Live from Dar es Salaam: Popular Music and Tanzania's Music Economy

Live from Dar es Salaam: Popular Music and Tanzania's Music Economy

by Alex Perullo
     
 

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When socialism collapsed in Tanzania, the government-controlled music industry gave way to a vibrant independent music scene. Alex Perullo explores the world of the bands, music distributors, managers, and clubs that attest to the lively and creative music industry in Dar es Salaam. Perullo examines the formation of the city’s music economy, considering the

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Overview

When socialism collapsed in Tanzania, the government-controlled music industry gave way to a vibrant independent music scene. Alex Perullo explores the world of the bands, music distributors, managers, and clubs that attest to the lively and creative music industry in Dar es Salaam. Perullo examines the formation of the city’s music economy, considering the means of musical production, distribution, protection, broadcasting, and performance. He exposes both legal and illegal strategies for creating business opportunities employed by entrepreneurs who battle government restrictions and give flight to their musical aspirations. This is a singular look at the complex music landscape in one of Africa’s most dynamic cities.

Indiana University Press

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Alex Perullo focuses on the creative practices Tanzanians in the music economy in Dar es Salaam utilize as they try to make something of a living in difficult economic times. Perullo also shows how music in Tanzania transitioned from work to a commodity as the country itself moved from a socialist to a capitalist political–economic ideology." —American Ethnologist

"The case [Perullo] makes for Tansania's music economy as one of the most thriving in Africa... and an example of Africans making things happen for themselves, is well documented and convincing.... Through Perullo, we are given a unique insight into the manifold uses of art and artifice by which people shape their own lives in an African city today." —Tanzanian Affairs

David B. Coplan

"This isn't just a book about Tanzanian popular music. It's a compendium of everything one could wish to know and more about Dar es Salaam's performance life, and an ethnographic tour de force that offers an insider's trip to the sweaty heart of an African capital's music scene, without having to go there. The social economy of post-independence Dar es Salaam is painstakingly interwoven into an account of every style, trend, and movement in the city's imaginative life from every angle. Perullo's achievement will set the standard for studies of popular culture in urban East Africa for decades to come." —David B. Coplan, University of the Witwatersrand

Remmy Ongala

"The extensive research for this book provides valuable insight into Tanzanian culture. Live from Dar es Salaam discusses our history and examines current radio stations, performances, recording studios, and music education. In reading this book, young people will learn about what their elders did in the past, and elders will remember those things they took part in. In addition, this book will become a road map for the next generation to use in order to learn about Tanzanian popular music. It is a very important book that illustrates the past, present, and future of Tanzanian music." —Remmy Ongala

Tanzanian Affairs

"The case [Perullo] makes for Tansania's music economy as one of the most thriving in Africa... and an example of Africans making things happen for themselves, is well documented and convincing.... Through Perullo, we are given a unique insight into the manifold uses of art and artifice by which people shape their own lives in an African city today." —Tanzanian Affairs

American Ethnologist

"The author provides a rich analysis of plurality of voices that contest, support, and struggle over the meaning of music in both the colonial and postindependence periods.
" —American Ethnologist

African Studies Review

"The book displays the author’s encyclopedic and deep knowledge of Tanzania’s music economy. It contains rich ethnographic descriptions and persuasive arguments, and would be valuable to anyone interested in the contemporary music scene in Tanzania." —African Studies Review

Ethnomusicology Forum

"Scholars interested in the popular music of urban Africa will welcome Alex Perullo's Live from Dar es Salaam enthusiastically. Perullo's comprehensive examination of a city's musical life is lively and compelling, and readers will be impressed by the breadth and depth of the author's description and analysis." —Ethnomusicology Forum

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780253222923
Publisher:
Indiana University Press
Publication date:
10/03/2011
Series:
African Expressive Cultures Series
Pages:
496
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Live from Dar es Salaam

Popular Music and Tanzania's Music Economy


By Alex Perullo

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2011 Alex Perullo
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-35605-5



CHAPTER 1

'Kumekucha (It Is Daylight / Times Have Changed)


You need to be smart to live in the city ...
Everyone lives by their own intelligence,
To live in the city depends on your ingenuity,
Finish your plans before the end of the day,
Don't fail to return home.

