Jagwa Music

From the streets of Dar es Salaam, Jagwa Music brings the noise

Speed, heat, and swagger. Tanzania's 7-piece Jagwa Music bangs out a hard-won celebration as screaming hot as a jet engine, owing little to the West but a few repurposed musical props. Keys shimmy over the interlocking rumble of drums as tough-edged vocals through the middle. "The concept sounds like it could be next-level hipster experimentalism: a band that makes music exclusively on percussion and miniature Casio keyboards wired through megaphones. But those are the exact ingredients of mchiriku, a kind of party-music heard throughout the rougher parts of Bongo, as the girtty East African city of Dar es Salaam is affectionately nicknamed by locals." (MTVIggy) With lyrics that call out corruption and deprivation, privations and celebrations, Jagwa Music has floored audiences from Zanzibar to Roskilde and makes their U.S. debut with this tour.

u.s. debut with center stage

ON TOUR September 26-October 15

tour overview

Washington, DC – September 25-28

Jagwa Music  kicks off their Center Stage tour in the nation’s capitol with three back to back performances around town:

  • A community Dance Party at Dance Place, Washington DC on September 26 from 6:30-8pm. Free!. Information here.
  • Mali meets Tanzania on September 27. Special guest Jagwa Music opens and closes for Cheick Hamala’s Griot Street residency at Bossa Bistro at 9:30pm and Midnite. No cover. Information here.
  • The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage on September 28 at 6pm. This free performance is webcast live and available for streaming on demand from the Kennedy Center website. Information here.

Blacksburg, VA – September 30-October 1

  • Jagwa Music’s two day residency is planned for Family weekend at Virginia Tech and includes a percussion master class and a free outdoor dance party on October 2 at 4pm (there is a rain location). Hosted by the Moss Arts Center; information here.

New York, NY – October 2-5

  • WFMU’s Rob Weisburg has hosted several Center Stage bands in his studio for Trans Pacific Sound Paradise including Tri Minh’s Quartet, Hoba Hoba Spirit, and Democratoz. Jagwa Music brings the noise on October 3 when they talk music and playa short set for broadcast at a later date.  
  • Catch the band’s only NYC performance at Le Poisson Rouge at 10pm. Thanks to Live Sounds for co-presenting this show. Information here.

Joshua Tree, CA – October 6-10

  • Jagwa Music heads to the California desert for the 11th annual fall Joshua Tree Music Festival. They perform on October 8 at 4:45pm and, in keeping with the festival’spositive vibe, lead a ’Playshop’ on Sunday morning October 9. Information on both events here.

Albuquerque & Taos, NM – October 11-15

  • The American southwest is about as geographically different from Dar es Salaam as you can get. New Mexico’s AMP concerts is hosting three days of activities in Albuquerque including student performances, and a show at VSA North Fourth Arts Center. On Friday, October 14 the band makes the spectacular drive to Taos for the last show of their US debut tour, presented KNCE radio (run out of an airstream trailer) at Taos Mesa Brewing: 8pm – live streamed! 

Program notes and bios

Jagwa Music

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

 

U.S. debut tour as part of Center Stage

Jackson Aluta Kazimoto                             lead vocals
Festo Epimacky Mateo "Dongo"              kinanda (casio keyboard)
Abdallah Mohamedi Nassoro "TP"         msondo (drums made of recycled pipe)
Mwinyi Ally Luombo                                    dumbaki (tuned wooden hand drums), chorus
Mzee Rashidi Mbaraka "Show"                 mkwasa, rika (tambourine), dance
Deborah Dickson Chambo                         dance, rika
Benitto Kwame Mchauru                            rika (and interpreter)

 

Jagwa Music got its start in the early 1990s, when young musicians from one of Dar es Salaam’s poorer neighborhoods on the city’s outskirts realized they could make cheap little Casio keyboards roar. The band took its name from the scream of French fighter engine. With its nutty grooves, and intense, breakneck rhythms, Jagwa Music is one of the go-to crews for party entertainment in their communities.

The band’s mchiriku, like other wildly original street styles from around Africa, takes only limited cues from global pop or hip hop, owing more to East Africa’s coastal traditions like taarab, which bears the imprint of Arabic music and culture, and chakacha dance music, using rhythms from the Zaramo people’s traditions, an ethnic group that has long lived along Tanzania’s shores.

