The entire history of The Dar es Salaam Jazz Band of Tanzania has always been anything but clear. While some of the band’s history can be found after digging deep on the internet, the actual dates of the band’s recorded material were released is for the most part unknown. Most have speculated that the group was first formed around 1930 and was active through sometime in the 70s. However, in 2007 the French label Buda Musique released a compilation, Zanzibara 3: The 1960s Sound Of Tanzania, that featured a Dar es Salaam Jazz Band track. The liner notes contain an account of the band’s history. The few sentences that discuss the group are one of the few legitimate sources of history detailing the band, or at least that is presumed to be.
The notes read:
“Founded in 1932, the Dar es Salaam Jazz Band ranks as the country’s oldest dance club and band. Based in the city’s Kariakoo quarter, the club fostered a legion of Dar’s best musicians and became a leading voice on the town’s entertainment circuit until its fall in the 1975. Throughout the 1960’s the band was lead by the legendary Michael Enoch, solo guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, and teacher of many Tanzanian dance band musicians. Enoch later switched to saxophone and came to invent the inimitable horn sound of Mlimani Park Orchestra, until today one of Tanzania’s leading bands”
Dar es Salaam was found in 1860 by the Sultan Sayyid Majid, in order to strengthen his power along the coast by expanding trade possibilities. However, it was not until 1891 that the Germans decided to make the city their primary African colony due to the city’s port. From the very beginning Dar es Salaam was comprised of white Europeans, Indians, Arabs, and native African groups. As a result of the German colonization the Europeans lived closest to the inner bay, Asians further west, and various African groups were spread around in random. The British by 1920 chose to solidify the racial divisions the Germans had begun by creating distinct zones within Dar es Salaam for each group. In 1920 the ward of Kariakoo was created for the multiple groups of African natives to reside. At the same time, Indians and Arabs also would also live with their cultural groups inside Kariakoo. Unlike Indian citizens who generally remained within their own settlements, Arabs would often interact with the African-Muslims who had also become a part of Kariakoo. With this in mind, it is no surprise that with the development of taarab music in Dar es Salaam the diversity among various dance club bands was high. By the late 30s and early 40s jazz clubs became popularized within Dar es Salaam. With the rise of jazz clubs and a strong emphasis on community within local neighborhoods, dance bands became an essential element to social life. In 2003 Tadasu Tsuruta, a professor at Kinki University in Japan published a paper that held an emphasis on the history of music, football, and politics in Dar es Salaam. In this paper, Tsuruta found the majority of his impressive research has done through speaking with Dar es Salaam locals who were witness to different eras of Dar es Salaam life. One section of the essay finds two detailed accounts of the Dar es Salaam Jazz Band and a brief history of the dance band. In addition to the group’s history that is given insight into how the group fit within society is also included.
“In the 1930s-40s, Dar es Salaam had at least two native African dance bands, the African Association Jazz Band (often referred to as the African Jazz Band) and the Dar es Salaam Jazz Band, both of which were frequently hired by dance clubs in town. It was not until the end of World War II, however, that a number of guitar-based dance bands sprang up all over the town, coinciding with the return of war veterans who brought back the latest Western popular music and dance (Martin, 1980: 52). During the 1950s, aside from the long-standing Dar es Salaam Jazz Band, a number of popular “jazz clubs” emerged in Kariakoo and the adjacent Ilala wards. (31) The Lucky Star Jazz Band from the neighboring town of Bagamoyo also became popular in Dar es Salaam during the 1950s”
“The origin of the Dar es Salaam Jazz Band dates back to the African Association Jazz Band, which existed in the early 1930s in Kariakoo. In the mid-1930s, some musicians withdrew from the band and established the Dar es Salaam Jazz Band. (32) The founding members of the Dar es Salaam Jazz were of various ethnic groups and occupations, and they claimed it the band for the citizens of Dar es Salaam.(33) By the 1950s, it came to resemble a communal social club with many non-musicians of both sexes, a feature that most of the jazz clubs then had in common (Tsuruta, 2000: 13-17). The club was apparently managed by Athumani Muba, one of the founders and a violinist, whose house in Kariakoo was used as the clubhouse. In the 1960s, the band also had a junior section (Dar es Salaam Jazz “B”)”
This particular cassette featuring seven tracks is still a great mystery. In the lower right-hand corner on the front of the j-card contains the catalog number AHD (MC) 028. This catalog number belongs to the African AHADI label. Based on what I have been able to find, it seems that AHADI was an imprint of its parent label FLATIM. FLATIM, which stands for Franklin Livingstone Amaumo and Tido Dunstan Mhando, was based out of Nairobi and began releasing records and tapes in the mid-eighties. The AHADI page on Discogs is more than likely incomplete but also reveals that in the label’s discography there are other cassette releases that share the same artwork style as Vol. 12. Much like most of the AHADI discography, Dar es Salaam Jazz Band’s cassette has never been submitted to Discogs and has no existing page. However, all of the other releases that are dated on Discogs range from the early eighties to mid-eighties. Based on the release years of the label’s other cassettes that seem to share the same j-card layout, I would guess that Vol. 12 was released sometime between 1983 and 1989. But again they actual year the tape was released may never be known. If this is accurate then this particular tape would have to a compilation of the Jazz Band’s recordings as they had broken up by 1980.
Nonetheless, the album is still a complete joy to listen to. Each track is rather upbeat and light feeling, which helps create an idea of the type happiness jazz bands brought to the everyday life in Kariakoo.
Listen to the track “Yamewafika Wenzetu” below and downlaod the full length album to hear more.