From Timeless To Tasteless!!

Posted: September 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

From Timeless To Tasteless!!

Musicians classifies Tanzanian music as bubble-gum and sandwich music. Musicians says, are fast producing ‘bubble-gum music’ which you put in the mouth, chew and spit – not wanting to look at it again because it’s outright tasteless. Sandwich music is what the likes of Muhidini Gurumo, Waziri (Njenje band) and Marijani Rajabu produced. You take a bite and you want to take another; Mr. Kitime said ‘music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life’! And it is because of music that the likes of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur are household names. From blues, pop, country, rock, gospel, reggae, rap, techno, opera, jazz, contemporary African and instrumentals, music is more than a concept. The web generally defines music as ‘organised sound’ while music books put it as both ‘an art and a craft, based on acoustic principles, yet subject to various interpretations, hence its artistic merit.’ In secondary school we used to define music as “nothing but a psychological cantata made up of three dimensions X, Y and Z”. Music is the use of voice, instruments and body motion expressed harmoniously to educate or entertain people. However, the advance in technology has changed the face of music so much that music critics and lovers are getting worried. Save for old school, which lives on, many people would be averse to today’s music. Studios are churning out stuff, leaving parents worried because the message, the videos, and the vocal skills seem to rotate on what has been termed ‘dirty’, as compared to old school music.

We’ve come a long way from waltz beats, twist, bump, rock, disco, break dancing, and whatever they call dancing these days…we have had country, disco, pop, rhythm and blues, reggae, Latino, funk, ragga, rap. People have had it all and today when they listen to music, they are looking for a good beat, maybe the message; the music flow and the instruments come later.

I reiterate that old school music remains far better because it revives the special memories. The music these days is more high-tech than in the old days. This, however, is in no way meant to imply that it is richer. They use computers to mix the sounds and you don’t need a whole band or orchestra. Where are the good old fashioned bands with drummers? I wonders. It’s expensive hiring a whole band to perform and to pay all the individual musicians, so musicians make is easier these days. Just use the computer to do everything and forget the band. It’s much cheaper. As to the musicians that are hired to perform at big events, I’m disappointed: “One feels cheated to see “stars” these days tell the deejay to play ‘CD song number 4…’ and people jump up and down to music from a CD. You could do that at home you know…give me my old-fashioned bands back any day, Juma (musician) he says. Good old days Juma attributes the power of old school music to hard work, talent and the ability to perform on stage.

It is out of the passion of the 60s that music fans were called ‘cheesburgers’ (the girls) and ‘hamburgers’ (men). So a singer would perform and ask the charged fans, “Who da man,” and the crowd’s reply would be, “You da man!” Such is how infectious the music and dance of early times was. Some Tanzanian Producers agrees that most modern singers have no wild musical imagination when it comes to writing lyrics, shooting videos, singing and, actually performing live. Back in the days, singers knew how to play keyboards, drums, pianos, and also how to work the crowds. In Tanzania, the new sensation, Rama Dee and Msechu can play and stroke the audience with their rich voices while Hemed Suleiman aka PHD is famous for his showmanship on stage – at least his fans end up boogying. Songstress Judith Wambura aka Lady Jaydee too can melt her fans but it all ends there. Dancehall music has taken over East Africa. Most musicians these days sing about nice bums, sex, and drugs.

On EATV and Clouds Tv, I do blames the scenario on the different musical tastes of different people. On whether modern music thrives on studio work, I points out that the digital age is busy changing music both for the best and the worst. Music companies are at fault. So many things are done on the songs… today music videos are made just to win the hearts of the adolescents who are the majority. Also, musicians come from the ghetto; they grow up smoking weed, fighting and trying to survive. They sing about that. You cannot blame them…. Accordingly, Tanzanians – just like Jamaicans, listen to a tune and worry about the lyrics later. I am worried by the inability by today’s artists to produce an all-winning album. Luther Vandross (RIP) and Boyz 11 Men, would release a 12-track album – all entirely good. Not today, where you will find only one track worth listening to. In Tanzania, artistes cut one song and struggle to go from show to show, quality has really reduced, I Wish all music was like jazz because although jazz has been modernised, it has not been changed. Sometimes you can’t understand what artistes sing about these days, also i swipes at modern concerts where singers ask everybody to scream and they scream: “I pay my due and you tell me to scream…if you don’t listen to old school music, you missed it”

Mr Juma, a rap artiste and a music, dance and drama says old school shames new school hip-hop. “In terms of message content, old school was more society focused. Today’s rap is more into ‘ma money; ma bitches’ and making front-page news. For me the truest emcee dead or alive is Tupac Shakur. He rapped about his experience in a cruel world. His lyrics were intelligent, his rhymes captivating and he lived what he preached. He is in the Guinness World Book of Records as the most successful gangster rapper.

As to the changing trends that are making it tasteless, Juma says, “Artistes have become so many and must fight to survive. So they mix talent and marketing to make it. ” He is unhappy that musicians are producing ‘bubble gum music’ which you put in the mouth, chew and spit not wanting to look at it again because it’s outright tasteless. He says music embodies voice, lyrics, style and the passion. “Music is a feeling; the voice is simply an expression. You have to let it flow; bring the feeling straight from the heart.” He says all good music comes from God. Juma argues that you must give people what they want: “Today, people listen to the beat, not the sound. Back in the days, people enjoyed instruments, live music. But the world has changed. While the music in the United States is more appalling in terms of lyrical content and steamy videos, it is promising as far as sound quality is concerned. Record labels in developed countries hire talented producers who in turn shop for voice trainers to nurture talents. This is why Usher Raymond was spotted at a local talent show before he landed a deal with La Face Records. At 14, he was already working on his premier album – today Usher is arguably the best R&B singer. As for Tanzania, with studios such as MJ Record, Bongo Record, Hali Halisi Recording Studio, Sharobaro Record, Mazuu Record and Fishclab Record among others, there is hope. Producers and promoters should as well do their best to promote the talented musicians.

Vanessa Mdee aka VeeMoney, Rama Dee, and Young Killer are natural thoroughbreds that, if promoted, can take the world by storm. Juma narrates that we can develop musically if we keep it local and stop being copycats obsessed with American music. You can’t put feeling in an electronic instrument the way you do while playing the drum or the flute. The timbre (quality of music) of string instruments is better than that of electronic music,” he observes. “Our music industry is young – these are just growing pains; 20 years ahead, we shall make judgment.” As such, American rap artistes have been able to make it despite the obscene lyrics because they keep it local. Rappers such as Dr Dre, Nelly, Nas, Fabulous, P. Diddy, Eve, Missy Elliot etc are ghetto sensitive and sing rough because it is the way they have been brought up. Trying to copy them will not work in Tanzania. We have to get grounded in traditional music; rich textured songs and impressively mature lyrics the way it is done in Jamaican dancehall. It is a matter of projecting the strength and confidence of the African performer and we shall stand proud in defiance of the American music culture that’s fast eroding our own style and creativity, you learn that our music industry remains sorry because most singers don’t know what they want. Thomas Carlyle once said: “music is well said to be the speech of angels; in fact, nothing among the utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine. It brings us near to the infinite.” The sound of angels is good. Clean videos, the voice, the songs and the arrangements must be made perfect. Mariah Carey’s advice sums it up: “A lot of people are singing about how screwed up the world is, and I don’t think that everybody wants to hear about that all the time!”

I remain



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