Soul music has not had it easy in Tanzania. In 1969 it was banned for what the government called “the cause of bad manners among the country’s youth.” It is no wonder that this kind of music has not been able to attract a huge following in the country. But Jeff Mduma, is not afraid of making a career out of soul music.
“As an artist I want to bring something new and original to my audience. By doing this I ended up evolving in my style and moving on from Tanzania’s popular music Bongo Flava. Not that there is anything wrong with this kind of music, I just matured and my music along with me.”
Mduma is currently working on his second album, Hongera Mama, a 20-track project which he hopes to release by mid-2017. In an age where album sales continue to decline, Mduma doesn’t think 20 songs is an overwhelming compilation. Hongera Mama (Congratulations Mother) is dedicated to mothers.
“For this album my inspiration is my mother. I wrote that album for my mother and all mothers, all over the world. Most of the songs in this album are songs which address women’s issues. As an artist I try to tell people the importance of women,” Mduma says of the second album.
“There is not a single way of describing a mother. To me there are a thousand ways to talk about mothers and the amazing things they do,” he says.
Mduma released his debut album Tumeagizwa Upendo in 2013. The eight track album was released by Christone Sebastian. His music covers a range of topics, including political and social issues. In 2015 he released the single ‘Tanzania Ndo Mimi’, which talks about how political leaders disappoint citizens. With a new government in place Mduma says the current regime, which is helmed by President John Magufuli, appears to be doing its best to bring social services to all citizens, to eradicate corruption and to bring back good governance.
Pursuing a music career
Mduma was an outstanding student during his school years and was always made to feel that music was not a viable career choice. In an interview with Tanzania’s daily newspaper The Citizen early this year, the 23-year-old singer said he had to be discreet about his love for music.
In 2014 Mduma won a scholarship from the European Union (EU) to study music at the Music Mayday centre in Tanzania, which teaches vocal studies, guitar, music ensemble, music culture, music theory, and choir ensemble.
“Education gives you confidence in what you are trying to accomplish. It shows you the ways to bring structure in your music, in your band and career,” he says.
He further says that music is an in-born talent and can’t be taught. However he acknowledges that training is important as it enables talented individuals to understand how the music industry operates and how to promote their music careers to new levels.
Mduma has also taken part in various talent development programmes. In 2015 he was among the contestants who represented Tanzania on Tecno Own the Stage
, a televised karaoke competition held in Nigeria with participants from Tanzania, Kenya and Nigeria. This enabled him to earn recognition across East and West Africa.
Together with his band, Mduma has staged performances throughout Tanzania. In May 2016 Mduma also performed with fellow Tanzanian artist Msafiri Zawose.