Kwayas, Kandas, Kiosks (Barz)

Kwayas, Kandas, and Kiosks in Dialogue:
Kwaya Ya Upendo and the
Performance of Community
  Beyond the surface, aural performance of kwayas, kandas, and the kiosks that sell them lies a deeper, perhaps more intriguing level of performance: the everyday performance of those communities that use kandas and the emerging popular kwaya music to proclaim their spirituality.

In the following brief section, with a series of photographs, audio examples, and recollections, I draw on my field research singing with a Tanzanian kwaya to tell a story of a performance event in which Kwaya ya Upendo asserts itself as a meta-community, that is a community expected to provide the structure, the larger framework for an event. The particular performance I follow is the wedding of a mwanakwaya, illustrating one specific way Kwaya ya Upendo musically forms, re-forms, and performs community.

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The front entrance to Azania Front Lutheran Cathedral along the harbor front in downtown Dar Es Salaam. Azania Front was at one time the centerpiece of the original nineteenth-century German mission center. It is now the cathedral for the diocese.
Kwaya ya Upendo meets early in the afternoon on a hot, muggy Saturday in the parking lot of Azania Front Cathedral for a rehearsal. The kwaya gathers this Saturday, one of the kwaya's few days off, to celebrate the wedding of one of its own, a mwanakwaya, Ndugu Goodvoice Materu. An earlier wedding ceremony occupies the church, compelling Kwaya ya Upendo to carry chairs from the parish hall to the back parking lot in order to practice the special music selected for the celebration. Bibi Zelda rehearses the nyimbo to be sung at the celebration; all composed by the kwaya's mwalimu, Ndugu Gideon Mdegella.
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Bibi Zelda Oswald, one of the founding members of Kwaya ya Upendo, leads the rehearsal of Kwaya ya Upendo in the parking lot behind Luther House, adjacent to Azania Front Lutheran Cathedral, Dar Es Salaam.
Although not a regular member of Kwaya ya Upendo, Goodvoice sings with the Kwaya whenever the group prepares to record a kanda. He is, in fact, a ringer specifically brought in by Mdegella to supplement the sauti ya nne [bass, lit. "fourth voice"] section. The Kwaya recently completed the recording of a new kanda, and Goodvoice has been singing with the group for a significant period. Over the several weeks preceding the wedding, the Kwaya contributed much time and energy to Goodvoice's wedding. Mdegella composed and taught several new songs and also "brushed off" older songs in the Kwaya's repertoire. To show their support for the couple's union the Kwaya offered a substantial monetary contribution to the wedding, in addition to a sizeable gift.

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Ndugu Yakopo Mbaga, mwanakwaya with Kwaya ya Upendo holds a kayamba, a reed- box rattle with dried seeds inside, used along with ngoma [drums] as a percussion instrument by the group.

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Ndugu Fredson Mbala (katibu [secretary]), Ndugu James Obama (mwenyekiti [chair person]), and Bibi Zelda Oswald (founder) of Kwaya ya Upendo rest before the wedding ceremony begins. (Photograph by Gregory Barz).

After the brief rehearsal, the kwaya joins the large crowd of family and friends gathering outside the church. The ceremony was to have begun an hour earlier, but the bride and her attendants have not yet arrived. Mama Mutah turns to me with a grin and says as she points to her wrist, "you know, Bwana Gregory, we wear these fancy watches, but we never really look at them." As we stand in the shade, the previous wedding party emerges from the church led by a brass band. The brass band plays contemporary versions of old German mission hymns.
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Matarumbeta Temeke [The Trumpets of Temeke], a brass band, leads a processional of family members as the group makes its way into the church parking lot after the recessional from the church takes place. Women from the same family wear outfits made from the same kitenge [cotton fabric with colorful prints]. (Photograph by Gregory Barz).
As if on cue, Goodvoice's bride-to-be, Victoria, arrives in an elaborately decorated BMW sedan, and the processional quickly begins to form. Kwaya ya Upendo assumes the leadership position, directly following the bridal couple, leading the processional in song, clapping, and dancing. Mdegella walks to the side of the main processional, signifying his set-apart status as musical specialist and leader of the kwaya. He carries several sets of manyanga [hollowed gourd rattles filled with seeds and pebbles], and uses them to both keep time and indicate the tempo of the dance step of the processional, "Aleluya, Amin, Umetubariki" ["Allelujah, Amen, You have Blessed Us"]. We sing the pambio all the way into the church.

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Wanakwaya of Kwaya ya Upendo begin to take their place in the processional for the wedding of Ndugu Goodvoice Materu. (Photograph by Gregory Barz).

