Hi, wonderful people.
I’m sorry for the long silence. My last couple of weeks in Dar es Salaam were a whirlwind. Geert van den Boogaard, a Dutch entrepreneur and innovator, came to Tanzania to lend his support and expertise to the project. We met him in Stone Town, Zanzibar, for the Sauti Za Busara music festival, where we attended the “Movers & Shakers” networking events every day of the festival to connect with musicians, producers, festival organizers, non-profit leaders, and media members, about the East African music market and potential for innovation and new strategies.
While Geert was in town, we also recorded several interviews with musicians, an employee of Baraza la Sanaa ya Tanzania (The National Arts Council), Zilipendwa-lovers of all ages, and Bruno Nanguka, the Principal Librarian/Chief Archivist for The Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation. Editing is tough work, but we hope to have some of those videos released for your enjoyment soon!
I am so pleased by the amount of progress we made during my first trip to Dar. To be honest, when I left the States back in January, I was unsure of so many things: whether we’d be warmly welcomed by the TBC; whether any musicians would want to talk to me about the archives; whether the Tanzanian people would express any interest in the digitization project; whether the press would want to cover our story; whether the non-profit registration process would be successful; whether I could build a team of passionate and skilled people to help the initial founders; and finally, and crucially, whether we’d be able to raise enough money to make the project happen. I think when I left Georgia, we’d raised about $4,000 on Kickstarter. Thanks to you all, we made it. And each of those unknowns has turned into brilliant, wonderful affirmations. YES is always a wonderful word to hear, an exciting answer to receive. But often, I’ve found, it takes a lot of closed doors and u-turns before you can get to that point. It certainly wasn’t always smooth sailing, but with the support (emotional and otherwise) of Benson, Tyler, Erasmus, Nils, Geert, Nina, and others, we turned tricky situations into a great deal of success.
So, now I’m back in the US for a couple of months to get some important things done here, and Benson and the Tanzania Team will carry on in Dar. We’ll keep you updated as things progress! Also, I’ll shortly be sending out requests from you all for certain things like mailing addresses, t-shirt sizes, etc. Please respond as promptly as you can so that we can start getting your rewards to you!
Please forgive this dry, business-like update. I am suffering from acute jet-lag, the reintroduction of dairy to my lactose-intolerant Asian stomach (but hey, I missed cheese so much, and that huge queso dip and chile relleno yesterday were TOTALLY worth it), and from 32 hours of travel home (with layovers in Nairobi, Zurich, Monreal, and Toronto).
As a token of thanks for your continued awesomeness and your patience, I’m attaching a previously unreleased song from the archives for your enjoyment! I don’t know the name of the song or the artist, but it’s a song written for/about Julius K. Nyerere, the first president of Tanzania. Many of the songs from the archives are songs praising the government and the leaders. Remember, this music was state-produced to promote unity and to garner public support for the government and its policies. I hope you enjoy it!
As always, PAMOJA KWA MUZIKI (together for the music),
The photo below features Zoe Stroebel-Haft (of Art in Tanzania, a partnering org), Nils van der Assen (Tanzania Heritage Project researcher/writer), myself, and Leo Mkanyia, an incredible Tanzanian musician who performs in a style he calls the Swahili Blues. Interview/performance by Mkanyia to follow!