"The free Tanzania danced to the rhythm of a genre known as Zilipendwa , and which can be translated as "those who were loved". This Swahiili jazz or Tanzanian rumba seems to have disappeared today, but Kitime tries to dismantle this pessimism on a daily basis.
It is true that nostalgia comes with arguments. Dance halls closed off Dar el Salaam. Others were demolished. Many recordings of that time have not been preserved and the musicians had difficulties to develop their careers. The political and economic liberation of the country in the 90s worsened the situation and made local musicians face the effects of the arrival of private media. The pop swept the radio frequencies and the government cut the financing. For years, the Dar House of Music and Sports is more dedicated to stringing rackets than selling records.
Now, a documentary starring Kitime revives the memories of a music from the past that refuses to die."
Wahenga (The Ancestors) is a 93 minute documentary film that follows the story of John Kitime as he sets out to put together a band to revive the classic Tanzanian sound from the golden era. THP co-produced the film with Kijiweni Productions, and we're excited to announce that the film has been selected to screen at this year's Zanzibar International Film Festival! Here's the official poster for the film :)
We are so saddened to hear about the passing of Mitchel Strumpf. His unwavering dedication to young African musicians was unmatched. He was kind, humble, generous, and thoughtful in every interaction I ever had with him. I'm honoured to have worked with him over the years.
He was one of the earliest supporters of the Tanzania Heritage Project, inviting me to present at the Ethnomusicology Symposium at the University of Dar es Salaam, and later even offering his living room at his house on campus when we needed a quiet place to record an interview with NPR.
More recently, he invited me to the Dhow Countries Music Academy (DCMA) in Zanzibar to discuss ways we could collaborate with Nafasi Art Space, and brought the wonderful Mapanya style Band, whom he was mentoring, to Dar for an incredible performance at Wikiendi LIVE last year.
The last time I saw Mitch, I was wandering through Stone Town. He had arranged a pop-up performance of DCMA students near Hurumzi Street in an open square. Interested passers-by had stopped to listen to the beautiful acoustic melodies played on guitar and oud. Mitch was sitting on the baraza, wearing one of his usual kitenge tailored shirts, his dark eyebrows lifted in appreciation of the music. He looked so immersed, so peaceful, and so happy, that I decided not to interrupt him with a greeting. I watched him for a few moments, then continued on my way down another winding alley, reminding myself to give him a call soon.
I didn't make that call, and was looking forward to dropping in on him next month during Sauti za Busara festival. Mitch, I wish I had gotten a chance to thank you for your support, your inspiration, and your commitment. We won't forget you and we'll continue the work you started.
"Strumpf dedicated most of his life and expertise to the development of music in Africa. He played a central role in the establishment of music programmes at African universities in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Tanzania."