Mseto Wahapahapa, a music video on HIV/AIDS awareness in Tanzania, brings together some of the leading Bongo Flava, Afrofusion, Taarab, Spiritual, Reggae and the Swahili Music of the 1970s and 1980s in an attempt to appeal to the whole society to rise up and fight the HIV/AIDS scourge. BETHSHEBA ACHITSA reviews the compilation.
The video, on a radio drama that combines popular music with drama, begins with Banana Zorro’s catchy R n B-styled song, Zoba. The song appears to stress that though patience is a virtue in conventional wisdom, one should not dilly-dally unnecessarily in verbalising their feelings in matters of the heart as Zoba did and ended up losing the girl he had set his eyes on to a rival. This dance song sets the mood for Mseto Wahapahapa album that brings together eight of Tanzania’s leading musicians.
Directed by Jordan Riber–the son of social awareness filmmaker John Riber–and produced by Media for Development International in 2009, the album encourages parents to nurture the talents of their children. Other musicians featured on the album are Christian spiritual music artist and worship leader Flora Mbasha, Afro-fusion musician Carola Kinasha, Orchestra Milimani Park composer and performer Bichuka Ngurumo, modern taarab composer and singer Mzee Yusuph and Kiswahili R n B singer Lady Jaydee. Others are Paul Ndunguru and Enika.
With the younger and older generations catered for in the album, one is likely to believe that the producer’s aims of enlightening society about HIV/AIDS through music and drama and advice to parents to give their children a chance to nurture their talents is achieved. This, however, appears unconvincing as the viewer quickly realises that the young artists who are likely to be listened to by the youth do little to address issues that deal with HIV as their songs entirely focus on complaining or lamenting how their parents deny them the chance to pursue the careers of their dreams or choice.
Mbasha’s Usife Moyo (Never give up till your dream is realised) and Enika’s Changanyachanganya are on the theme of parents failing to support the dreams of their children. While Mbasha’s song aims to encourage the youth not to give up, Enika’s tells the agony of young people who claim to be denied the chance to pursue their dreams regardless of what their parents say. This apparent rebellious spirit could work against the message being communicated. Granted, the protagonist in Changanyachanganya is confused when one of her parents tell her one thing and the other another; whose word should she go with?
In her Shamba (farm) song, Lady Jaydee calls on all adults to care for all children; she compares children with crops that need weeding and fertiliser for them to realise their full human potential. Lady Jaydee urges all adults to assist all children, even those who aren’t related to them, in the ways they would want to see their own children grow up in.
However, it is Carola Kinasha’s powerful Kiswahili Afro-fusion, Ujasiri, that appears to be the toast of the album. A well packaged Kiswahili poetry with slow, lush jazzy beats to the backdrop of silhouted contemporary dance performers in a club, this is a highly emotive, if not quite heart-searching and enlightening piece. While speaking of the difficulties faced by people infected with the HIV virus, Kinasha states that it is difficult to keep it a secret or even smile as a dark cloud envelopes the sun. In the song that displays great artistry in the choice of words, poetry, symbolism and performance, the person Kinasha sings about longs for someone to offer her a shoulder to lean on and a listening and sympathetic ear. ‘Ijapokuwa jua limefunikwa na wingu jeusi’, she sings, ‘nina ndoto kama wewe na yule’. Siri is perhaps the song that brings together the young and the not-so-young as it addresses a universal theme.
Paul Ndunguru’s salsa dance-styled performance Naisaliti Nafsi, that addresses love and marriages, is also as entertaining as Mzee Yusuph’s Mtoto wa Matumaini taarab song on the possibility of couples living with HIV/AIDS to bear healthy babies.
The album ends with Mapambano, a song by Bichuka Ngurumo of the Milimani Park Orchestra, a throw-back to the 1970s and 1980s when Tanzanian Kiswahili music band dominated the airwaves in East Africa before they were conquered by their Congolese counterparts with their hypnotic danceable tunes. Ngurumo’s song, Mapambano, calls “everyone” to rise up and fight the scourge:
Africa na Dunia nzima, hivi sasa siyo nene mama,
ni vita dhidi ya mapambano tuyazingatie walimwengu,
katika vitabu vya biblia na kurani tukufu,
vimeeleza zama hizi duniani tunatembea na kudondoka,
kuna waliodondoka wakainuka maskini.
While the video brings out messages that reflect today’s society, something that makes it stand out among many other music videos is the fact that both the hippy music that appeals to the youth as performed by the likes of Banana Zorro, Lady Jaydee, and Enika is placed alongside that of elderly musicians like Bichuka Ngurumo and the delicate poetry, outstanding vocal performances and elaborate ornamentation of taarab music sung by Mzee Yusuph in his Mtoto wa Matumaini (A child of Hope) and Paul Ndunguru’s Naisaliti Nafsi yangu.
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Accompanied by short skits to reinforce the message being passed on in the various songs, it is clear that the enlightened youth of this world who are wowed by movies such as Prison Break or TV soap operas would really be entertained by the skits. However, even without the additional skit performance the eight artists who feature on this album provide their radio listeners and viewers with good lyrics that anyone could wish to listen to over and over again.
Mseto wahapahapa video is the audiovisual version of the radio drama that airs on Tanzania’s Radio Free Africa and Radio One every Monday at 6.00 PM (15.00 GMT/UTC).