Dully Sykes takes us down memory lane in ‘Unplugged’

Dully Sykes

What you need to know:

  • The legendary singer showcased his bongo flava mastery as he serenaded the audience.

By Karen Chalamilla

When asked how he feels about being the very first artist on the Unplugged stage, Dully Sykes coolly responded that it was pretty normal for him, before playfully adding, “I mean, being the first means that if I do badly, all my peers have an example of what not to do, but if I kill it, then I set the bar high.”

The energy of the night was a combination of exactly this casual confidence and cheeky energy the singer/rapper embodies.

Unplugged is the brainchild of JM Entertainment founders Otty Jackson Twisa and Joe Massao, in collaboration with Olive Garden Bar.

It’s an event with the aim of bridging the gap between artist and audience, particularly when it comes to music.

The two founders, who grew up at the height of bongo flava, speak fondly of the artists that had hit songs in the early 2000s and still maintain an impact in the industry.

“These artists made such soulful music that is going to last,” Otty explains, “and yet sometimes it feels like we know more about Jay Z than we do about Dully Sykes and the like.”

Unplugged was born with the aim of deepening our relationship with and appreciation for Tanzanian icons.

The space would allow for an artist to perform as well as reminisce about their musical journey, bringing audiences in on industry life or even the stories behind hit songs.

In this way, Unplugged would foster a new dynamic between the artist and the audience, one that goes beyond the admiration that is often veiled by their celebrity status.

The sessions would allow audiences and longtime fans to get “an insight into the soul of the entertainment industry.”

Earlier this year, rapper Sugu launched Bongo Flava Honours, a recurring event where a different legendary bongo flava artist or group is invited to perform.

So far, the honourees have included Dully Sykes, TID, Juma Nature, Jay Moe, and Mr Blue.

As other Tanzanian genres have enjoyed the spotlight in the last few years, there seems to be a recent craving for more bongo flava, or at least its appreciation.

Fans of the genre can now enjoy the variety of either the concert setting of Bongo Flava Honours or a date-with-the-artist vibe from Unplugged.

For the first Unplugged episode, fairy lights and oil lamps adorned the dimly lit olive garden on Thursday evening, setting the scene for the intimate experience with Dully Sykes the session promised.

Fans and industry honchos, including Bonny Luv and rapper Fid Q, were in attendance.

The show kicked off with an opener from Sykes’ backup singer, who sang gorgeous renditions of Asa’s Jailer and Utaniua by Zuchu.

Then surprise guest TID (who we expect to take the stage for one of the upcoming episodes) took the stage to introduce his longtime friend, peer, and man of the hour, Dully Sykes.

He opened with the more recent Julietta before performing the much older and better known hits like Bongo Flava, Salome, Hunifahamu, Mtoto wa Kariakoo, and Handsome, which, of course, got several encores.

The self-proclaimed Mr Misifa’s discography is far more entertaining with the confirmation that our favorite songs really do come from the real-life events of his past pursuits for women.

Hunifahamu, for instance, as a gesture to appeal for his girlfriend’s forgiveness after a lover turned up to his house, is incredibly ironic given the sincerity of the lyrics.

Or that the name Salome actually belonged to his favourite waitress at a popular nightclub in Sinza he used to frequent.

The collective joy of live music is heightened by the delight of realising that not only do you still remember lyrics from your favorite tracks from way back when, but the stranger next to you does too.

If the crowd was split between those that wanted to hear more stories and those that came to hear that signature nasally natural autotune we came to adore, both were undoubtedly satisfied.

Dully Sykes himself was satisfied too, and as he reflected on the longevity of his career, Sykes confessed, “Performing at this point gives me so much joy; it feels good listening to people remember and still enjoy my music.”