[email protected]: Tanzania’s rich history of music and entertainment

Thursday October 07 2021

Dar es Salaam. New generation music “Bongo Flavour” has now gained popularity and earns artistes millions of shillings compared to their past counterparts.

Before the country’s independence, bands music and orchestra dominated the entertainment industry when compared with other forms of entertainment like taarab, discos, cultural dances and cinemas.

History shows that dance music began in the 1930s in Dar es Salaam where most bands hail from, and it is still popular in Tanzania, although the youth are more likely to listen to bongo flava or other forms of pop music.

Bands like Nuta (by then), Western Jazz, Mlimani Park (later known as DDC Mlimani Park), Dar es Salaam International, Kilwa Jazz, International Orchestra Safari Sound, Maquis du Zaire (later Maquis Original) and Makasy band were well known by people of different age groups.

The other notable bands were Super Matimila, and Vijana Jazz, Morogoro Jazz, Cuban Malimba, Tabora Jazz, Kimulimuli, WashirikaTanzania Stars, Bantu Group, Polisi Jazz and more others.

Apart from entertaining, the bands, through their songs, were educative and promoted modern agriculture, health and other things in society.


After Tanzania gained independent in 1961, a sponsorship system was introduced by the late Julius Nyerere’s government, whereby bands would be financially supported by government departments or other national institutions.

One of the major bands of the era was the Nuta Jazz Band currently known as Msondo Ngoma.

At the same time, the bands gradually came to be managed like companies that owned instruments, and musicians who were regarded as employees, who received salaries.

NUTA Jazz Band was one of the first bands to adopt this model .

Band music dominated market while taarab followed suit. There were famous taarab groups like Cultural Music Band founded in 1958 with the famous song like Wahoi.

There were also a famous taarab group like Egyptians and famous musicians like Siti Binti Saad, Bi Kidude to name but a few.

Basically, entertainment revellers had to choose, either band music or taarab for the recreation despite the fact that there were also discos that were normally regarded for youths.

The entertainment industry continued to grow, whereby many government and private institutions formed their own bands to create more employment.

Musicians like Mbaraka Mwinshehe, Marijani Rajab, Omari Kungu Baya, Ahmed Kipande and others built the foundation of dance music in the country.

A famous band, Bima Lee, was established by the National Insurance Corporation and whose famous musicians were by then known.

Bima Lee’s musician, Jerry Nashon, alias Dudumizi was well known in the late 70s and 80s with his famous number Mesenja.

There were other bands including Tancut which based in Iringa Region. The band had also twin brothers Kasaroo Kyanga and Kyanga Songa who catapulted the band into popularity with their song Safari Siyo Kifo and many others. There were also other bands including Urafiki Jazz under the late Juma Mrisho Feruz alias Ngurimba wa Ngurimba and Mwenge Jazz.

The rivalry between one band and another spiced the entertainment industry and quickened development in the sector.

For instance, Orchestra Safari Sound (OSS) by then with King Kikii and then the late Ndala Kasheba were rivals with Orchestra Maquis du Zaire under the late Tshinyama Chianza; Juwata Jazz (Msondo Ngoma) were against DDC Mlimani Park. The bands spiced up the music development and created employment.

Band Music Revolutions

In the 1980s, there was a famous band The Kilimanjaro alias Wana Njenje which made a tremendous job to promote the country ‘s music abroad.

The band was earlier known as The Love Bugs and then was known as the Revolutions and moved to Dar es Salaam, where there was a stiff competition from older established bands. The band began to perform in top hotels and tourist centres in Arusha and Dar es Salaam.

In 1989, the band toured London and changed its name to the current one. The band released its first album known as Kata Kata, whereby its song known as Njenje become its nickname ‘Wananjenje.’

In London, the Kilimanjaro Band performed with great African artists like Baaba Maal and Sam Mangwana.

The band toured Japan in 1992 and 1994 to become the first group to perform in famous hotels.

In 1997, The Kilimanjaro Band released their second album ‘Maua.’ With the female voice of Nyota Waziri now adding more flavour to the album, the album went on to make sales despite rampant piracy that is still affecting the music industry in Tanzania. However, in 1999, the band spent time performing at different hotels in Tanzania, Muscat and Bahrain to win the hearts of many revellers . In 2000, the band released their biggest selling album to date, ‘Kinyaunyau.’ The song has the pieces of art with influences from different ethnic groups in Tanzania. It was followed in 2005 by ‘Gere’. The Kilimanjaro Band won several awards including the 2000 Best Band M Net Award and 2001 Kibo Gold Best Band award.

The band is well known for its mduara (circle) dancing style, very common to many ethnic groups in Tanzania and around Africa. A tour to the UK in July and August 2004 proved that the Band also had many fans outside Tanzania.

Apart from Njenje, Orchestra Super Matimila under Ramadhan Mtoro Ongala (DR Remmy) performed in Womad (World of Music and Dance) festival in Reading, England in 1988.

The late Ongala began making studio albums in England at Real World, which released “Songs for the Poor Man” in 1989 and “Mambo” in 1992, both albums contained songs in English as well as in Swahili

During the 1990s, Ongala and his band toured Africa, Europe and the United States.

Later Twanga Pepeta toured Scandinavian countries in 2005 and released a special album known as Safari. The band also featured in Muscat’s Sultanate music festival in mid 2000s.

New generation Music

In the 1990s, there was the existence of young musicians who participated in various music concerts in Dar es Salaam. A group like Four Crewz Flavor was famous by then.

The famous venues were Empire Cinema, Korean Cultural Centre and Starlight Hotel in the city centre.

There were other groups like Kwanza Unit that had famous musicians including Fresh G, Dar Young Mob, Untouchable. Also, solo artistes like Saleh Jabir played their part.

The musicians contested in a famous music concert known as Yo Rap Bonanza which was normally for hip hop musicians.

Since then, music gained popularity and made many young artistes to be involved. Some groups were formed after the Yo Rap concert including Weusi Wagumu Asilia (WWA) and Hard Blasters whose famous musician, Professor J was one of their members.

Others were Diplomatz, Gangwe Mob, Mabaga Fresh, Fun with Sense, Manzese side connection (Manzese crew) and others. Music grew and made other groups like TMK under Juma Kassim alias Nature to be formed to change the direction of dance music.

It is a fact that Bongo Fleva musicians countered criticism from music lovers and were branded hooligans because of their dressing.

There were bongo fleva artists failed to achieve their goals and skipped while others stood firm to develop their career and later started to beat band music.

Musician Judith Wambura also gained popularity with her Machozi Band after recruiting various band musicians like Jonico Flowers and others.

Also on the list was Banana Zorro, Bob Ludala and others.

Many music lovers may still remember Bongo Fleva artiste Nice Lucas Mkenda alias Mr Nice, who played a role in promoting the Bongo Fleva music in the country and abroad.

His songs like Kikulacho alias Kuku Kapanda Baiskeli, Kidali Po, Fadilia were loved by my people of different age groups.

Mr Nice was Tanzania’s icon during his prime time.