VT News, Jagwa Music brings its African street sounds to campus

VT News, Jagwa Music brings its African street sounds to campus

Sep 14, 2016

Speed, heat, and swagger – that’s what seven-piece Tanzanian street band Jagwa Music will bring to a free outdoor concert at Virginia Tech on Oct. 1 at 4 p.m.

Presented by the Moss Arts Center, Jagwa Music takes over Henderson Lawn at the corner of Main Street and College Avenue in downtown Blacksburg for an all-ages dance party in conjunction with Virginia Tech’s fall family weekend. The performance is free and open to the public.

Taking its name from the scream of French fighter engines, Jagwa Music’s original African street sounds embrace the mchiriku musical style, which originated 20 years ago in the poor suburbs of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The band takes only limited cues from global pop or hip hop and is influenced more by East Africa’s coastal traditions, such as Arabic-inspired taarab music and chakacha dance music. The music was born during a time when cheap Casio keyboards became available. The group loved the Casio's lo-fi sound, hooking the instrument to vintage amps and megaphones to create a gritty, edgy, distortion-laden sound that was rechristened mchiriku.


Jagwa Music captures the conversations and stories of Dar es Salaam. Many of the band’s lyrics reflect the area’s urban life and can be seen painted as slogans to the sides or backs of the local dala dala bus taxis.

“What we sing about is our daily lives,” says Jagwa Music lead vocalist Jackson Aluta Kazimoto. “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.”

In addition to the performance, musicians from Jagwa Music will participate in a master class with Virginia Tech percussion students.

The presentation of Jagwa Music 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.