Lessons from patriotic Tanzanian musicians

Friday, January 17th, 2020 00:00 |
Tanzania’s founding father Julius Kambarage Nyerere. Photo/Courtesy

Last year marked the 20th anniversary since the death of Tanzania’s founding father Julius Kambarage Nyerere. 

Many activities were lined up to commemorate the passing on of the African icon. 

The most conspicuous was the release of the song “Godfather Nyerere”. It is a beautiful composition that scores passing grades on the basis of the production alone.

However, even more catching are the lyrics. It is a soulful rendition of a journey to a past that came before them, which has shaped their present.

The new generation appreciates the vision and sacrifices of their founding father and his successors.

In the recording an actor playing the icon’s role visits the nation to find out how the country he founded is faring on 20 years since he left it.

The wajukuu (grandchildren) then break into the song in which they thank Nyerere, referred to in the song as “babu”, for his sacrifices, wisdom and foresight that enabled Tanzania to turn out into the country it is today.

He united Tanganyika and Zanzibar, brought about peace, independence, eliminated tribalism among others. They give the scorecard. Who would not be proud?

The vices that Nyerere fought against are listed. His achievements are immortalised in the song.

Nyerere’s spirited fight, they reckon, laid the foundation for the peace and development they now enjoy.

Yes, they recount, successive presidents have built onto that foundation to continue the legacy the founding father laid.

The contribution of each successive leader is recited. If Nyerere was to rise from the grave, this song alone would bring a smile to his face and the knowledge that the sacrifices of putting Tanzania together were not in vain.

You would hardly believe that Kenyan artistes and their Tanzanian counterparts have only a border between them.

The obsession with sexualised production and a near-belief that the more outlandish the performance the higher the chances of success seems to pervade our art scene too often forcing the moral cop Ezekiel Mutua to pull out the whip.

Still in Tanzania, only recently Harmonize released a song in praise of president John Pombe Magufuli.

The artist whose real name is Rajabu Abdul Kahale and operates under the label Konde Gang Worldwide is, these days, stirring in public rallies becoming a near campaign hand for the president.

Harmonize lists Magufuli’s achievements: Rapid Bus Transport in Dar, new airport, a new bridge, new plane, SGR and concludes that this is indeed the people’s president before concluding with Magufuli’s fight against corruption, construction of new hospitals, free education among others. 

These productions remind one of a time gone by in Kenya when musicians fell over themselves to release praise songs of then President Moi.

We may not quantify the contribution of these songs to the enduring recognition of Moi’s name but they could only have helped and not hurt.

President Kibaki never cared for music and continued on with the business of nation building.

Not much praise in the form of songs has come President Uhuru Kenyatta’s way except during campaigns. As if to fill this space, rapper King Kaka recently released “wajinga nyinyi”. What a contrast!

Probably the man enjoying praise by musicians is opposition leader Raila Odinga. You can hardly walk by a music vendor in Kisumu without hearing a song in praise of Agwambo.

These patriotic songs are inspired by achievements of the leaders. That Nyerere’s achievements speak for him 20 years and two generations after the fact is telling. What a legacy!

This should be an inspiration for leaders that their contribution, two decades down the road, could draw such affection and endearing love and praise. It is the achievements that will count in the long run.—The writer is the dean, School of Communication, Daystar University

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