Mchiriku is hand-made techno, with musicians repurposing everything from plastic pipes to harbor buoys to make instruments.” explains cultural anthropologist Werner Graebner, who has spent years writing about Dar es Salaam’s music scene and working with Jagwa Music.

Jagwa Music captures the conversations and stories, the beefs, and romances of its Dar es Salaam community. 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. “What we sing about is our daily lives,” says Kazimoto, whose spit-fire delivery conveys the intensity and unpredictability of the daily hustle and grind. “Things like losing your job or about losing someone you love. We tell stories about what we experience. We boast. A lot of these things are what people feel anywhere in the world. There are troublemakers, people who drink or gossip a lot, and cause disasters. There are real loves that last a long time and make things better.”

As part of Center Stage, Jagwa Music makes it US debut tour with engagements in Washington, DC, and Virginia, New York City, and in California.

Center Stage is a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Center Stage Pakistan is made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc. 

Keep up with Center Stage and find additional information at www.CenterStageUS.org, on Facebook (www.facebook.com/CenterStagePage), and Twitter (@CenterStageUS).

Jagwa Music is represented by Jahazi-Media info@jahazi-media.com, www.jahazi-media.com

Jagwa Music Center Stage Tour Staff
Stacey Boggs, Company Manager
Robert W. Henderson, Jr., Technical & Production Coordinator

about jagwa music

From the Streets of Dar es Salaam, Jagwa Music Brings the Noise and the Joys of Mchiriku to American Audiences

U.S .debut tour with Center Stage

“Crazed, urgent stuff with an incendiary live show”—The Guardian

With the force of their fighter-jet namesake, the Tanzanian seven-piece Jagwa Music tears the roof off a genre championed in Dar es Salaam’s rougher, poorer neighborhoods. The sound springs from the collision of traditional tuned drums and makeshift percussion with lo-fi Casio keyboards dubbed kinanda, or “musical boxes,” wired guerilla-style through megaphones, powered by car batteries. Add raw swagger and topical lyrics delivered at breakneck speed, and you have mchiriku.

“What is special about our music is that it's a mix of the traditional drumming styles and the small keys,” explains Jagwa leader singer Jackie Kazimoto. “This creates a blend that makes it unique. And the energy! The lead drummer who plays the bass drums makes the energy. During mchiriku performances people ignore their troubles and have fun. There is lots of energy in the air, and the lead drummer drives it.”

This driving energy has taken the group to global venues like Australia’s Womad, Lisbon’s Music Box, and Malaysia’s Rain Forest World Music Festival. It’s bringing them to the U.S. for the first time this autumn for a tour as part of Center Stage (www.CenterStageUS.org), the ambitious cultural exchange program initiated by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and produced by the New England Foundation for the Arts. Center Stage will bring five contemporary music and theater ensembles from Algeria and Tanzania to tour in the U.S. between July and November 2016.

Jagwa Music got its start in the early 1990s, when young, down-at-the-heels Dar es Salaam musicians realized they could make cheap little Casio keyboards roar. They became one of the go-to crews for party entertainment in their communities.

The music is about more than sweaty dance floors, however. “Mchiriku has become a major alternative means of expression for young people from less privileged backgrounds,” explains cultural anthropologist Werner Graebner, who has spent years writing about Dar es Salaam’s music scene and working with Jagwa Music . “It’s hand-made techno, with musicians repurposing everything from plastic pipes to harbor buoys to make instruments.”

Jagwa’s drummers tune their drums over bonfires of cardboard boxes; (they’ll use a heat gun on tour). Keyboards are cranked to the highest, most distorted volume setting then blasted through impromptu PAs wired to roofs, rigged from old megaphones. DIY percussion--bicycle bells, rika (tambourine), and chekeche (maracas)--layer patterns and sounds to the high-energy frenzy.

