Hugh Tracey (1903-1977) was a pioneering ethnomusicologist who sought to document traditional African music over his fifty-year career. In the early 1920s, Tracey moved to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) with his brother to start a tobacco farm. While working alongside Karagan farm workers, Tracey learned the Shona language. This led to his introduction to Karagan work songs, which became his first love of traditional African music. Unlike the prevailing attitudes and ideas held by white colonists, who often sought to erase any trace of African culture, Tracey saw the beauty and importance of respecting existing traditions. In 1929 Tracey began his recording career by bringing fourteen Sona Karanga men to South Africa to record. It is believed that these recordings were one of the first examples of African tribal recordings to take place. Tracey would continue to travel the continent and record various groups while developing his own way of recording. His preferred method of recording was with a Nagra tape recorder and a Neumann microphone that was attached to a broom handle. This allowed for Tracey to move around the performing ensemble and capture the music in intimate ways. In 1954, Tracey founded the International Library of African Music, located in South Africa, the ILAM seeks to preserve recording and instruments from across Africa. Durig the span of his career Tracey recorded over 200 albums and issued many of them through the ILAM label. In addition to ILAM, many of the recordings Tracey made were also issued through the Kaleidophone, Gallo, and Decca labels. The Music Of Africa Series – Tanzania 1 was released by Kaleidophone in 1972 alongside ten other records. The other records in the 1972 series are similar, as they either focus on specific countries like Tanzania 1, or categorical instrumentation such as guitars, percussion, and horns. Tanzania 1 contains songs from a total of nine different tribes that include the Gogo, Hehe, Sukuma, Haya, Zinka, Zaramo, Meru, Changa, and Nyamwezi. The songs range from ceremonial chants, dance songs, and minimal instrumentals. Personal favorites of mine include track three, “Simba Lumi,” sung by Sanyenke Gethula accompanied by Sukuma men, and “Two Harusi Wedding Tunes,” performed by Ngayamiso Kitung. Tanzania 1 is a wonderful peek into the world of traditional Tanzania and is a great addition to any ethno collector’s collection.
Listen to the full album below and check out the notes for each song.