Saturday, August 16, 2008

More Songs the Swahili Sing




Note: This post was updated on September 20, 2008, to incorporate comments by reader/listener Iman.

In response a to a request from reader/listener Mike K., I'm happy to post more taarab music from the Indian Ocean coast. The selections here are taken from two cassettes, Pendo Kazi Yetu by the Jasmin Musical Club (FLATIM/Ahadi AHD (MC) 023) and Pendo La Dharau by the Shani Musical Club (FLATIM/Ahadi AHD (MC) 035). While a friend brought these back for me from Nairobi some years ago, I've never really listened to them until now. They're quite nice, though, despite the dodgy audio quality. As FLATIM/Ahadi productions, the packaging is similarly lacking in style:



Doug Paterson writes, at Musikifan:

". . . Badly mastered? Surely you jest? The cassettes have gone through a rigorous controlled process starting with duplication of the original one track tape from Radio Tanzania, the creation of a cassette master at the Nairobi's Valley Road Pentecostal Church (an actual studio), and then home duplication on Livingstone Amaumo's comsumer grade cassette recorder on blanks from no-name Asian manufacturers. At least that was the process back in 1988.

"Since then Livingstone actually uses professional tape duplicators who aren't too bad. The quarter inch tape masters (duplicates) were always a bit dicey but the rest of the process really took its toll.

In another message, Doug explains the acronym: "FLATIM stands for (the late) Franklin Livingstone Amaumo and Tido Dunstan Mhando. Tido, former head of the BBC Swahili Service and now head of TUT (Tanzania's state-owned radio and television services), was once Livingstone's Tanzanian partner in FLATIM."
I've always thought the crew at FLATIM deserved major kudos for keeping this music in circulation throughout the eighties and nineties, despite the technical limitations of their work. They put out some amazing stuff, a complete listing of which you can read here.

I've been unable to find out anything about the Shani Musical Club or Jasmin Musical Club. I suspect they are from the Tanga area in mainland Tanzania, as are the Black Star Musical Club. At least their style is quite similar. But that's pure conjecture on my part. Iman writes:

I really can't tell where these bands are from, you are probably correct in your conjecture. They are using words that are beyond my vocabulary and this is not surprising seeing as that us Nairobians are often ridiculed for our poor grammar - it could also be just me. In any case, I have translated the titles as you have posted them and gone a little further with some of them.
Here's a heaping helping of nimble guitar work, funky Farfisa organs, and passionate Islamic vocals from the land of the Swahili! In regards to our first song, "Mjamili," Iman writes, "I have no idea what this word means. When I listen to it, it sounds more like 'Mjamali' which I also don't understand! I asked a friend though and he is trying to figure it out. But from the few lyrics I could pick up, he seems to be sad about something. One of the lines I picked up: My heart is burning and you are the firewood."

Jasmin Musical Club - Mjamili

"
'Mama wa Kambo' = 'Stepmother'"

Jasmin Musical Club - Mama wa Kambo

"'Pendo Limetakasika' = 'This Love Has Gone Bad'"

Jasmin Musical Club - Pendo Limetakasika

"'Nakonda Kwa Huba': Literally 'I am losing weight over love.' This one is actually kinda funny and sad at the same time! My favorite of the bunch. He is basically saying: 'All the wrongs you have done me make me laugh and really shock me. Remember how good our love used to be? I believed you when you said you loved me and now it seems like you have grown tired of me. Have you no God? How can you harass me this way? I am a fool for your love. I am hungry for your love.'"

Shani Musical Club - Nakonda Kwa Huba

"'Ewe Wangu Nateseka': 'My Love, I am Suffering.' Her lover has left and she is asking him to return soon.

Shani Musical Club - Ewe Wangu Natiseka

"'Moyo Hukipenda Hula': 'The Heart Wants What it Wants' (even if it is bad). Something close to 'I can't help what I love.'"

Shani Musical Club - Moyo Hukipenda Hula



The artwork at the top of this post is from the website Zanzibar Henna Art. The site is a bit rudimentary now, but hopefully it will be updated soon. Browse the site, read about the artists, and consider buying the set of postcards that is available.

5 comments:

Neu Mejican said...

Neato,

I loved the Black Star Music club, so I am looking forward to these...

Anonymous said...

I thought the Malian Grab Bag was the highlight, personally. I'm so happy to know about Djeneba Seck!

THANKS!!!

D

Iman said...

I really can't tell where these bands are from, you are probably correct in your conjecture. They are using words that are beyond my vocabulary and this is not surprising seeing as that us Nairobians are often ridiculed for our poor grammar - it could also be just me. In any case, I have translated the titles as you have posted them and gone a little further with some of them.

Mjamili - I have no idea what this word means. When I listen to it, it sounds more like Mjamali which I also don't understand! I asked a friend though and he is trying to figure it out. But from the few lyrics I could pick up, he seems to be sad about something. One of the lines I picked up: My heart is burning and you are the firewood.

Mama wa Kambo = Stepmother

Pendo Limetakasika = This love has gone bad

Nakonda kwa huba = Literally: I am losing weight over love.
This one is actually kinda funny and sad at the same time! My favorite of the bunch. He is basically saying: All the wrongs you have done me make me laugh and really shock me. Remember how good our love used to be? I believed you when you said you loved me and now it seems like you have grown tired of me. Have you no God? How can you harass me this way? I am a fool for your love. I am hungry for your love.

Ewe Wangu Nateseka = My love, I am suffering.
Her lover has left and she is asking him to return soon.

Moyo Hukipenda Hula - The heart wants what it wants (even if it is bad); something close to I can't help what I love.

Kaka Trio said...

These are very nice song, they really remind me back home - Dar-es-salaam by way of Musoma.

Iman sorry you got the meaning of pendo limetakasika little twisted.

Pendo means Love that is correct but Takasika is the word that comes from "Takasa" which means Purify or cleanse, so Pendo limetakasika could mean beautiful love, love that is really sincere, you know love that comes with all those nice stuff, I mean super clean love.

Man I hate to comment on old stuff but I have discovered this blog not too long ago.

David said...

5 years on & still being re-discovered! I love these songs, but am confused by the singer in number 2 (Stepmother). She just sounds like she's out of tune with the band quite often! Is she singing flat? in a different key/mode? making a (humorous?) stepmother reference/joke? Or are my ears just missing something?!

Thanks to you for the music & to Iman & Kaka for trying to make sense of the titles!