Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Butiama Bed & Breakfast

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Letter from Butiama: The Age Gap (in memory of Fred Ndala Kasheba)

I recently bought an audiocassette from a shop in Butiama. For those who are too young to remember, it is a collection of old songs by a band called Nyanyembe, including one of my favourites, Rangi ya Chungwa.

On my way home I stopped for a game of pool and while playing a young man, perhaps 20 years my junior, picked up my cassette and looked at the cover. One of his age mates asked, “What is it?”

“Nyanyembe”, the first replied, put down the cassette, and showed no further interest. I realized then that our mutual interest was confined to the pool game.

I have superficial knowledge of the music tastes of the younger generation today. A few years ago while driving from Dar-es-salaam to Butiama accompanied by my two nephews and their friend, who they say was a presenter at Radio Clouds FM, I listened to a large CD collection from the sixties and seventies through most of the journey, pretending I was unaware that I was the only one in that car enjoying that music.

The following day as I drove past the Ngorongoro Crater, all my passengers were fed up with my music so the elder of my nephews asked if he could listen to his friend’s CD from Clouds FM.

I relented and was treated to a selection of what was then the latest music, mostly American. It wasn’t that bad, I felt. One of the names I saw listed on the CD cover was Timberlake, and I said I always thought Timberlake was the name of a barbershop in Dar-es-salaam’s Kinondoni suburb. Today, on reflection, I must have mixed up Timberlake with Timberland; the Kinondoni place is called Timberland.

I was also told the two genres from the CD were “hip hop” and “R&B” (rhythm and blues). In my times, we had our share of music imports including “blues” - without the “rhythm”. It was plain “blues”. Not the blues played by Riley “B.B.” King or Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater whose blues express feelings, mostly of sadness in relation to love; ours was slow music that allowed one to get close to his or her dancing partner. Far from making anyone sad, I recall it made everyone who had a dancing partner very pleased indeed.

With my generation whenever the subject turns to music the consensus is “all the good musicians of popular music are deceased”; “If you listen to most of today’s music, you are left with a sour after taste.” Perhaps this attitude is unjustified. I say the best “we” can say is that we do not understand today’s music. To appreciate today’s music, my generation has to be open minded, as open-minded as I believe our parents were when we were growing up.

When “soul music” invaded East Africa in the early seventies, I recall it was one of my brothers who came home and broke the news about the latest dance fad.

He didn’t stop at talking; he got down and boogied – as we used to say then – to one of James Brown’s hit singles. It was one of the most comical dances that anyone had ever seen at home. And yet we all got into the craze while it lasted, and the music didn’t seem that strange, despite the fact that James Brown didn’t have the most profound lyrics.

Together with the “imports”, we also listened to music by home-grown talents including Mbaraka Mwinshehe, Marijani Rajabu, Juma Kilaza, Salum Abdallah, and the more recent ones like Patrick Balisidya and Fred Ndala Kasheba. To the parents of my generation, Balisidya’s Weekend was probably then just another composition by “those young people”. The same type of judgement that we pass on the music tastes of the younger generation today.

Many years ago, I attended a live performance by Kasheba’s band, Zaita Musica, during which an old song was played; played, as I felt then, almost as well as the original. After the performance, I told Kasheba that they had played a song which brought back some fond old memories. I couldn’t remember the title so I told him, “That song by Orchestra Fauvette…”
Fred Ndala Kasheba with his 12-string guitar
Jacqueline”, he said. Then he said something else which I still recall vividly today, “Fauvette si ilikuwa ndiyo sisi. Mimi, Baziano, na....” To paraphrase him: he was, together with Baziano and other former band members he mentioned, Fauvette.

I recall a few of Fauvette’s compositions very well. I knew Kasheba just as well, but I just never, until he told me, knew that we had been enjoying the music of Fred Ndala Kasheba for so long. Perhaps I’m just too young to remember.

Note: Fred Ndala Kasheba died in Dar es Salaam four years ago today. His composition, Dezo Dezo, was re-released by Tshala Muana and became known to a wider international audience.


Alli said...

What many young people are unaware of is Ndala Kasheba was the "master" of the 12 string guitar..I defy any of these rap stars or hip hop artist to try their hand at this. Kasheba was an artist, among the greatest guitar players ever... It is our loss that leaves a wide gaping hole that up till now has not been filled. As well how many young people have heard the song Yellow Card? The rumours have been abounding since the death of Ndala Kasheba that his widow was not properly paid for the rights to this album... Rumours also said that he had been paid upfront but due to the high volume of expenses no funds remained. If that indeed is true, Yellow Card was a great success and money should have been made and distributed. Many artists make the sad mistake by not having their own music copywrited and in fact do not receive royalties instead the record companies swallow whatever funds are made... Is this right? Of course not you are then dealing with unscrupulous producers out to make the fastest buck for themselves.The residule... well there is none!
I called and spoke to MR Kasheba a couple of years before he passed away.. He was in good spirits, I had mentioned I was planning a visit back to Dar and he insisted I should come and visit. I met him in the early part of 1990 through my son's father. we were still living in Dar es Salaam at the time.

I have a teenage son at home too who would rather listen to "His" music rather than "Mom's" music however once in awhile if I am playing something especially a good sebene, he will stop listen and comment on the great guitar playing.... Maybe there is hope yet!!


freddy macha said...

This blog's topic has raised so many complex issues. It might look as if Nyerere junior is merely speaking about Ndala Freddy Kasheba (my name sake) but in a few words has managed to cover : the generation gap, cultural issues,different styles of music from folk to blues, the plight of musicians, etc. Ndala's widow not getting royalties...echoes my visit to Salum Abdallah 's widow in Morogoro back in 1983. She was selling Vitumbuas to make ends meet...living in a grass thatched hut in a derelict place....i could not believe this was the wife of a music legend!...
I met Ndala Kasheba a few months before he died in London. As I shook his hands back stage I felt his imposing personality; very passionate about his work. That was the my last impression and everlasting lesson i.e. to be passionate about what you do. That seems to be the legacy of this Congolese musician as well as the tone of your excellent article brother Madaraka.