Revealed: The secret behind Tanzania’s most marketable music artists


Since veteran Tanzanian musicians like Juma Kilaza, Wilson and George Peter, Professor Omar Shaban, Issa Juma, Cosmas Chidumule and Morogoro Jazz band of maestro Mbaraka Mwinshehe Mwaruka which later changed the name to Orchestra Super Volcano. Mbaraka had earned a name for himself on the East African music scene with big songs like Pole Dada, Tina, Shida, and Mashemeji Wangapi. These Tanzanian stars of yesteryear  endeared themselves to their Kenyan fans with their Kiswahili songs mostly about real-life experiences in the early 1970s and 1980s. Kenyan listeners found their lyrics more mature and appealing to all age groups.

Present-day Bongo Flavor artistes like Ali Kiba, Aslay, Rayvanny, Darasa, Joh Makini, Diamond Platnumz, Barnaba Classic and Ommy Dimpoz  noticeably continue to charm Kenyan music enthusiasts with their catchy and flowery Swahili idioms in their lyrics. Unlike Kenyan acts like The Kansoul, Timmy T Dat, P Unit and Nonini who’s music is mostly riddled with lyrics that largely glorify sex, lavish lifestyles, alcohol, and partying.

Coastal people of Kenya cherish coded messaging, hence the tendency to spice up their communication with poetry, idioms, imagery and proverbs. That probably explains why they are at home with Tanzanian singers who punctuate their lyrics with riddles, proverbs and idioms.

Kenyans from Nyanza, Western, Rift valley, Central, Eastern and Nairobi would wish to speak good Swahili but because of general disinterest, mother-tongue and ‘sheng’ influence, the culture of English-speaking in primary and high schools, their communication is pathetic.

Impact of rhythm and rhyme in communication ; communication is not just about content, it is also about packaging. The use of repetition and rhyme in lyrics is particularly powerful, and that is why Tanzanian entertainers like Khadija Kopa, Mr Nice, Saida Karoli, Harmonize, Fid Q, Lady JayDee, AY, Mwana FA, Nay wa Mitego and Ali Kiba who have embraced this style are ranked among the top Swahili lyricists.

anzanian Artist Diamond Platinum (left) and Grammy Nominated R&B artist Omarion (right) pose for a photo during the Safaricom Songa Press conference at Michael Joseph Centre.

Their prominence has soared to the extent that most of them choose to show their appreciation of Kenyan fans by not only launching their albums in Kenya, but also partnering with some of the strongest Kenyan brands to celebrate all the work that has gone into putting the record together. Diamond Platnumz’s  and Vanes Mdee released their albums in Kenya.

Vanessa Mdee’s latest album ‘Money Mondays’ is the top selling and most played across East Africa according to Boomplay Music Tanzania

Swahili language has a repetitive flow, a factor that gives fluent speakers of the language an edge over their counterparts. This trend is mostly attributed to the psychology principle,which suggests that people get fascinated with what they do not have but wish to acquire. So, naturally those who can speak it o flawlessly have a way of drawing attention.

But this magical Swahili touch is not confined to Tanzanian artists alone. A handful of Kenyan music composers have managed to arrest large audiences with their impeccable Swahili. The likes of Sudi Boy, Dela, Nyota Ndogo, Ally B, Sanaipei Tande, Otile Brown, Vivian, King Kaka, Brown Mauzo, Dazlah Kiduche, Nyashinski and the late E-Sir have proven their lyrical prowess.

Besides the current crop of Kenyan musicians, pioneers like Fundi Konde, Daudi Kabaka, Fadhili Williams, Maroon Commandos, John Nyenze, Safari Sound Band and Them Mushrooms charmed audiences across East Africa.