Story Behind the Songs
Idea to collect the tribal children songs in Tanzania came from Mrs. Leena Hirvonen who worked with Art in Tanzania in the music program. The program got support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Finland. The Finnish grant facilitated us to hire key personnel for to collect the songs from different parts of Tanzania. Thereon Art in Tanzania volunteers both local Tanzanian and overseas, gratefully assisted in the program. The key person for the program success has been Ms. Nina Halkola from Finland. Nina spent about 3 months in Tanzania and the following is her story of this music adventure.
Dar es Salaam
I arrived to Tanzania on September 2014 and spent three months at the Art in Tanzania volunteer house. During my time I did one trip of three weeks to various part of Tanzania and one trip of one week to Zanzibar to collect children songs from the villages. Thereon sure I found many songs in Dar es Salaam being the cultural melting pot for different tribal heritage.
In Dar es Salaam i managed to record songs from many young and elder people. The songs were mainly recorded using the original tribal languages. It was hardship then to translate these songs commonly through Kiswahili to English. Specifically i remember beautiful young lady Hadija Muhamed. Hadija came to the volunteer compound to learn English and I was lucky to find her and her amazing voice was grace to listen.
Also I need to remember to mention Mr. Josef Wilson who together with Hadija sang many children songs for me.
I met Mrs. Esther in Dar es Salaam as well. I visited her nursery school and listened her singing along working. I told her about my project to collect the children songs. Ester loves to sing and she even makes wordings for her own songs. She was such a great help to make my project successful. Ester helped me endlessly to translate the songs from tribal languages to Swahili and further on to English. She also followed me to Musoma at Lake Victoria in Northern Tanzania and helped to search more songs from the villages. She also then managed to visit her old mother living there so far away.
One of the main artist contact in Dar es Salaam was Sanaa Sana Band as well as Dar Creators Traditional band both supported by Art in Tanzania. I hanged around the band rehearsals to record more songs and to learn where to go to get collect authentic village songs. Sanaa Sana Band had been previously 2013 touring in Finland. Trip also kindly supported by the Finnish Government.
In Dar es Salaam there are quite many Masai people. Commonly men are working as watchmen. I was talking with the Masai mothers and they told that in their culture they make a personal song for every child born. What a wonderful blessing. Mr Thomas, our Masai watchman and the volunteer compound kindly assisted me to communicate with the Masai ladies and helped to translate the Masai songs to English.
First Round Trip
This trip took three weeks. It was a great adventure. I packed the recording equipment and took a bus with Ester Julius and my husband through Tanzania to the North to Lake Victoria. We arrived to Musoma town and Ester was keen to go to visit her mother that she last show some two years ago. At the village Mjirngo I then met charming elder lady Mrs. Pernina Samson mother of Ester. Pernina claimed me first that she does not remember children songs but after getting to know each other she then indeed remembered many children songs. Part of her songs sounded like melodies that has been performed multi vocally in a group including dancing.
Next day friend of Pernina, Mrs. Veronica Werema came to sing me as well. Typical situation in Tanzania where she had heard there is a silly white lady recording songs and maybe a source for small extra income. We came great friends with both Veronica and Pernina. Thereon more and more ladies arrived to the house and I started to have songs in abundance. Ester acted as my secretary to account the songs as well as to translate. One of the relatives Mrs Anifa remembered many songs some also made for the very small children. Ester came a widow some years ago and she was living alone with five young children.
The trip continued to Robanda village at the boundary of the great Serengeti National Park. We had selected this small village living in pretty utmost poverty because it is the home village for Mrs. Yuster Nyakachara being director of Art in Tanzania and well-known artist in the country. So we had some pre visit contacts organized. Coming to this rural village was little bit slow starting as we left Ester behind to her home in Musoma so we were missing translation. But as always in Tanzania no panic, sooner than later, next day, we met a gentleman who was able to speak some English. At Robanda village I managed to record very specific tribal children songs and lullabies performed by the children themselves as well as young mothers. Those songs had very strange sounding throat sounds resembling the sound of a pig.
I was told about a traditional music group in Robanda. Coming out from my hostel room I started to hear singing going on in the distance. The sounds came stronger and yes, the music group it was and coming to meet me. They were with all their traditional instruments and costumes and I was little bit ashamed they made such an effort just to perform to me. I assume the Art in Tanzania people had informed them to give their best to entertain me. I managed to record number of children songs and it was so interesting to see how they are performed as traditional village group. It was like going back in time. Songs included circumcision songs and other ritual performances.
Then my adventure continued through amazing Serengeti to small mountain town of Karatu next to N'gorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara National park and most importantly being land for amazing tribe of Masai. Robanda being land of Mkuria tribe, the traditional enemies of Masai, I wondered if I can tell about that I come from there. Soon I recognized there are no hardfeelings or hate existing between the tribes any more. Everyone have common enemy, poverty.
For a surprise even in Karatu the sound of my trip was heard and I was approached by a group of ladies and men. I tried to explain for the gentlemen that my task is to record only the songs of children and women and at least I will not pay small bonus for the men singing. It was kind of vain and I had to record some men who actually did not know too much about singing at all. All in all I got some good recordings as well.
The trip continued to the Masai land. We came to Butti Masai village where Art in Tanzania has build up a nursery - primary school as well as supporting the school with teachers. So it was a friendly welcome and it was one of the big highpoint of my program in Tanzania to meet the Masai in their homeland and to collect authentic Masai children songs.
Second Field Trip - Zanzibar
I spent one week in the world famous Spice Island. My expectations were to meet culture of Arabic influence, I knew the Taarab Arabic songs beforehand but also that there is strong mainland tribal cultural heritage in the villages. Also I knew that I will meet strong Muslim influence rather than the mixed religious population as at the Mainland Tanzania.
We took a ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar Stone Town. Just arriving to Stone Town I found that my expectations were much true. Arabic influence were visible at every corner whether the dressing code, shops, food and certainly the songs. I was so amazed how easy it was to collect the songs in Zanzibar. I assume people are there so much more used to entertainment as many tourists pass by day by day.
Many Zanzibar children songs start by a chore "Oh Mtoto - Of My Child). The first great recording I got from old great grandmother. The house she lived in they brought to me just born child and it was my turn to sing, a Finnish song.
My Zanzibar visit was affected by food poisoning but as it was so easy to collect songs the trip was a real success. I was driving around the Island and collected songs along the road. Children were so eager to sing for us. IN the villages elder people were kind of suspicious why I record their voices but commonly it was all OK after some friendly chatting.