Kedmon Mapana (University of Dar es Salaam)

Patricia Campbell (University of Washington)


Nation/Culture. The United Republic of Tanzania is located in East Africa. Its borders include Kenya and Uganda to the north, the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi to the west, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south, and the Indian Ocean to the east. It is a nation comprised of more than 120 tribes and 30 regions—five of which are found on the formerly independent island-nation of Zanzibar; the country’s name derives from a blend of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which united in 1964 under the leadership of the highly regarded , Mwalimu Julius Kamabarage Nyerere (first president of the republic of Tanzania) and Sheikh Abeid Amani Karume (first vice-president of the republic of Tanzania) . The official language of Tanzania is Kiswahili, while English is increasingly widespread in the cities, in business and education, and there are numerous tribal languages such as those of tribes known as Sukuma, Nyemwezi, Chagga, Bena, Wagogo, Makonde, Massai, and Luo. Arab and Indian communities often preserve their own mother-tongue languages. Tanzania’s tourism is growing, particularly due to its national parks such as the Serengeti and Ngorogoro Conservation Area, and Mt. Kiliminjaro at its northern border. Its wildlife includes its considerable population of wildebeast, as well as lion, giraffe, zebra, and rhinoceros.


Music. Ngoma is a central principle of traditional music across ethnic-cultural groups in Tanzania, in that performances typically involve performers in singing, dancing, and playing instruments (and often drama and poetry as well)—sometimes simultaneously, or with performers changing roles within a musical piece or across a program. In traditions marked by ngoma, performers are engaged in multiple artistic expressions, and there is no separation of these arts but rather an integration of all in the act of performance. Genres of music in Tanzania include the following: kwaya, church choir music harmonizing voices of men and women accompanied by electric guitars, keyboards, and drum machines; muziki wa dansi, dance band or jazz music; taraab, Islamic-styled sung poetry and a small ensemble of lutes and drums (heard especially in Zanzibar and on the Swahili coast); bongo fleva, a popular form comprised of hip hop and rhythm and blues elements; Western art music, of a somewhat limited presence that is found largely in school music practices particularly intended to teach music Western music theory, notation, and music appreciation.


Notable Musicians. While many of the musical genres of Tanzania are communal in nature, in which participants contribute in equitable ways to the musical whole, there are also notable musicians who are household names among Tanzanians as soloists or representatives of particular genres. These include:

Saida Karoli (b. 1976), Haya-language singer-performer of northern Tanzania

Bi Kidude (b. 1899 – 1909, estimated), Taraab singer of Zanzibar

Siti binti Saad (1880-1950), Taraab singer of Zanzibar

Professor Jay (Joseph Haule (b. 1975), singer of bongo fleva and rap

Imani Sanga (b. 1972), Composer and choral musician, Dar es Salaam

Hukwe Zawosi (1938-2003), Wagogo singer and ilimba (thumb piano) player of central Tanzania

Mzee Morris Nyuyusa (d. 1999), blind Nyamwezi ngoma player who played more than 12 drums at ones. (One of his drumming tunes became a signature tune of a government owned Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC), Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam (RTD) by then.


Music in Higher Education. There are 26 institutions of higher learning in Tanzania, including government-funded universities and those built under the sponsorship of private foundations and religious organizations. Music features in clubs and student organizations at these institutions, and there are courses and degree programs at others, such as University of Arusha, University of Dodoma, Zanzibar University, St. John’s University (Dodoma), Tumaini University Makumira, and University of Dar es Salaam. There are also numerous colleges in which students are educated for certification as teachers, agricultural work, and various trades. The University of Dar es Salaam offers a B.A. program in Fine and Performing Arts, in which there are numerous academic courses in music culture and history/theory (Western and African), and performance study by individual tuition and in ensembles. Since 2007, this university has been host to an annual symposium in ethnomusicology that draws scholars from Tanzania, various nations in Africa, the U.S., Europe, Canada, and Japan. Faculty include Imani Sanga, Mitchell Strumph, Mathayo Ndomondo, Kasonso Mkallyah and Kedmon Mapana, with specializations in ethnomusicology, music education, and choral and instrumental performance. The University of Dodoma features also courses in music and the performing arts, and Tumaini University Makumira (an Evangelical Lutheran university in Arusha) offers a B.A. degree in music.


Music in Schools. Education in Tanzania is government-funded, or provided by the private sector. A national curriculum outlines music for the primary schools (ages 7-13, Standards I-VII) and secondary school (ages 14-17, Forms 1-4); music is also available for study in the two years of secondary advanced level education (ages 18-19, Forms 5-6). Free tuition has led to increased enrollment in the number of children in primary schools, which is compulsory (secondary school is not required); families must pay for uniforms, testing, and school supplies. A curriculum of twelve subjects is designed and directed by the Tanzania Institute of Education. Music is one of an array of disciplinary option in Forms 1-4, and may function as curricular or co-curricular (or absent from official activities of a primary and secondary schools). Music as a subject in primary schools is largely absent, except in occasional informal large-group singing sessions. Subjects are taught in the national language, Kiswahili, and curricular music in the upper grades is based predominantly in Western music styles, with emphasis given to music fundamentals (including notation) and theory. There is strong interest by music-specialist teachers in featuring traditional music practices of Tanzania, but such music is rare due to the minimal attention given to it in the national curriculum and in teacher education programs (Mapana, 2013).


Frowin Nyoni, University of Dodoma

Kedmon Mapana, University of Dar es Salaam

Mitchell Strumph, University of Dar es Salaam

Imani Sanga, University of Dar es Salaam


Recommendations for Listening.

Chibite (Hukwe Zawose), 1999; Real World Records.

Mateso (Hukwe Zawose), 1994; Triple Earth.

Mbuki Wa Rocho (Hukwe Zawose), 2001; Womad.

Zanzibara 4: The Diva of Zanzibari Music, 2007. Buda Musique.


Recommendations for Viewing.

Africa: The Beat (Wagogo Music), 2012; Polo Vallejo, director. www.africathebeat.com

Chamwino Arts Center: www.chamwinoarts.org


Recommendations for Reading.

Askew, Kelly, 2002. Performing the Nation: Swahili Music and Cultural Politics in Tanzania. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gunderson, Frank, 2010. Sukuma Labor Songs from Western Tanzania: “We Never Sleep, We Dream of Farming”. Brill Academic Press.

Mapana, Kedmon, 2013. Music Traditions in the School Curriculum: Current Attitudes of Tanzanian music educators. Ph.D. dissertation, Seattle Pacific University.

Mkude, Daniel, Brian Cooksey, and Lisbeth Levey, 2003. Higher Education in Tanzania: A Case Study. Suffolk, UK.

Perullo, Alex, 2011. Live from Dar es Salaam: Popular Music and Tanzania’s Music Economy. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Sanga, Imani, 2010. Sounds of Mzuki Wa Injili (Gospel Music): Temporary and Spatial Aesthetics of Contemporary Church Music in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Lap Lambert Academic Publishing.