Nguna Reloaded

This year's Independence Day passed by silently.
In a country where Independence Day is officially marked by Government parades and not the people's celebrations, silence (from the people at least) may be viewed as a good thing.

Considering the fact that in the recent past, the day has evolved into being a political piñata prompting attacks on the government (and the party that forms it, CCM) for not making the most of our many years of independence or to highlight the fact that the 9th of December is a commemoration of the independence of Tanganyika and not Tanzania to further agitate our union woes.

This year there was none of that, at least not significantly. No grandstanding statements for political opponents of the administration; no mass outpouring of grief online over 55years wasted. None of that!

Instead we had near silence.

Silence enough, for me, to reflect deeply on just what may be happening to our populous.

I then remembered the 5th of November. This day had marked exactly one year after Magufuli took office as President of our Republic; a year that, for some, has played out like a decade.

I was on the grounds at Leaders Club in Dar Es Salaam at the crack of dawn as Fiesta (the annual music concert) played on into its second day. Having been there on assignment for most of the night and day before, I was pretty worn out and not very keen on what was going on on the stage anymore. But after Juma Nature brought the house down, at some God-forbid hour, taking my attention back to the stage, a series of my favorite artists and their hits started to pour like torrential rains onto the stage - from Snura and her ‘churas’ to Man Fongo and his ‘shemeji’ up to Sholo Mwamba and the hit single he recorded with Hon. Joseph Haule (Prof J) - ‘Kazi’ (there is a ‘k’ here too). Suddenly the crowd was in a rapture befitting an earlier hour of the program. So, in my classic style, I literally ‘hit’ the grounds dancing to singeli alongside others who braved the long nights wait for that moment, until the show finally came to an end.

Singeli is clearly my current dance music of choice. Apart from being captivated by it’s mwambao infused melodies and extremely infectious high tempo dance beats, singeli, through its often controversial lyrics, also tells a far deeper story of the complex battle we often have with our reality as a society.

Poverty is the single most constant characteristic of this society, yet our complex battle with our reality makes dealing with it extremely awkward: we are so poor that [even getting more] money makes us poorer.

We have seen a lot of ‘loose money’ in this country over the last few years. Sadly, though, instead of enforcing a stronger work ethic that is key in getting this money to creat real and sustained value; it (the presence of all this loose money) had embolden our claim for more ‘loose money’ and further removed us from our reality to the extent of making people ashamed of the same poverty they have to wear everyday. I recently quipped on my FB wall in Swahili that ‘madness is being grossed out from wiping off your own sh*t’ (ujinga ni kuona kinyaa kusafisha kinyesi chako mwenyewe).

The first step to tangible change is to not just accept your reality but to also accept that your reality matters irrespective of what it is. We cannot fight poverty by making people feel ashamed of it. That’s what loose money does. It kills the moral of those who put in a lot of hard work and barely get anything in return compared to those who just sit twiddling their thumbs all day but get more than their just share in return.

This, coupled with social media (our virtual existence), only served to further remove most of our people from their reality; many of them finding more comfort in the lives of others as presented through the filters of various social media platforms.

Music ceased to be a form of expression of their reality but rather an escape into a world that only exists in the virtual space or at best a rejection of ones reality without taking into consideration their role in the same - the fame ‘them’ or blame ‘them’ dilemma.

But suddenly we are back to an era where poverty, as worrying as it can be, is not something to feel ashamed of.

Like the days when the term ‘Nguna’ (Swahili slang for stiff porridge or ugali)  originally gained momentum and mass acceptance amongst the poorest Tanzanians that also saw the rise of Inspector Haroun and Juma Nature and their unique form of rap often referred to as hip hop katuni (satirical hip hop), Nguna is finding its way back through singeli. When I hear Snura celebrating as opposed to throwing shade about the public water she drinks, which she calls ‘Maji ya Kandoro’; for me that’s an expression of her reality whether we like it or not that’s the life she has to live so why live it complaining?

This, coupled with the fact that money is hard to come by these days and even harder if you are not willing to work for it; poverty has gained back some of its lost respect. Poverty is not a curse or the reserve of certain types of people, it is an economic situation that requires personal, societal and political resolve to overcome.

There is dignity in poverty.

Poverty cannot be alleviated if we are not comfortable enough with it to be willing to get our hands dirty in order to work through it.

A lot more is at stake for poor people if they are not intrinsically positive about the situation they are in. You cannot sell hope to someone who does not own their reality!

Escape into another world is not a bad thing altogether but removing yourself from your reality in the process is. For example, I get behind my steering wheel every day with the destination in my mind but my eyes never leave the road I am on.

Leave it or take it, that’s Magavilla’s take!

#NgunaReloaded #TeamNguna #ShibeShibeHainaBei #ProudToBeTanzanian #TeamKifimbo

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