Tanzania’s Swahili Ally tours East Africa to promote traditional music

Tanzanian Digo musician Swahili Ally has embarked on a tour of Tanzania and Kenya to promote his latest album, Mwanamuranda.

Tanzanian artist Swahili Ally during a recent performance. Photo: Alice Bensi
Tanzanian artist Swahili Ally during a recent performance. Photo: Alice Bensi

The album was initially released in late 2015, although work on it began back in 2012. During this time, Ally performed at various festivals in Africa, including Sauti Za BusaraKaribu Music FestivalJahazi Festival and the Africa Umoja Festival in Mozambique.

The album contain five songs, ‘Mvura’, ‘Mama Africa’, ‘Mwanamuranda’, ‘Tua Moyo’ and ‘Khajeze’, which see the singer drawing from life experiences and addressing social issues such as peace, love and injustice. "My album talks about the life and situation I grew up in," Ally says of his work. "It talks about the hardships in the village and also tells the story of the people whom I grew up with. The songs also teach listeners to let go of habits of tricking other people, taking advantage of others, tormenting them and trying to sneak oneself into power. It encourages people to unite."

‘Mvura’ is the first track on the album, it was first released in 2012 and was well-received for its authenticity and its simple yet powerful message. "People loved the vibe and also liked the video a lot, as it was shot in the surroundings I grew up in. It represents my musical and personal roots," said Ally of the track. Sang in the Digo language, the song talks to people who take advantage of others to make their own fortune, as well as jealousy among people.

 

The Digo are an ethnic and linguistic group based near the Indian Ocean coast, between Mombasa in southern Kenya and Tanga in northern Tanzania. With many young Digo abandoning traditional practices and becoming increasingly influenced by the outside world, Swahili Ally hopes that his new album will help promote traditional music, which struggles to be heard amid the influx of urban sounds. In today's ever-changing musical landscape, Ally fears for the future of traditional music in Tanzania. “Even though there are some musicians doing and promoting traditional music, it remains a challenge for these artists as the music scene in Tanzania has become highly commercialized and very little space is set aside for traditional music," he says, adding that artists who perform indigenous sounds need more live shows and media support.

Currently touring East Africa sharing his musical message, Swahili Ally has already played three shows on the island of Zanzibar: at the Red Monkey Lodge (on 16 May), La Taperia on Stonetown (on 20 May) and Kendwa Rocks (on 21 May). His tour then took him to Dar Es Salaam, where he played at the Nafasi Artspace on Saturday 28 May at the first edition of the Wikendi Live music extravaganza, Dar’s newest live music event that seeks to showcase traditional African beats on the last Saturday of every month at Nafasi Artspace. Upcoming dates for the rest of Swahili Ally’s East African tour are as follows:

  • 4 June: Sounds of Kili at Glaciers in Moshi, Tanzania
  • 12 June: Poetry Slam Africa at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi, Kenya,
  • 18 June: Fete de la Musique at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi, Kenya
  • 7 July: Thursday Nite Live at Choices in Nairobi, Kenya

For more information and updates about Swahili Ally’s tour, visit his Facebook page.

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