New project to help East African artists tap into global music networks

Santuri Safari and Soundthread have joined efforts to work with East African artists with the aim of connecting music professionals to the global music network.

Tanzania's Msafiri Zawose and his band. Photo: Msafiri Zawose's Facebook page
Tanzania's Msafiri Zawose and his band. Photo: Msafiri Zawose's Facebook page

From 24 August to 7 September the two organizations will make a stop in the town of Bagamoyo in Tanzania where they will work with traditional Gogo music player Msafiri Zawose to record new sounds. While in Bagamoyo, the organizations will also carry out research and data gathering to fully understand the music sector in the region.

“Artists that have a traditional or locally influenced musical identity generally struggle to find audiences and opportunities outside of a very small circle," says Santuri Safari representatives. "And if they receive any attention at all, it’s as a part of a reductive and exoticized ‘world music’ scene."

In this phase of the project, the focus will be on Msafiri Zawose and his band. Together with his band, Msafiri is renowned for his traditional Gogo style music. Gogo music, originating in Central Tanzania, derives its unique sound from the mixture of the traditional instruments and vocal harmonies. 

Msafiri has mastered a wide variety of instruments from marimba (balafon), zeze (Gogo two-stringed violin), ilimba (pentatonically tuned thumb piano) and ngoma (traditional drums). He has a voice spanning a wide range of styles and sounds, and has established himself as a positive musical force within Tanzania, preserving tradition, but with a modern twist.

Repackaging music for global appeal

Among its various goals Santuri Safari aims at developing and supporting a vibrant and creative East African network that enables artists and musicians to experiment, innovate, collaborate, and present their work professionally to audiences both regionally and globally.

The network therefore envisages that the new project will involve the development of a remix package, live event and cultural exchange component that will inform a practical and user friendly information resource for artists active in East Africa.

Besides working with key artists from within East Africa, the project will also involve interviews and research involving key artists, cultural curators, record labels, media as well as DJs.

Supported by Pro Helvetia an organization that supports and promotes Swiss culture in Switzerland and throughout the world, the collaboration was born out of the realization made by Santuri Safari that there was a challenge within the East Africa music sector and its relationship to global music network. With the first instalment beginning this August the project is expected to run until early 2017.  

Existing since 1939, Pro Helvetia focuses on cultural exchange between the different linguistic regions of Switzerland as well as with other countries. More information about the project can be found on the Santuri Safari website.

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