Slimsal and his eventful journey into Bongo Music

Friday May 20 2022
Slimsal pic
By Lilian Ndilwa

It is a rare sight when a person thinks on bettering other people’s career paths beyond their own, from setting aside time to study another person with the aim to coach them to become better versions of themselves to walking them step to step towards their potentials.

A good example of such people is Salim Mohammed, whose stage name is Slimsal.

He is a rapper, producer, music writer and an advertisement scriptwriter. He did not wear all of these hats at the same time rather it took him a while to master each one of them.

He draws inspiration from the things and situations that surround him. For instance, in his album ‘Blind’ he made it after his father died. Slimsal had a lot of unanswered questions that he felt like it would be easier to explore by making songs about them.

In 2004 when he was just a pupil, Slimsal started being attracted to music, specifically rap. This was after a timely exposure to local and international rappers including Juma Nature, Inspekta Haroun and Eminem. When he listened and watched their works, Slimsal became thrilled.

His ears and heart became even more content when he first listened to ‘Happy Nation’, an album by Ace of Base. In fact, this album was among the things that pushed him to the rap grounds.

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In the same year, 2004, Slimsal stepped in a music studio located in Dodoma for the first time. This habit went on for a while. During this time, Slimsal would be observing how producers bring a beat to life, how artistes pour their hearts and souls into turning those beats into tracks, as he was observing, he was also learning how to produce unknowingly.

“In the early stages of my career, I recall watching this producer called Preach do his work keenly. As time went on, I started producing beats too. Later on, I became part of this rap crew with a good number of the then aspiring rappers such as Moni Centrozone. I used to produce beats for them and these artistes would make songs out of them and distribute them to artistes in Dar es Salaam, this earned them exposure,” he remembers.

As he kept looking out for other people, Slimsal did not leave himself behind. One day there was a festival that was being conducted in Dodoma. This festival was headlined by a number of artistes including the late rap icon, Godzilla. During this festival, Slimsal used his chance to meet with Godzilla and show him his work.

“After the festival ended, I asked Godzilla for a few minutes to show him my work. I played for him two different songs. After the songs ended, he questioned me ‘are you the one who has worked on both of these songs? He became interested and promised me he would reach out,” Slimsal narrates.

After a while, artiste and producer Marco Challi reached out and offered him a deal in his studio named MJ records. Slimsal relocated from Dodoma to Dar es Salaam.

He felt like the universe was in his side for a while since things looked like they were all in the right places, little did he know what was in store for him.

The very first project at MJ Records was with Marco Challi. It was titled ‘Kama Unavyoniona’ where Slimsal made all the verses and Marco Challi produced the chorus of the song.

After Kama Unavyoniona was released, the song brought forward opportunities beyond Slimsal’s expectations. It expanded his network as his works kept getting recognition from rap legends such as the late Mangwair and Chid Benz.

“There was this day I met Mangwair at the studio, God rest his soul in peace. He looked at me and asked ‘are you the one working with Marco Challi, whose voice sounds like Busta Rhymes?’ I nodded and then he praised me, saying my work is remarkable and told me that my voice is a treasure and that I should keep working on. In that moment, everything felt surreal, I was encouraged to work even harder,” he recalls.

During this time, Slimsal was a university student pursuing a Mass Communication degree at Tumaini University. With time, it started to become hard to balance between making music and undertaking his studies.

One day, he was performing for a show on a Sunday evening that went on up to midnight. The exhaustion from that show made him miss a core subject that was conducted on early Monday, the next day.

This one time led him to repeat the subject all over again. He afterwards had to make a hard decision for his own good.

“I chose to pause making music for a period of two years so that I could put all of my focus on my studies which I actually off. I did not stop engaging myself with music because there were times I would be assisting in producing and other things. After the two years ended, I finalized my studies and got back to the game,” Slimsal explains.

Right after the two years passed, he released a song with G Nako titled Shauri Yako which made his network in the music industry grow even more.

As he kept exploring music and production, realization hit him; he was not making money in music, no matter how hard he worked.

When he looked around the people he was looking up to in music, Slimsal realized that they were also living and facing the same challenge. In spite of his passion for music, he knew he had to acquire the knowledge of business in music to survive the industry.

“Nobody had prepared me for this, it’s one of the most unspoken challenges in this industry. With my experience in writing, I threw myself towards advertising which I still do to date,” he explains.

Slimsal currently has released a total of 13 tracks and one album titled ‘Blind’ which is made of 15 songs.

He looks up to Dr Dre because he has molded talents for about 30 years. He also looks up to Eminem and Papoose because of the way these two challenge themselves to greater heights.

“One of my main goal at the moment is to support new talents. I have been where they currently are and I understand the work they have to put in to be recognized in this industry.

“I have worked with about 90 percent of new rappers in Tanzania and my work helps them to see clearly on the things they can develop to become successful in music,” he says.

According to Slimsal, there are times he would post on social media, requesting up and coming artistes to share their works with him and then he would review all of the songs before reaching out to artistes, who have made better works out of all of the songs sent to him.

“I aim at becoming one of the lighting torches for these young talents whose creativeness is not given the deserved spotlight. I want to uplift them the same I was uplifted. That way potentials in them can be ignited” he says.

Slimsal has worked with a good number of artistes, including Fredrick Mulla, Lulu James, G Nako, Moni Centrozone and Naomisia.