By +Caroline Anande Uliwa
When you hear another Bongo Flava track on the radio, whilst searching for Afro jazz or Afro rock or music that has more live instruments and fail to find the same in Tanzania. You could think there’s no one offering an alternative sound, you wouldn’t be right though. We’re sitting with Grace Matata 30, Seghito 29 & Chi 28, all Tanzanian female singers and songwriters. They are solo artists who are passionate about live music working in the genres of afro-jazz, afro soul and neo soul music.
|Aichieli Temu a.k.a Chi|
|Annette Ngongi a.k.a Seghito|
Pertaining to a lack of distributors (only gospel music is physically distributed widely by distributors’ not secular music) and the lack of contemporary music being adequately featured in traditional media. She ascertained though that with media penetrations more efforts can be made by contemporary musicians. “I started with mainstream and I worked my way towards more of the alternative sound. Still the truth is my music hasn’t changed much it’s just my music was marketed as mainstream music from the beginning and I think this is where a lot of contemporary musicians go wrong...” Grace has been encouraging alternative sound musicians through a group called ‘Temeyai’ on social media to take bold steps in advertising their music.
|When I caught up with the ladies|
who are also friends Seghito left and
Grace Matata right.
Despite these odds these three ladies are forging ahead and making significant strides in their career. Even though they play instruments, are their own bosses and are making music that isn’t playing to their feminine sensuality as the sole ingredient.
Annette Ngongi or Seghito as she’s popularly known a name which means ‘girl’ from her Hehe tribal roots is a go-getter. Seghito who sings Afro Jazz and is self managed, released her EP album last year titled ‘Swahili Vintage’. Her journey began while she was still in high school where she joined THT (Tanzania House of Talent) music residency. A landing that saw her performing back stage vocals to acts like Ray C and Mwasiti touring around the country, she then went on to college in Iringa. Where she joined a local band and stepped onto the role of lead singer for the first time.
Ever since then after graduating university she was back in Dar es Salaam and together with her closest friend Florence Kibopile. She started a band called ‘the Jazz tribe’. The band has played annually at a time inside the Hyatt Hotel, Cape Town Fish Market Bar & restaurant, Akemi Restaurant and recently Samaki Samaki bar & restaurant in Dar es Salaam.
She is currently promoting her EP ‘Swahili Vintage’, when we asked her what performing music is to her she answered. “For me performing live is almost like a prayer, when I am singing that’s when I am most myself. That’s when I can just express myself …it’s a powerful experience.” Seghito has performed at Jahazi Jazz Festival and Marahaba Festival in Tanzania and has performed alongside Afro Jazz royalty Mr Moussa Diallo. She has also started a monthly platform called XOXO an afro jazz concert which works with a pop up shopping experience. https://inkphy.com/user/xoxoconcertz?hl=en
Grace Matata is an Afro-Soul songstress with an album on her belt Nyakati-2013; since then she has released seven singles and was nominated for the 2015 Kilimanjaro Music Awards. Her latest single ‘Baby’ was sponsored by Unicef and released last year on world childrens day. She has a loyal fan base on social media 75K-Instagram and has performed at the Sauti za Busara Festival (Zanzibar) in 2017, the DoaDoa festival in 2016 (Uganda), the Zanzibar Beach & Watersports Festival in 2015 and the Zanzibar International Film Festival in 2014.
To describe the feeling she gets when being on stage she says, “I cannot put it into words…it’s like when you have a crush on this guy and you finally have a chance to be around him. It’s that kind of feeling and more.”
Grace for the last six months of the year produces a show which features her and other international/local artists she supports. The show called ‘Coffee House Sessions’ has been going on for 4 years now in Dar es Salaam.https://www.facebook.com/coffeehousewithgrace/
Aichieli Temu or Chi as she’s better known is a Neo-Soul revolutionary, Chi began her performance journey braving the streets of Liverpool busking (street performing). Working her way up to playing at festivals such as the ‘Brouhaha International Street Festival’, the ‘Oxjam Music Festival’ and the Sound City Festival, she has also been featured several times on BBC Radio.
When asked to describe her process in making music she says “I started to write because it’s all well and good singing to Destiny child or whatever but sometimes you just want to sing your own thing. So you sit on the piano and with the limited information you have because you were twat and gave up piano lessons (She laughs). You go with what you’ve got, you create something, you start writing and you find that excitement. That thing that you just want to thirst for, to grow for...”
Back home in Tanzania which she permanently returned to in 2013. Chi went on to perform live gigs in the city of Dar es Salaam; playing for Moët and Hennessy Artistry events, opening for South African musicians Bucie and Black Motion, being featured regularly in local platforms like Lyricist Lounge and Slow leopard music sessions. To now where for a year she has been hosting her own event each month titled ‘Chi & Friends’at Triniti Bar in Oysterbay DSM; it features herself with other upcoming artists in the city that she supports.https://www.instagram.com/chi_and_friends/
The music from these ladies is rich offering those who appreciate other genres apart from pop, something Afro-patriotic to cuddle their souls to. You can access Grace Matata’s music through this link http://www.panamusiq.com/music3.html Seghito’s EP can be accessed here https://www.boomplaymusic.com/share/album/1794631 and Chi’s music can be accessed here wwww.soundcloud/chibist90
This article was first published in the DailyNews paper in Tanzania on the 6th of June 2019