Morogoro was one of the famous towns in entertainment back in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. People travelled from Dar es Salaam to Morogoro to spend their weekends. The weather of the town and the fact that it hosted many popular local bands with great music ability made many people want to live and work in Morogoro. Two amongst those bands included Cuban Marimba Band. This band was a dream band for musician Salum Abdallah Yazidu, commonly known as SAY.
Salum Abdallah was born in May 1928. His father was Arab and his mother was a Morogoro native. He studied up to Class 6 at Msamvu and was selected to pursue further education at a school located in Dar es Salaam — at that time it was imperative for him to relocate so as to continue with studies. Although he passed the exams, his father decided that he should remain at home and assist him with his business.
As of this time, Salum had already started to show interest in music. He really enjoyed the vinyl records from Cuba which were commonly referred by their numbers GV1, GV2, GV3 etc. Despite his father not liking the type of music that his son liked, he thought it would be a good thing to buy him a gramophone to play the vinyl.
After some time, Salum decided to escape from home to go to Cuba to study music. He escaped to Mombasa so as to take a ship to Cuba, but it was 1945 and the dust from World War II had not yet settled so his trip was cut short. His father brought him back to Morogoro, where he opened up a restaurant for him so that Salum would settle down. But Salum was already too psyched with music and started attending dansi shows.
He was captivated by the instruments that Dar es Salaam Jazz Band played, and during that time he and his other friends had already started a group which owned acoustic instruments and traditional drums. They named their band La Paloma, which was the name of one of the songs in the GV vinyl. To this date, that song is still played around the world and has been re-recorded by artists such as Elvis Presley. La Paloma the Tanzanian band had different leaders like Juma Said (President), Abubakar Hussein (Treasurer), Ramadhan Salum (Executive Secretary), Ali Waziri (Deputy Secretary), and Salum Abdallah (Band Master).
After seeing Dar es Salaam Jazz Band perform, La Paloma’s desire to own similar instruments was heightened to the extent that Salum secretly sold one of his father’s houses and bought the same instruments as Dar Es Salaam Jazz Band.
In 1948, La Paloma became an official band. The main leaders were Salum Abdallah (Head), Abubakar Hussein (Treasurer), and Juma Ndehele (Secretary). The musicians were: Kibwana Seif, Juma Kilaza, Ligongo Mgembe, Juma Kondo, Nzige, and Daulinge.
In 1952 this group changed its name to Cuban Marimba Band. The group soared into fame and in their first year, landed a recording deal from a vinyl company called Mzuri Records which travelled all the way to Morogoro to record songs of the band.
The band’s mega popularity continued until the 1970s. Salum Abdallah passed away in a car accident on 19th November 1965. The lights of the car went out abruptly while driving at high speeds, which caused the car to stray from the road. Salaam was thrown fro the car and burst his bladder. He died on the same day of the accident.
Salum Abdallah Yazidu-SAY
(Photos courtesy of Jumaa R.R Mkabarah)