I blog what I observe around me, and I end up writing on a wide range of subjects including cultural tourism, customs and traditions, travel, and mountaineering. Specifically, what happens in and around the village of Butiama, the birthplace and final resting place of Tanzania's founding president, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere.
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, “Fauvettesi 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.