Essay

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Radio Tanzania

Blast from the past: Bruno and Rebecca listen to some of the digitized recordings in Bruno’s office of the Tanzania Broadcast Corporation building.

50 Years of Analogue Audio History Rest in Just One Room
Radio Tanzania’s decades of ethnographic recordings, afrojazz dance music, and key political speeches are chronicled in a treasure trove that must be digitized for posterity, reports JONATHAN KALAN
88 | n the far side of Dar es Salaam’s railroad tracks, withering away in a locked room of a nondescript office building, rests some of the most important artifacts chronicling 50 years of Tanzania’s independence. Over 100,000 hours of unreleased reel-toreel tapes holding decades of ethnographic recordings, afro-jazz dance music, and political speeches used to fuel support for Africa’s independence movements, line the dusty shelves. The recordings have languished in some cases for over 50 years, exposed to the heat,

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humidity, and natural elements. Yet with the help of a small group of committed individuals called The Tanzania Heritage Project, a cross-cultural and crowd-funded preservation effort, this could all change. The group has recently raised over $17,000 from 235 musicians, music lovers, preservationists and cultural enthusiasts in a campaign to digitize, restore, and preserve the entire Radio Tanzania archive collection with MP3 downloads, a ‘best of’ compilation CD, and eventually a documentary film.

PHOTOGRAPHY | JONATHAN KALAN

Above: For years, the Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam building held the only recording studio in Tanzania. Musicians from all across the country, like the legendary King Kiki, or “Kitambaa Cheupe” — socalled for his habit of wiping the sweat from his brow with a white handkerchief when he performed — and one of the most famous ‘muziki

wa danci’ (dance music) bands, the Mlimini Park Orchestra, have countless recordings in the archives. Below: Bruno Nanguka, known as “The Librarian”, joined Radio Tanzania back in 1974, slowly working his way up to the role of Head of Library Services for the Tanzania Broadcast Corporation.

His knowledge of the archives, and the groups who recorded them, is unmatched. Despite most of the archives not being catalogued, he knows where to find every last recording. Yet he is the only one. “My colleagues, they have died or gone away. It’s just me”, he says, highlighting the pressing need for preservation.
PHOTOGRAPHY | JONATHAN KALAN

April 2012

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Essay |

Radio Tanzania
PHOTOGRAPHY | JONATHAN KALAN

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It wasn’t just “popular” music that was recorded. Arabic taarab musicians, traditional Ngoma drummers, and other ethnographic recordings are stored there as well. In many cases, these are the only copies that exist. Like this one, titled Ngoma 539 – the first track is called “Ngoma wa Wazaramo,” meaning “Music of the Zaramu Tribe”. The song titles are listed, along with their duration, and three paragraphs of “Historia”.

The Radio Tanzania archives, now stored in two jam-packed rooms of the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation, hold a wealth of history on their shelves. The 100,000 hours of recordings are an “audio-musical history of Tanzania’s struggle for independence and its birth as a modern African nation”, claims the Tanzania Heritage Project.

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Bruno shows Benson Rukantabula, a young Tanzanian who also helped found the Tanzania Heritage Project, how the inlays and designs on the reel labeling are a hallmark of who archived the recording. Benson hopes that the country can preserve its heritage and inspire young Tanzanian artists through the music of the past, by digitizing the archives.

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From P115

Rebecca Corey, a young American who fell in love with Tanzanian music, culture, and history as a volunteer in Dar es Salaam several years ago, launched the Tanzania Heritage Project after a devastating motorcycle accident in Dar es Salaam left her recovering for nearly a year. “When I started taking my first steps, I wanted them to be back towards Tanzania, back towards this music.” When the doctor told her she was free to go, she packed her bags and headed back to Tanzania.

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Jonathan Kalan is an internationally published photojournalist, journalist and blogger specializing in the intersections of business, innovation and social development in emerging markets. In just 24 years he has traveled to over 35 countries, worked in South Asia and Africa, and collaborated with NGO’s, social enterprises, technology start ups, and media companies. His work has appeared in e Guardian, Financial Times, Boston Globe, GlobalPost, e Hu ngton Post, e Star (Kenya), Stanford Social Innovation Review, Destination Magazine EA, How We Made It In Africa, e Christian Science Monitor, On e Ground (New York Times blog), and many others. He was a Finalist for the 2011 Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards. Jonathan is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya, freelancing and documenting stories of social enterprises, entrepreneurs, and innovations for e (BoP) Project.

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April 2012

“The Late Aga Khan’s Speech at the Weighing against Diamonds Ceremony,” recorded on August 10th, 1947, was the first reel to be archived in the speeches section.

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