— EXTRA BONGO "Mjini Mipango" (In the City Is Planning)


In 1963, members of the band Western Jazz entered the recording studio of the Tanganyika Broadcasting Corporation (TBC), a semi-independent radio station informally controlled by the government. The TBC was the only recording facility in the country and an important resource for local artists wanting to publicize their music and concerts. After the ten members of Western Jazz set up their instruments in the cramped studio and did a sound check with the recording engineer, they began to record their music for the first time. During several hours in the studio, the group performed a number of popular songs, including "Mpenzi Wangu Shida" (My Lover Shida), "Wamenisingizia Kifo" (They Wrongly Proclaimed My Death), and "Fitina za Duma" (Intrigue of the World). The songs, which brought together traditional Tanzanian music with American soul and jazz, Congolese dance music, and Latin rhythms, were powerful and important for a nation that had become independent only two years earlier. Though the band was paid a minimal few hundred shillings for their songs, they received constant airplay by the radio station for the next several decades. The airplay helped solidify the group as one of the most important in Tanzania's popular music history.

Almost forty years later, I sat in a small, crowded room with five of the original Western Jazz band members and Joseph Kisandu, the head of a copyright association in Tanzania. It was early evening and, though most of the city was returning home after a day of work, a dispute needed to be settled within the group. Kisandu, who led the discussion, gave each band member a chance to speak, beginning, as is customary in Tanzania, with the eldest musician. Mzee Juma told about his life in music, the hardships he faced, and how he ended up in Western Jazz as an instrumentalist and a composer. The story, like many told by elder Tanzanian musicians, touched on the struggles of living in independent Tanzania, working under a socialist government, recording at the government radio station, and fighting through the country's long depression after its war with the former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

After a short time, the elder brought us to the point of the meeting: to discuss the sale of Western Jazz recordings by a local Asian storeowner. Mzee Juma accused the former band leader, Rashid Mafumbo, of selling the rights to Western Jazz recordings, including those recorded at the TBC forty years ago. This was done, according to Juma, without providing compensation to any of the other band members. Mafumbo sat still, defiant, with his eyes staring absently at his hands. The elder proceeded to tell how Mafumbo signed a contract and received 300,000 Tanzanian shillings (Tsh), equivalent to US$300, for giving the rights of twenty Western Jazz songs to the local storeowner. The contract gave the storeowner the right to sell the recordings for two years with a chance to renew the contract after that point. The elder emphasized the amount Mafumbo was paid, Tsh 300,000, and repeated that none of the other living band members had received a single shilling.

When the elder finished, each of the other three band members told similar stories. All accused Mafumbo of the same wrongdoing and looked as if they were on the verge of physically lashing out at him. Kisandu tried to keep the situation diplomatic, but the band members' fury at not getting their share of the royalties was difficult to contain. Finally, Mafumbo was given his chance to speak. His few words were clumsy but defiant. He tried to state that he received only Tsh 30,000 ($30) in the deal, not the larger amount for which he stood accused. Kisandu quickly pulled out a copy of the contract Mafumbo had signed with the Asian storeowner. The contract, accompanied by several receipts, showed the total amount of the royalties paid to Mafumbo: Tsh 300,000.

Still defiant, Mafumbo said, "Fine, if you have a problem, take me to court." In one sentence, he had shown the inherent flaw with the group's anger at him. In the urban environment in which they lived, the band members could do nothing to retrieve their share of the money: the police would never arrest Mafumbo without a significant bribe, a court case could take years, and each of these would cost far more money than it was worth. Kisandu quickly dismissed the threat of a court case and said that the problem needed to be solved internally. But Mafumbo gained some confidence from his threat, as idle as it was. For the next half hour, he continually repeated himself, sounding like a broken record, but silencing the criticism against him.

Toward dark, the mood in the room began to change. The band members had vented their anger at Mafumbo and realized they were never going to get their money. As they said, Mafumbo "has already eaten it." They even began to feel sorry for him. Sorry, they said, that Mafumbo had been forced into signing a contract in English, a language which he apparently did not understand. The blame now shifted from Mafumbo to the storeowner. Kisandu saw his moment and proposed a united front to get the storeowner to pay each member a share of the royalties. He agreed to write a letter on behalf of the group demanding that the store pay each member separately, a part of which would go to Kisandu. Now, ironically united, the band agreed to sign the letter and attempt to receive their shares of the royalties.

