Wakazi aka Swaggabovu
JG: TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT WAKAZI AND YOUR MUSIC?
My name is WAKAZI aka Swaggabovu, Muuza Vitu, The Bilingual Beast etc. I live in Chicago, Illinois but I am originally from Dar es Salaam Tanzania, Stakishari Ukonga to be exact. Actually the name Wakazi came from my childhood, My real name is Webiro Noel Wassira but when I was young I used to do a lot of handy jobs and when the grown-ups would ask any youngster around to get them something, I would volunteer to do it, so the started calling me “Wakazi, Wakazi” as in “the one who does work”. So when I started to get serious in doing music, I had a few names including TLG as Thug Living Genius or The Last Genius but the Wakazi thing came into my mind and I put in a lot of work as an artist similar to how I did it in my childhood so it made perfect sense. Swaggabovu is simply the swagger era name you know everyone is talking about swag this and that, then my swag is “so bovu” like its too much for you to handle. Bilingual Beast is simply because I rap in two languages English and Swahili so I mastered them both to become a beast whichever way.
Of course I am a Rap/ Hip Hop artist. As I have said I rap in English and in Swahili and my music covers a wide range of topics so its not fair to label me as a certain type of rapper, even though if it is necessary to do so, then I would prefer to be labeled as a “Conscious Emcee”. I believe my message is that of a positive tone and also I embody the technical part of rhyming for instance, by being keen on aspects like double entendre, similes, word play, patterns, multi syllables, metaphors and things of that nature. Hence the strength of my music is not the voice or the visuals, but rather the words, which are meant to paint the picture to the listening individuals.
I have released two Mixtapes to date, titled Mixtape Ya Ukweli Vol.1 (MYU) and Mixtape Ya Ukweli Vol.2 (MYU2:The Return of the Bilingual Beast). By the end of the year I will release my third Mixtape, MYU3: Welcome To Heartbreak and that will conclude the MYU trilogy and any Mixtapes that will follow from that point will be predominantly in English (as the first 3 were a mixture of both). These Mixtapes are basically free music given to the fans as they wait for the album and other official releases. It is important to do so, so music fans can get to know you and grow with you, and when the time comes that you want to sell them a product then they already know what to expect from you. It is a system that is done internationally but it is fairly still new in Tanzania and Africa in general for that matter.
I am also working on the album simultaneously while I am doing these mixtapes. I want the impact of my album to be huge and that’s why I am taking my time with it. I have other projects like duet album with another Tanzanian artist who resides here in the United States called Gwaii Thyword and we already released one song called “Welcome”, and also I am doing an EP with Karabani that’s being prepared by P Funk Majani of Bongo Records. Also me, Gwaii, LBT and John Mahundi collectively are called KAMATI (aka Kamati Ya Ufundi) and we are working on a project together with the first release being called “Cheza”. So it is a lot of exciting things coming out this year and next year.
WAKAZI-DEUCES SWAHILI REMIS ft. CHRIS BREEZY
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JG: WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BONGO FLAVA?
I always have trouble in understanding what bongo flava is, as in the case of whether it being any music that’s sung in Swahili from Tanzania, or the famous singing through the nose love songs by the so called “Wabana Pua”, that has become so popular throughout the country and beyond. I will start with the latter. Well I don’t have a problem with artists whose main subject is about “LOVE & INTIMATE RELATIONSHIPS” in fact I enjoy listening to those types of songs more than any other type of music. My concern is though, some people force to sing while they pretty damn sure know that they don’t have the singing voices. This affects the quality of our music and makes it difficult for us to compete in the international market. If you have a good singing voice, it won’t matter what language you are singing in, people will be drawn into your work. And although singing about love and things of that nature is acceptable, but also finding more artistic ways of expressing oneself will be a good idea instead of the usual shouting of “oh baby” and “oh mammy” and so forth making the songs progression to be very predictable.
Back to the other meaning of Bongo Flava, as any music from Tanzania sung in Swahili, well people like myself who are categorized as Hip Hop or Rap artists had a very difficult time in trying to embrace the name and what it stands for and fairly enough it is because of the nature of its ambiguity. And any professional would argue that it is practically impossible to categorize different genres of music as one just for the sake of making it a national identity. For instance, when you say American Music, it includes, Hip Hop, Dance, Country, Jazz, Soul, Rhythm & Blues, Rock, Rap, Gospel, Pop, and Alternative. Which means Bongo Flava has to include even traditional and tribal dances as well as everything else and not just the cliché.
My views on Hip Hop, Rap, and R&B which I believe, are the most famous genres of bongo flava, for the most part, they have been improving. We have a lot more artists, which makes the competition to spark creativity. There are numerous shows and contests that are dedicated in searching for the next talent and this had enabled the new stars to be seasoned well, before they step into the real show business. For Instance, In Hip Hop the new wave is growing by the day and artists are reinventing themselves in order to sustain the competition. So although we still have a long way to go, the future looks bright.
JG: WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON KILI MUSIC AWARDS?
Well just for the fact that we have such awards I consider it a good thing as, artists get an opportunity to be rewarded and recognized for the hard work they put in over the years. That being said, still like the same problem of identity with the music, I think the awards organizers face the same challenge, and over the years artists have been disappointed more than anything else. The criteria with which they use to pick the winners are not clear enough. The categories of nominees have variations and there is a lot of genre mix-up. The nominees’ considerations are inconsistent. The Time frame of music release for it to be considered for nomination is not set and last but not least, there is a lack of expertise in collectively considering all aspects of music and musical compositions to unanimously pick a deserving winner. All those areas need to be improved if we are going to help our music and spark the growth of this art.
And one important thing, and this is to the artists and not award organizers, is to not get carried away with the idea of being nominated and eventually winning an award but to continue to make music from their heart and soul and deliver the message they had intended to the people instead of trying to force to make radio friendly and award winning type of music so that they could become the next to be awarded. If they do so they will destroy the music and art in general. I know a lot of artists who have been robbed off their deserving awards over the years and some were never even nominated at all, but trust me the “lifetime achievement award” which is the ultimate of them all will only be awarded to those who were dedicated to art and had longevity so to speak. Besides the real judges of music are the people in the streets and not appointed committees.
WAKAZI-WE ARE NOT FOOLS!
JG: ADVICE ON UPCOMING ARTISTS
I will tell anyone who is trying to pursue a music career to never give up on his or her dreams. Never give up on your dreams until the dreams gives up on you. And as we all know when the dream gives up on you that is the end of it all but until then, just keep striving and working towards improving yourself. Never compromise the art. Stick with what you believe in. Study those who did it before you, analyze their good and bad and try to make the most of it. Like I have explained earlier on how I am seeing new artists doing a good job, they should not get satisfied with little accomplishments and achievements but push their creative minds to the limit and aim at being the best.
Thank you for your time WAKAZI, all the best JG