The idioms Jagwa Music plays with are pure Dar es Salaam. The city’s mix of cultures is distinct: local ethnic groups with well-developed music and dance traditions have long traded licks with Islamic traders plying the Indian Ocean. The city is coastal-town syncretic, the birthplace of high-voltage mash ups of all kinds. Mchiriku, like other wildly original street styles from around Africa, takes only limited cues from global pop or hip hop, owing more to East Africa’s coastal traditions like taarab, which bears the imprint of Arabic music, and chakacha dance music,  using rhythms from the Zaramo people’s traditions, an ethnic group that has long lived in the Dar es Salaam region.

Like their instruments, Jagwa Music’s intense performances are improvised. The keys create a wavering, deliciously distorted backdrop for the pounding, interweaving drums. “The Casio plays the role of the nzumari, a traditional double-reed instrument that’s used in old-time ngoma,” Graebner notes, referring to traditional dance-song-drum musics that are integral to all kinds of gatherings. “It signals the segues from one song to the other or a change of pace and pattern.” The drums do the rest: drive the beat, dialog with the lead singer, and laying down the low end, while percussionists beat sticks against an old stool, clang a repurposed bike bell, or shake a tambourine.

Jagwa Music captures the conversations and stories, the beefs, and romances of its Dar es Salaam community. 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. “What we sing about is our daily lives,” says Kazimoto, whose spit-fire delivery conveys the intensity and unpredictability of the daily hustle and grind. “Things like losing your job or about losing someone you love. We tell stories about what we experience. We boast. A lot of these things are what people feel anywhere in the world. There are troublemakers, people who drink or gossip a lot, and cause disasters. There are real loves that last a long time and make things better.”

These perspectives from the outskirts are purposely ignored by Dar es Salaam’s media. You’ll never hear them on commercial radio. They haven’t always sat well with local authorities, either, who have repeatedly banned the music for its association with hard partying and criminality. “Even today, a lot of musicians in mchiriku bands come from the ranks of the underemployed, people who survive day to day with odd jobs and some kind of hustling,” notes Graebner. “They are often overlooked or ignored as undesirable or unsavory by cultural gatekeepers.”

The music booms and buzzes on, however, thanks to cassettes and private parties. Groups like Jagwa Music who have broken out of the local scene and caught international ears. “We are looking forward to meeting Americans and seeing what they are like,” says Kazimoto. “We can’t wait to play for them.”

“A wildly syncopated rhythm section in sickly exorbitant high-speed interaction with a cut-rate Casio-keyboard spitting harmonic Esperanto.” – Information.dk

“The concept sounds like it could be next-level hipster experimentalism: a band that makes music exclusively on percussion and miniature vintage Casio keyboards wired through megaphones. But those are the exact ingredients of mchiriku, a kind of party-music heard throughout the rougher parts of Bongo, as the gritty East African city of Dar es Salaam is affectionately nicknamed by locals.” –MTV Iggy

About Center Stage

Center Stage (www.centerstageUS.org) invites performing artists from select countries overseas to the United States to perform and conduct engagement activities.

Now in its third edition, five acclaimed contemporary music and theater ensembles from Algeria and Tanzania will travel to the U.S. between July and November, 2016; two bands from Pakistan will tour in the spring of 2017. Each group undertakes independent, month-long tours around the country to perform, interact, begin meaningful dialogues with Americans, and share these experiences with friends and fans at home. Center Stage artists perform and engage with audiences onstage and online providing positive and popular avenues of engagement to build mutual understanding through shared culture and values.

Each tour includes a range of community engagement activities, such as performances, workshops, discussions, artist-to-artist exchanges, and community gatherings.  To date, 17 ensembles from Haiti, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan and Vietnam have toured the United States, focusing on interactive engagements in diverse cities and towns across the country.

Center Stage is a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Center Stage Pakistan is made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc. 

press

Downloadable Photos, Billing & Crediting Information

Minimum Billing
Jagwa Music
On tour as part of Center Stage

Credit Info
The following credit is required on the title page in all printed performance programs. We appreciate its use wherever else it's practical: brochures, posters, ensemble-only promotional materials, press releases, advertisements, etc:

The presentation of (name of ensemble] is part of Center Stage, a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Center Stage Pakistan is made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc. 

Center Stage logo placement is greatly appreciated. On web-based materials, please link from the Center Stage logo or written name to www.centerstageUS.org.

Download a zipped folder with high resolution promotional photos and color and black and white versions of the Center Stage logo here.