The storeowner was someone I often spoke with, and a few days after the meeting with Western Jazz and Kisandu, I went to see him. He had already received Kisandu's letter, which he showed to me. Typed on an old, electric typewriter with official stationary, the letter accused the storeowner of stealing from poor musicians and tricking Mafumbo with a contract written and signed in English. The owner was shocked at the offensive language, both derogatory and inflammatory. He was hurt by the accusations and told me, "I paid Mafumbo the royalties; I have a contract here. I did not know there were any other [living] band members." Unfortunately, the owner could not know that other members were still alive since no system or resource exists to find people who performed in a band in a particular period. The storeowner had to, or wanted to, trust Mafumbo, who told him that everyone else in the band had passed away.

The letter that the storeowner received was typical of Kisandu's negotiation procedures. Kisandu was well known for scaring people, through either letters or personal visits, until they paid him money. The storeowner knew this about Kisandu and was worried that something might happen. Would he be arrested for not searching out all the members of Western Jazz? Would he be taken to court? Would other musicians not sign a contract with him after hearing about the Western Jazz debacle? In the end, the storeowner continued to sell the cassettes because the contract and the royalties had been dealt with as legally as possible. And, though Kisandu and Western Jazz continued to fight the storeowner, they were unable to do anything until the contract expired two years later.


AN ECONOMY OF MUSIC

Most people in Dar es Salaam do not envision themselves as being part of a music industry per se. In fact, the term for music industry, tasnia ya muziki, is rarely used in daily conversation. Instead, people describe music and the social spaces that surround it (studios, clubs, radio stations, etc.) as an opportunity for employment and an outlet for furthering their own aspirations, opportunities, and affiliations. Those aspirations may include musical competency as a songwriter, composer, or producer. It may include attaining recognition as a strong radio presenter. Or, it may mean running a successful bar in downtown Dar es Salaam that can compete with other establishments in the city. But individual aspirations within the local music scene always include making the most of the limited resources that exist. It is a means of establishing a better position within society by creating opportunities in a highly competitive environment. Tanzania's music economy is an arrangement of creative human activities and practices intended to produce, distribute, perform, and consume various facets of music.

The Western Jazz narrative illustrates this economy of music well. All the parties involved — Mafumbo, Kisandu, the members of Western Jazz, and the storeowner — sought to transform a few recorded songs from the 1960s into profitable commodities. These songs were technically the property of Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam (RTD), which took over the rights in the TBC recordings. Mafumbo, however, was able to sign a contract with an independent storeowner, since no guidelines or effective enforcement existed on legal contracts. There could be no lawsuits or efficient means for other members of Western Jazz to sue or dispute Mafumbo's actions due to the costs involved in hiring lawyers and in the inherent problems of the country's legal system. Nor would RTD make a case against Kisandu for illegally selling their recordings since the original contract between RTD and Western Jazz stipulated that the station could only use the song for broadcasts, even though they had long been selling them for profit. Further, Kisandu's music organization had no legal jurisprudence but pursued copyright matters with such zeal that local businesses became intimidated by his forcefulness and knowledge of legal matters. The meeting between Western Jazz and Kisandu was therefore an opportunity, a creative endeavor for everyone involved to find new avenues of profiting from a few post-independence recordings that remained popular. The interaction between them was a strategy for finding social and economic benefits where none had existed before.

Mainly located in Dar es Salaam, the country's largest city, the Tanzanian music economy consists of people from various economic and social backgrounds, who attempt to find innovative strategies to establish a living from music. These strategies are a part of any person's interaction and highlight the resourceful ways individuals make the most of a given situation in their attempts to attain power, status, and/or social mobility. People act creatively in order to compete with or outdo others vying for the same thing. Competition and the increasing influence of capitalism in the neoliberal period play a role in the use of creative practices. Yet the struggle that many people encounter in areas of Tanzania, such as Dar es Salaam, make creative practices more compulsory and forceful. There is urgency in the strategies people use since few options are available for financial or social wealth. Certainly, all the people involved in reselling classic songs of Western Jazz looked for an opportunity to profit from songs that were, for years, not thought to have economic value.

