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."
Tanzania Heritage Project work with field recording and organising concerts appears in a recent article on Forbes Africa. A lovely reminder of the Urithi wa Leo show we presented last year and working with Ze spirits band, Msafiri Zawose, and Nafasi Art Space.
"Seventy-two-year-old Warema Chacha is a well-known litungu player, a stringed instrument of the Kurya tribe from north-western Tanzania. The older he gets, the more determined he is to pass on his knowledge and love for music to younger generations.
“I often tell young people that it’s important to value your own culture, because in this way you can know yourself better. You won’t know it by playing bongo flava,” he says at his house in Bagamoyo, 60 kilometers from Dar es Salaam.
“Many times when you don’t appreciate your own things they can disappear. If someone comes to me, I can help and teach him to play the instrument, even making him one for free,” he adds showing a self-made litungu.
He has already encouraged his grandson Ally, who plays on the African drums in a popular band Ze Spirits, to also take litungu lessons.
“The litungu is not well known and we are the only ones who can save it from disappearing and introduce it to the world because we are close to Chacha, who knows everything about this instrument,” says 21-year-old Sajaly Sharif, Ally’s friend from the band that plays afro-fusion, a mix of traditional and modern music. “This can also be a good marketing strategy for us. Like most bands, we also play the guitar, but if you go to America or Europe, you’ll find people who do it better. We can be the kings of the litungu though. And thanks to this, people may be more interested in our music,” he adds.
In Tanzania, music is played everywhere: on crowded, colorful streets, in dala dalas (minibus taxis), and in roadside bars, which serve grilled corn and roasted pistachios. Tanzanians even walk as if they are dancing. This …
What's inside? Info about the upcoming Performance Art workshop, an exciting exhibition opening next Monday, a film screening, and announcing the Line-up for April's Wikiendi Live! - Kenneth Mugabi (UG), Abeneko (TZ), and Marahaba Band (TZ)