Bongo Flava - Swahili Rap from Tanzania

by V.A.

supported by
David Morton
David Morton thumbnail
David Morton The top Tanzanian hip-hop artists from around 2000. Professor Jay is the godfather of Tanzanian hip-hop, now an MP. Recording quality isn't always the best but the songs have a great beat and original sound. I can't pick a favourite off this album - they're all favourites. Favorite track: Asali Wa Moyo.


„Bongo Flava. Swahili rap from Tanzania“ is a 70 minute ride through the streets of Dar es Salaam. It’s a look at what youth in present urban East Africa thinks and dreams about. Bongo Flava is the name of a HipHop influenced music which – unnoticed by the rest of the world – has become the best selling pop music in East Africa, today. It’s a music of the post-socialism era channeled by a wave of new private radio stations.

The name Bongo Flava comes from the Kiswahili word for brains: ubongo. Bongo is the nick name of Dar es Salaam. It means that you need brains to survive there.

Tanzanian youth started rapping in the 1980s fascinated by black US HipHop. They soon developped their own way of doing it and today the music has become a style characterized by the use of local melodies, beats, topics and their own language Kiswahili. Don’t think anybody could have a hit singing in English nowadays.

This compilation presents the hits by some of the most important Bongo Flava artists. Rappers like Juma Nature and Professor Jay are stars in Tanzania loved for their amusing way of tackling social problems and the fashion they sport.

Gangwe Mobb from poor Dar es Salaam quarter Temeke is known for creating at least one new slang word in each of their comic like cartoon rap songs.

Their neighbours, LWP Majitu, are popular for their hard hitting hardcore lyrics. Mr. Ebbo, a Maasai rapper, has become the most popular urban embassador of the Maasai giving them a hymn with his song „Mi Mmasai“ („I’m a Mmasai“).

Another Maasai hiphop group, X-Plastaz from Arusha, is the only Tanzanian rap crew known in Europe so far. They released an album at outhere records in august. Afande Sele’s song „Mtazamo“ was chosen to be the best Tanzanian rap song. In summer he was elected “mfalme wa rhymes” (king of rhymes) and won a brand new Toyota.

Wagosi wa Kaya who include local instruments, as Daz Nundaz do, are famous for their party on stage. Sista P. is the most popular among the very few female rappers, featured here with her hit „Anakuja“.

GK influenced by early Tanzanian crew Kwanza Unit does old school rap. His friend Mwanafalsafa (Kiswahili for „philosopher“) is featured here with an educational song about Aids.

Newcomer K-Sal went straight to the top of the charts with the very first song; something many dream of doing these days in Bongo.


released November 15, 2004



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