Discussing creative practices provides a means to analyze the formation of the contemporary music economy as one of the most successful and prosperous on the African continent. Between 1994 and 2009, Tanzania moved from having one state-controlled radio station and two recording studios to fifty-two radio stations, twenty-seven television stations, and over a hundred recording studios (see appendix B; a list of studios can be found in chapter 6). In 2005, there were 350 registered newspaper and magazine publications in Tanzania, with one-third regularly making it to press. The number of producers, radio deejays, music distributors, and music journalists increased at the same exponential rate, as did the sale and distribution of recorded albums. There were also awards ceremonies, local fashion lines that catered to the music scene, and sponsors from Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, and elsewhere who began hosting large concerts. International artists, such as Kofi Olomide, Miriam Makeba, Sean Paul, and Jay Z, all made stops in Dar es Salaam to perform their music. Although Kenya's music economy rebounded to some extent in the early 2000s, no other country in eastern Africa offered the same array of options and skills that Tanzania did. How did this happen? How did a formerly state-controlled music economy with limited means grow into the most successful in eastern Africa within such a short period? How did people, such as artists, deejays, producers, managers, and distributors, fill the gaps in knowledge that came with such a rapid expansion of musical commerce? And what occurred within Dar es Salaam's urban society that allowed for such significant movement toward the commodification and commercialization of music?

The next several sections examine these questions by analyzing the formation of the Tanzanian music economy and the basis for my use of the term creative practices. The sections move out in concentric circles, beginning with ideologies that gave rise to creative practices, and progress through national and international issues, including postsocialism, neoliberalization, and globalization that greatly influence the economic conditions of Tanzania. These historical and theoretical ideas overlap and connect together to illustrate processes that position Dar es Salaam as a hub for the commo dification of music in eastern Africa. It is not by any form of planning that a prosperous music economy emerged in Tanzania hut rather through the confluences of disparate modes of social action that had rich implications for the performance, production, distribution, and protection of music. The remainder of this chapter takes apart those confluences in order to provide a necessary means to interpret the Tanzanian music economy as it is lived and experienced on a daily basis.


NATIONAL CULTURE AND LOCAL PHILOSOPHIES

Creative practices are not a new phenomenon in Tanzania. There are numerous historical examples of people using innovative strategies to overcome obstacles, which form critical points in documenting and describing the country's history. For instance, in conflicts against colonialism, scholarly narratives of the country frequently focus on key individuals who used ingenious means to move people to collectively resist colonial occupation. In the early twentieth century, during the German occupation of the country, Kinjikitile Ngwale convinced his followers to take medicine that he said would turn German bullets into water. The strategy empowered many to fight the Germans in violent conflicts that became known as the Maji Maji Rebellion. In the 1950s, this time under British rule, when the county was called the Tanganyika Territory, Bibi Titi Mohammed and other activists used dance associations to mobilize women to attend meetings and join the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU). In drawing people to join TANU, Mohammed would give speeches that were effective in mobilizing productive resistance against British colonial rule (Geiger 1997: 58). Numerous other examples exist in Tanzanian history, particularly as people struggled against various forms of repression. In many ways, it is difficult not to find examples of innovative strategies, whether successful (Mohammed) or not (Kinjikitile).

In this ethnography, I focus on individuals who demonstrate creative practices, as well as on broader narratives of people's abilities to make opportunities emerge in difficult economic and social situations. I am interested both in exploring the formation of creative practices in response to particular circumstances and the impact of those practices on the music economy more generally. When there are few places to learn music, what does a young artist do? How does a music producer find ways to outcompete the hundreds of other people recording music in Dar es Salaam? And how do radio deejays use their social popularity to earn higher salaries? The answers provide insight into the strategies that people use on a daily basis, as well as to the ways music is being lived in Tanzania. Music exists as a central component to many areas of Tanzanian society: from live performance to media; distribution to recording studios; law to education; advertising to entertainment. There are few other cultural forms that connect with a diversity of employment opportunities in the way that music does. Following the movement of music from work to commodity provides a glimpse into people's relationship with songs and into the creative strategies used to earn a living in urban areas of eastern Africa.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Live from Dar es Salaam by Alex Perullo. Copyright © 2011 Alex Perullo. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

Remmy Ongala
"The extensive research for this book provides valuable insight into Tanzanian culture. Live from Dar es Salaam discusses our history and examines current radio stations, performances, recording studios, and music education. In reading this book, young people will learn about what their elders did in the past, and elders will remember those things they took part in. In addition, this book will become a road map for the next generation to use in order to learn about Tanzanian popular music. It is a very important book that illustrates the past, present, and future of Tanzanian music." —Remmy Ongala

Meet the Author

Alex Perullo is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and African Studies at Bryant University. He has published in Africa Today, Popular Music and Society, Ethnomusicology, and several edited volumes.

Indiana University Press

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