Morogoro Jazz Band

Morogoro Jazz Band

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1944 was a pivotal year in the music history of Morogoro and Tanzania as a whole. This is the year that Morogoro Jazz Band was formed, and where, in the Kingolwira village, Mbaraka Mwinshehe Mwaluka was born.

Amongst the founding members of Morogoro Jazz Band were Makala Kindamile, Joseph Thomas, Seif Ally, Daudi Ally and Shaabana Mwambe. At that time, the band played non-electronic instruments like guitar, mandolin, ukulele, banjo and traditional drums. At that time, many groups aspired to be like Dar Es Salaam Jazz Band, which was the preeminent band at that time. When Dar es Salaam Jazz Band toured to Morogoro, they brought the electronic guitar and later on another tour added trumpets and saxophones, thereby challenging Morogoro Jazz. The group then managed to secure their own modern instruments. During the early years of the band’s life, Salum Abdallah was also part of the band. Although Salum was popularly known for songwriting and singing, he also played saxophone and mandolin. Salum eventually left to start his own band La Paloma which was later known as Cuban Marimba.

Mbaraka Mwinshehe started to participate in the weekend shows of Morogoro Jazz when he was still in school. During that time he liked to play the flute in the ‘kwela’ style; this was a typical South African style with masters in the art like Spokes Mashiyan. The flute was loved by youngsters, especially in schools and many secondary school jiving groups.

One day in 1965, when the musicians of Morogoro Jazz were resting outside their club, Mbaraka passed with a big bag in his hand and when asked where he was going while he was supposed to be in school he replied that he did not want to go to school anymore and was going to Dar es Salaam to find a better life. The musicians counseled him and asked him to sleep at the club before making his final decision.

The next day, they were surprised to find him playing a guitar as they only knew him as a flute player. Because the band needed a rhythm guitar player, they asked him not to go to Dar and to join the band as a guitar player. He accepted the offer.

During that time, it was only the trumpet, saxophone and solo guitar player that were paid a monthly salary; others got a small allowance after each show. One day, the group was invited to Dar es Salaam to participate in a band competition with Kilwa Jazz,. Before leaving, Mbaraka refused to go because he was not paid a salary, so the elders in the band agreed to pay him 120 shillings per month. The solo player who was being paid 150 shillings then refused to go to Dar and insisted that the rhythm player should not be paid,

The band went to Dar without a solo player and worried that they might lose to Kilwa Jazz Band, which was at the top of their game at that time. During the competition, Mbaraka played the solo so well that the band won. He got a salary raise to 250 shillings, which was very high at the time. From then on Mbaraka became the solo guitar player for Morogoro Jazz Band, that is, until he left the band to start his own, group, the Super Volcano Band.

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