Imagine a crew of 8 youngsters playing nutty grooves at breakneck speed on traditional & makeshift percussion, a keyboard player going mad on a battered vintage Casio, and three relentless front persons.
Add two breathtaking, spectacular dancers and a charismatic lead vocalist/MC, belting out songs about survival in the urban maze, unfaithful lovers and voodoo – and you have Jagwa music.
Shall we call this “Afro-punk” because of the DIY attitude and the creative use of noise and distortion? Or shall we refer to minimal or trance music? To the sexual energy of kuduro and mapouka? To the connection with any socially-conscious Western musical tradition (from rock to hip hop)?
Jagwa Music | Street Performance
Or shall we simply welcome the advent of one of the most exciting bands around, and enjoy their exhilarating combination of pure energy, dazzling virtuosity and great showmanhip? Jagwa Music are the leading exponent of the Mchiriku style, which originated twenty years ago in the poor suburbs of Dar es Salaam, when cheap Casio keyboards became available, and drew the attention of bands who were playing Chakacha dance music.
What happened next is reminiscent of other, by now familiar stories (like that of Konono No.1): Jagwa Music & their peers were immediately attracted by the Casio’s lo-fi sound, adopted it, hooked it to vintage amps and megaphones, and the resulting gritty, edgy, distortion-laden sound was rechristened Mchiriku. This new style has been thriving ever since in Tanzania, although it’s been deliberately ignored by the media, as it is associated with uhuni (thuggery) and the city’s low life.
Jagwa Music | Mwana wa Kitwana
Jagwa Music have a large following around Dar es Salaam: almost everybody knows their songs, which relate to everyday issues. Many of their lines have become proverbial, and you can see quotes from their songs painted as slogans to the sides or backs of the local dala dala bus taxis. The songs often contain advice on how to survive in the city, when you’re faced with unemployment, oppressive relatives, AIDS and unfaithful girlfriends or husbands, drugs and alcohol.
Jagwa’s members are all living the street life themselves, mostly working in Dar es Salaam’s cut-throat private bus-taxi business as dei-waka (unlicensed drivers who jump in when another driver is caught by police, or does not make it to work). Others are manamba, who hustle customers into the buses for a few shillings in return. By mid-day they will have made enough money to keep them going until the next morning, paying for food and some of the other enjoyments they may like.
Jagwa Music | Live in Copenhagen
In the afternoon they all meet at their maskani “hangout” under a tree in Mwananyamala close to Jolijo’s, their patron’s little house and restaurant. When they need to rehearse new songs, they convene in Jolijo’s backyard to get it all down. Their performing weekend usually starts on Friday when they suspend the week’s hustle, relax during daytime, and play all-night mchiriku gigs at family celebrations such as weddings around Dar’s suburbs or smaller towns in the vicinity.
Jagwa Music are supported by cassette dj, tape collector, blogger and label founder Brian Shimkovitz. Basically, Shimkovitz loves African music so he loves cassettes. For a long time, the cassette tape has been the popular musical format of African musicians, and on multiple trips around Africa, Shimkovitz amounted a large collection of tapes with a lot of music so good and unheard that it seemed unreal.
FADER TV: Belkin Explorers | Brian Shimkovitz’s Awesome Tapes From Africa
To rectify that, he began Awesome Tapes From Africa, the simply, aptly named blog where he posts music from his tapes as free MP3s. As the site grew, Shimkovitz’ audience began to send him tapes of their own, ones that were already beloved and held-tight or new ones picked up specifically to be shared.
This event is highly recommended by Digital in Berlin! We are giving away 2 x 2 tickets. Just send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Jagwa Music” as the subject.
Jagwa Music LIVE
presented by Digital in Berlin, taz & Funkhaus Europa
Dj: Awesome Tapes From Africa
Thursday, 14 June 2012 | 21:00 CET
Monarch | Skalitzer Str. 134 | 10999 Berlin/Kreuzberg