Western Jazz Band

Western Jazz Band

Iddi Nhende

Mr. Iddi Nhende was the brain behind the formation of the famous band Western Jazz. Iddi Nhende started playing music when he was young in a primary school band in Nzega. In 1944 he went to Tabora Boys Secondary and joined the school Brass Band where he played the Cornet. He completed his schooling and moved to Dar es Salaam to join a health institute, the Sewa Haji Medical Training Center.

Rufiji Jazz Band

After completing his studies, he was employed at the Drug Depot and in the year 1957 he was transferred to Muhimbili Hospital. His passion for music pushed him to join Rufiji Jazz Band that same year as a trumpet player. This band at that time was performing their shows at Minazini Community Center, the present-day Mchikichini, and they also used to play at the Arnatougro hall.

Because many towns in Tanzania were only starting to spring up, a lot of different people from the countryside were moving into towns. They were looking for people who had gone before them, or for different community groups to help them get along and connect. Most people from different places formed bands and named them after the places they come from, so the founders of Rufiji Jazz were from Rufiji. This was also the case for Kilwa Jazz, Ulanga Jazz, etc.

Western Jazz Band started in 1959

Iddi Nhende, who was from Nzega, decided to start a band of people from the West. The country was divided into provinces, including the Northern Province, the Southern Highlands Province, and Western Province, and because Nhende was from the Western Province, he started the Western Jazz Band in 1959.

He bought instruments by the Grampian brand from Souza Junior’s shop of music instruments at Mkwepu. He was able to get funds after selling several of his mother’s cattle. During that time, amongst similar bands it was only Dar es Salaam Jazz Band that had electronic guitars. Nhende had the task of looking for strummers who could play electric guitar, so he went to the first electronic guitar player Haus Dibonde (a Sukuma) who played for Dar es Salaam Jazz Band, which was under the leadership of Mzee Muba. Afterwards, he got other musicians from Ulanga Jazz Band.

During that time, the banjo was a very important instrument so he approached the banjo player from Cuban Marimba, Dar es Salaam branch. At that time, the Dar branch of Cuban Marimba band was under the leadership of Mzee Mwaipungu. One year later he got a transfer to Morogoro so he was obliged to leave more musicians behind to keep the group stable during his absence. He got David Makwaya a singer, and Ally Rashid, a saxophonist from Zanzibar. Ally Rashid continued playing until recently, with the group Msondo Ngoma.

Unfortunately, the guitar player had to quit due to reasons that were related to superstition and the intense competition between bands. Therefore, three musicians from Tabora Jazz were approached and were taken by Western Jazz. Those musicians were Rashid Hanzuruni, Kassim Mponda and Omary Kayanda.

After doing a marvelous job, Hanzuruni also fell victim to the same environment as the guitar player and was required to be taken back to Tabora where he stayed until his death. Wema Abdallah replaced the solo guitar player. A discipline-related issue led Wema to be kicked out of the group, and another great player named Shamba Abdallah was then hired to replace him. Abdallhah’s work can be heard in the song “Rosa” etc

Musical one-upmanship

The common hall where Western Jazz played was Alexander Hall, which later became DDC Kariakoo Hall. Western Jazz bought drums after Kilwa Jazz bought them in a show of musical one-upmanship. They bought the drums from a certain Goan band called De Mello Brothers.

Western Jazz recorded a several vinyl records under a contract that they signed with a Kenyan label called Phillips. Eventually Western Jazz Band and their Saboso style disappeared in the music scene in the late 1970s. Among the many songs that they have includes: Rosa, Vigelegele, Jela ya Mapenzi, and Helena No 1 and 2.