Only little music has found its way out of East Africa in the past years. Almost unnoticed from the rest of the world a new generation of musicians has created its own style. Their mix of hip hop with local melodies and Swahili lyrics, sometimes called Bongo Flava, has quickly become East Africa’s number one selling pop music, rocking the airwaves through newly formed private radiostations in and around Tanzania. X Plastaz and their album Maasai hip hop set out to introduce their version of this new Tanzanian sound to the rest of the world.
X Plastaz have taken the Bronx invented hip hop culture into their homes in Arusha (‘A-Town’), a city in northern Tanzania. They have created a unique style that brings together local Maasai a cappella chants with rapping in Swahili and Haya languages. Although the Maasai people have become an internationally known symbol of rural lifestyle, in Tanzania they are often seen as backward and not fitting into modern urban society. X Plastaz proved that Tanzania’s cultural heritage can be meaningful beyond the village level.
Today X Plastaz is one of the big names on the Tanzanian hip hop scene. The group consists of three grown-up emcees, a rapping boy and girl and a Maasai singer. Having grown up in a poor area of Arusha town they talk about what it means to be young and African, looking for a perspective in a globalised world. The song Ushanta (‘day job’) tells the story of a man who tries everything to get by, from driving a minibus to preaching to mugging. Msimu kwa msimu (‘season to season’) adresses the topic of true and false friends who are there as long as the sun is shining, but will drop you when times are rough.
In Aha, X Plastaz rhyme about their relationship to Maasai culture: we would make fire under a tree, consuming meat and milk in the traditional way… Please don’t laugh, even if it’s funny. In Nini dhambi kwa mwenye dhiki?: when we die, on the day of judgement give us the chance to regret, because we know that we act evil, we use every possible method: magic, crime, anything so that we can get food and clothing What’s the crime of the poor, what’s wrong, what is right…
released 16 August 2004