By FREDDY MACHA
And there it was. A WhatsApp invitation sent by Sophia Egan-Cork.
A request to perform my music. Such “call outs” are common during these Covid-19 times. If you are a musician you know the deal. It is going to be Microsoft Teams, Facebook Live streaming, Skype, or Zoom.
In 2019 - “Corona” was not part of our daily vocabulary (few knew the Mexican beer, Corona Extra); subsequently, such summons were different. Your phone would ring. Then a long conversation about costs : journey to the venue, equipment and sound (PA, in music jargon) and the general fee.
The “figure” would be fixed, as events have budgets. For us professional artists, it is take or leave it. They are paying £120 per musician for the one – two hour performance. When you, John and Mary, hears that kind of money for an hour, thinks it is a lot.
Yes it can be someone's monthly salary - ...around 375 Tanzanian shillings (or 17, 500 Kenyan shillings or half a million Ugandan shillings)...but hey!!! Freelance musicians do not play every day. You get this gig on such a such weekend, then wait ages for another one. Meantime, bills have to be paid, no fixed time scale.
In between you enjoy your life, rehearsing, create, posting music videos smiling while people envy your “glamorous life.”
Then March 2020, Covid-19 strikes, Tsunami-like. But, alas, Tsunamis, normally, kick our guts once and vanish.
Coronavirus punched and headbutted us continuously in 2020, live music has almost been forgotten in early 2021. To perform you need audiences. But how do you sing with a mask on? Musicians have been stuck indoors, harbouring exploding emotions, debts and more debts.
The only solution are videos and these internet Apps ....
And here comes Sophia Egan-Cork.
She is cooking a line up for the 59th anniversary of Tanganyika's Independence. Theme is Unsung heroes of Uhuru. Stars like Lucy Lameck and Bibi Titi Mohammed mentioned. Do we know them?
Last time Bibi Titi Mohamed was on national news was early 1970s as part of a large group accused of plotting to overthrow Mwalimu Nyerere's TANU. Afterwards, legendary Bibi Titi was in prison. Few years later, Mwalimu Nyerere pardoned her (and others) and she died quietly, no autobiography, no memoirs, no TV interviews; in November 2000.
Bibi Titi was the founder and leader of the powerful Tanzania Women Union -UWT (Umoja wa Wanawake wa Tanzania) – for those present in the 1950s and 1960s she was a gargantuan personality- as massive as Mwalimu Nyerere, Rashid Kawawa, Oscar Kambona (another huge story), a heroine.
When TANU was being formed in early 1950s , Bibi Titi was the one to look up to. Writing in Rai Mwema, December 2020, Abdul Mtemvu informs us it was actually Bibi Titi, “who initiated the “Mwalimu” tag on Nyerere and it stuck forever.”
Want to hear more? Respected historian, Mohammed Saidi writes in his blog:
“Bi Titi Mohamed used to address Uhuru meetings before even she had met Julius Nyerere. How come Bibi Titi addressed TANU gatherings before even she had met Nyerere – and even before Nyerere himself was known to people of Dar es Salaam?”
Mohamed's then elaborates that Bibi Titi would warm up crowds before TANU leader, Nyerere, spoke. And there were more heroes. The Sykes brothers. Or Zuberi Mtemvu, with a totally different ideology – as charismatic and a good orator as Mwalimu.
Furthermore, Mohamed Said continues, Mtemvu created the African Peoples Congress Party, advocating Tanzania -just for Africans. Unlike Mwalimu's more unifying TANU line.
Historian Mohamed Said is scheduled to be part of this Zoom performance-but doesn't make it. Chief guest is our London High Commissioner, Dr Asha Rose Migiro. Opening the ceremony, after the national anthem, she reiterates on Umoja- Unity- which has seen Tanzanians enduring peaceful prosperity.
Unsung heroes is the theme but it does not mean what TANU (and eventually CCM) has done and achieved in the last 59 years is of no significance. It is just a different angle- steered by Ireland based Tanzanians. Ireland is hardly mentioned in our media reports. Their community is called ATAI, i.e. Association of Tanzanians in Ireland.
Sophia Egan -Cork explains:
“ATAI was formerly established in 2017 with the objective of creating a vibrant society of Tanzanian diaspora in Ireland....”
That is one angle.
Other is participants. We have musician Kiruu. Half English half- Tanzanian, kicking off Zoom with an excellent rendition of the National Anthem on his guitar. Then poets (Joyce Materego, EdnaLyatuu Hogan, Euxodia, Abubakar Kassim) more musicians (Ticha Vibes and this author) plus speakers, ie Cian Murphy.
All co-ordinated by Sophia herself- Tanzanian mum, Irish- dad. Sophia is involved in several Swahili projects - teaching and translation while promoting Tanzania overseas. Hopefully, we shall keep hearing more from this part of the world in the near future.