On a cloudy evening in the suburban Mikocheni area in Dar es Salaam, I cautiously made my way to Nafasi Art Space.
As I was approaching the art space environs, I could hear voices of people singing as drums and guitar sounds tagged along in perfect melody.
Upon entering the room that was filled with buoyant sounds, I took immediate notice of a jubilant Isack Abeneko. With him were other members of his band, who altogether make up Abeneko and the band.
The group, made up of 8 members, was exercising in preparation for a summer tour in Germany, Denmark and Finland that’ll kick off from June 16 to July 7, 2019.
Abeneko, the leader of the band, will be joined by other five members, making a total of six, to the European tour.
He is a contemporary live performer, guitarist, actor, choreographer and a dancer. His music is a collection of different Tanzanian traditional dances, melodies and rhythms, blended with contemporary dance music with the aim of inspiring the next generation of entertainers.
Speaking to The Beat, Abeneko expressed his joy for the opportunity that the band’s been availed to that’ll have them expose their music further to the Western world.
The artiste says that music tour is a very important part of an artistes’ musical journey.
Abeneko and the band’s tour has been funded by Goethe Institute Munich and Goethe-Institute Dar es salaam in collaboration with Weka Music Production & Management.
“This music tour is very important to us as artistes who are constantly looking for more channels to penetrate our music. It provides us an opportunity to push ourselves even further in terms of our voice abilities, being able to write new songs, as well as playing our musical instruments,” says Abeneko.
He adds that, through the music tour the band will also be able to showcase their ability to perform live music, promote their work, sell their CD’s and also get exposed to other cultures and how their foreign counterparts do music.
Similarly, he acknowledges the role music tours play in helping majority of musicians learn how to play live music. “Lack of music tours affects the mentality of local musicians. Most of them get too used to doing shows with playbacks. This limits the exercising ability,” he says.
Commenting on her participation in the band’s day-to-day activites, Pendo Manase, who has been with the band for the past four years now says she is happy that she will be able to meet global fans of the band through the music tour. This will also be the perfect opportunity for her to perform a song she wrote called Mwanangu.
The band-member says that Mwanangu is a product of Abeneko and the band, one which she wrote, practised and also introduced to the audience for the first time at the Sauti za Busara festival in 2018.
Manase, who went to music school for two years at Music May Day College, says she nurtured her singing talent by singing at churches since childhood. She explains that Mwanangu is a song that talks about girls, posing the question of what is the right time for them to start a relationship. It also addresses the effects of premature love affairs.
On expectations for the coming tour, she says it is an opportunity to open more doors to penetrate the international market and they are hoping for the best during the entire tour.
Abdallah Membe, a drummer for the band, says he is looking forward to different workshops on cultural exchange activities during the tour. He acknowledges that the tour is a unique opportunity to them to sell African music abroad.
Speaking of African music, the band does bondo fusion and afro beat. They also do traditional dance mixed with different vibes like Malewa, Lizombe, Azonto and Singeli.
The band also sings in different tribal languages like Haya, Kuria, Makonde, Jaluo and Swahili as a way of promoting local dialects, thereby preserving African cultures and traditions.
Ironically, even as they embrace traditional norms and fuse them in their style of music, Abeneko and the band are more popular abroad than they are in Tanzania, their home country.
“During summer time in Europe, music festivals brings big musicians from Africa to perform. This has created a passion for traditional live music from Africa.
In Tanzania our music is not as fervently received by fans, regardless of the message we try to send or the traditional styles which we often use to present our act,” Abeneko says.
He further adds that even in local media houses their music doesn’t get enough airplay. “Media people tell us that there isn’t enough fan-base for our type of music,” he points.
However, the dismal response from home fans doesn’t mean that the band has altogether given up on doing local tours. In fact, they’ve toured places like Zanzibar, Arusha and Bagamoyo.
Abeneko, whose music career started in 2008 as a dancer with the Lumumba theatre group, is no stranger to doing tours.
He has participated in many music exchange programs and performed at different festivals including Karibu Music Festival (Bagamoyo), DoaDoa (Uganda), Marahaba Swahili music festival, Wikiend live music concert, among others.
Way before the advent of his current band, he spent time as part of Lumumba theatre group in 2008 as a dancer. “In 2012 I decided to become a solo artist.
It was never easy to manage the changes as music is a learning process so I had to invest time in learning until I released my first album,” he says.
His first album tackled issues such as family challenges in connection to divorce and the increase of street children. He also launched another album called Wakati, which has 10 songs and talks about valuing humanity.
He has performed in Denmark, Germany, South Africa, South Korea, USA, Holland, Australia, Poland, Kenya, Malawi and Rwanda. The band’s European tour will see them start off with a concert in Berlin on June 18. They will then move on to Denmark and Finland before departing for Dar es Salaam on July 8.