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What is Bongo Flava

The development of new technology in songwriting and production gave birth to the current popular music style known as Bongo Flava or ‘muziki wa kizazi kipya’ the music of today’s young generation. Bongo Flava rapidly emerged in Tanzania in the 1990s as Swahili pop music that blends several genres such as hip-hop, R&B, rap, reggae, and traditional Tanzanian styles such as taarab and dansi. Because "bongo" translates to "mind" and "flava" specifies the many different flavors of the music, Bongo Flava can be seen quite literally as a musical expression of the Tanzanian mind and is reflective of broader changes in Tanzania as a whole.

Imperative in understanding the evolution of the music style, is to recognize the social and political past of Tanzania and the complex global processes such as commercialization and technological development. In the late 1980s, Tanzania changed its political economy from a socialist model to a free market economy and while the music can be viewed as having carried a weight of social and political messages in the past, the increased popularity of Bongo Flava in recent years has broadened its scope and led to a greater diversity of messages. For many, this has led to more “mainstream” music which caters more specifically to the aspirations of young people.

"Although the definition of Bongo Flava seems to be argued with great debate, there is no doubt of its significant cultural phenomenon and VOM would completely miss the boat in TZ music scene if we didn't add this style to our repertoire," says Founder Jessey Jansen.

This summary references a study from the University of Copenhagen, More Flava, Less Bongo. To read more about this unique perspective of this fascinating genre of music, please see article links below.


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