How Msamiati is using Nyakyusa-infused Bongo hip-hop to reach global audiences

What you need to know:

  • Despite the initial assumption that incorporating vernacular language into his music would primarily cater to a local rap audience, Msamiati's approach has defied expectations, resonating with fans and artistes beyond borders.

The globalisation of Bongo Flava often ignites intense discussions within the Tanzanian music sphere.

Nevertheless, for many artists aspiring to break into the international scene, there exists a tendency to mirror the tastes of other nations to keep pace with their momentum and success.

Freddy Benny Mbetwa, known by his stage name Msamiati, is making a unique mark in the music industry by using the Nyakyusa language to connect with a global audience.

His hits, such as Malafyale (which means King in Nyakyusa), Ndagha (thank you), and Mwaisa (friend), have attracted fans from across East Africa with their infectious rhythm and incorporation of the language.

Despite the initial assumption that incorporating vernacular language into his music would primarily cater to a local rap audience, Msamiati's approach has defied expectations, resonating with fans and artistes beyond borders, notably in Kenya, Uganda, and other parts of Africa, as he shares with The Beat.

Born and raised in Tukuyu, Mbeya, Msamiati's musical journey commenced in his formative years, deeply rooted in the rich traditions of his upbringing.

"I started doing music when I was still in school. Being Christians, we had a tradition at home where we would sing traditional religious songs after prayers," he recalls.

This early exposure to the melodic cadence of his native tongue laid the foundation for his artistic identity. As he grew in his musical journey, Msamiati shares that he spent much time listening to Tanzanian hip-hop legends such as Professor Jay, Ngwair, Juma Nature, and Joh Makini.

Msamiati says he found resonance in their artistry, drawing motivation from their creative prowess.

"Joh Makini was one of the artistes who inspired me to come to Dar es Salaam through his hit ‘Chochote Popote," he reminisces.

According to him, these artistes were like mentors who shaped how he crafted his tunes and chose the words, and their influence is omnipresent in Msamiati's music.

While in Mbeya, his dream was to come to Dar es Salaam. The enthusiastic artiste had held on to his dream since he started listening to his favourite rappers.

For him, this move was not just a leap of faith but a deliberate step towards amplifying his voice on a national and international scale.

"I always believed and dreamt that Dar es Salaam was the only place to fulfil my dreams." When he finally got to Dar es Salaam, he recorded his debut song, Moja Moja, which he says holds a special place in his heart.

"The song marked a pivotal moment in my career. It was with this track that I finally achieved my artistic vision and communicated my thoughts and feelings just as I had always imagined. Thanks to the expertise of producer Marco Charlie, this song became a significant leap forward for me," he observes.

He adds that creating this song was especially exciting because he had incorporated the Nyakyusa language into his work. “It’s something that had never been done before, especially in the mainstream music market back then,” he explains.

Msamiati recalls how the song set a new bar for his music at a time when he wasn’t famous yet. "I remember the song playing on every radio station, with people calling me left and right. Some were surprised to hear me using Nyakyusa in my music, but for me, this marked the beginning of a new chapter," he says.

Speaking about the decision to weave his native language, Kinyakyusa, into his music, Msamiati says he views it as a natural evolution fuelled by his deep-seated connection to his cultural heritage.

"The decision to start using my native language in my music was inspired by the songs we used to sing during prayers when I was a child," Msamiati explains.

However, beyond personal expression, Msamiati sees his use of his native language as a powerful tool for cultural preservation and global outreach.

"When it comes to language, it's something that comes naturally to me, and it's what makes me stand out from other artists," he asserts.

When discussing his lyrical inspiration, Msamiati explains that it's a fluid concept, shaped by the ebb and flow of his life experiences.

"Inspiration comes from different times and places, and that's what allows us to create a wide variety of things with unique flavours," he reflects.

This eclectic blend of influences infuses his music with a dynamic vibrancy that resonates with audiences across diverse cultural landscapes. In the face of initial scepticism, Msamiati's perseverance has yielded remarkable success, paving the way for aspiring artistes to embrace their heritage unapologetically.

"The progress and success have been tremendous," he affirms.

Commenting on being signed under any music label in the country, Msamiati shares that he is an independent artiste who has opted to fly solo.

"I don't feel like I need to be signed to a label. I'm carving my path and making my mark in this ever-changing music landscape," he elaborates.

However, as an independent rapper in the Bongo Flava industry, he has already secured some collaborations with South African artistes for his upcoming projects.

“I won’t share that yet, but I have already lined up collaborations from Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa. I'm looking forward to where these collaborations will take us, and I know my fans can expect more of these exciting projects in the future,” says Msamiati.

As he continues to captivate audiences with his soul-stirring melodies and poignant lyrics, Msamiati remains a beacon of authenticity in an industry often defined by trends.

With each note he sings, he not only celebrates his roots but also invites listeners on a transcendent journey of cultural discovery and self-expression.