ambition, he dared to chase after his dreams, the rest as they say, is history. Today Mengi is celebrated across the country.

His life was so impactful that upon his death, streets were filled by people from all walks of life.

In the media industry, Mengi maintained a unique position as a patron whose experience over the years gave him an edge in understanding both the managerial and business side of the trade.

He was revered by many as he often times spoke wisdom unto others. Mengi’s influence in Tanzania’s media industry can be seen in the way different media houses have come together at a time of grief to moan the loss of one of their own. He was laid to rest yesterday in his hometown of Moshi.

Indeed life is fleeting, and as the media fraternity labours on amidst trying times, the legacies of these three media greats should be deeply embedded in how we operate.

The media should emulate the visions of these visionaries. As an ever-evolving industry, the road ahead might seem narrow, but perseverance is key in the journey to success.