Audio seven
: Once inside the cathedral, Ndugu Gideon Mdegella and Kwaya ya Upendo lead the celebration with an opening pambio. Outside the sound of the church's bells can be heard ringing. (Field recording by Gregory Barz). Cut lasts 20 seconds.

During the ceremony, Kwaya ya Upendo sits at front of the church directing the music, leading cheers, interrupting the liturgy with vigelegele [ululation, shouts of joy by women], and singing several special nyimbo prepared for the occasion. In "Siku Njema," Kwaya ya Upendo sings with a voice that speaks the sentiments of the greater community gathered to celebrate. The kwaya guides Goodvoice and Victoria through their vows and the expectations of the community at large:


Siku hii ni siku njema
This is a good day

Ndugu na rafiki karibuni
Relative and friends, welcome

Kwetu tumefurahiwa
We have been pleased

Baraka zake Mungu twaona
To see the blessings of God

Rafiki zetu wamepatana
Our friends have vowed

Kuingia nyumbani mwa Bwana
To enter the house of the Lord

Wameshikana mikono tena ni
They have joined their hands together

Moja nia ya mioyo yao
Also, their purpose is one


Haya sote tuwashangilie
Let us rejoice for them

Tuwaombee telebraka
And pray for abundant blessings

Kwetu tumefurahiwa
We are pleased

Baraka zake Mungu twaona
To have seen the blessings of God


Kwa kupenda kaka Goodvoice
With our love Goodvoice

Umemchagua ndiye Victoria
You have chosen her, Victoria

Kwa hiari dada Victoria
And voluntarily, sister Victoria

Umekubali Goodvoice ni wako
You have agreed he is yours

Ukaishi naye siku zote
Be and live with him/her all days

Msifarakane mpaka kifo
Do not divorce each other until death

Muishike imani hata mwisho
Hold the faith until the end

Mkafike kwake Mwokozi
When you reach the Lord


Haya sote tuwashangilie
Let us rejoice for them

Tuwaombee telebraka
And pray for abundant blessings

Kwa hiari dada Victoria
Voluntarily, sister Victoria

Umekubali Goodvoice ni wako.
You have agreed that Goodvoice is yours.

"Siku Njema," words and music composed by Gideon Mdegella, mwalimu, Kwaya ya Upendo, Azania Front Lutheran Cathedral, Dar Es Salaam.

After the ceremony concludes, Kwaya ya Upendo leads the recessional out of the church. Once outside, the kwaya closes the service by addressing another wimbo to the newly united couple as they assemble on the front steps.

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Kwaya ya Upendo gathers after the recessional and addresses the wedding couple in song. (Photograph by Gregory Barz).

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Kwaya ya Upendo directs the post-service activities, offering a song in the couple's honor. Ndugu Gideon Mdegella conducts. (Photograph by Gregory Barz).

The Kwaya quickly rushes off once the service is completed in order to arrive first at the secondary school where the reception is to take place. As the wedding party and guests arrive, the Kwaya officially greets them and welcomes them to the celebration in song. Mdegella leads an energetic call-and-response pambio to animate the crowd. The Kwaya splits into two lines through which the wedding party enters. The women of the Kwaya vigelegele and fan Goodvoice and Victoria with their handkerchiefs as they pass through the ranks of the Kwaya. The Kwaya continues to clap and dance as the wedding guests arrive.

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Wanakwaya of Kwaya ya Upendo sing a pambio as they form a musical receiving line to greet the wedding party at the reception. (Photograph by Gregory Barz).

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Ndugu Gideon Mdegella, mwalimu of Kwaya ya Upendo, leads the ceremony welcoming the arrival of Goodvoice and Victoria and their wedding party at the reception hall. (Photograph by Gregory Barz).

After presenting its gift to Goodvoice and Victoria, Kwaya ya Upendo ends its long day of celebrating by singing its farewell to the couple with the wimbo, "Sasa Mwaingia Nyumbani mwa Bwana"["Now, Enter the House of the Lord"].

Sasa mwaingia nymbani mwa Bwana
Now, enter the house of the Lord

Na sisi rafiki twashuhudia, twaoimbea nanyi
And we friends witness, we pray for you

Nyenyekeeni sana mbele za Mungu
Humble youselves before God

Ndiye aziunganisha nafsi zenu
He joins your spirits together

Awafundishe kupendana
He teaches you how to love each other

Nyumba yenu itabarikiwa
Your house will be blessed

Yesu akiwa kati yenu, maisha yote mtafanikiwa
If Jesus is in you, you'll be successful in

Maisha yote mtafanikiwa.
your lives.

"Sasa Mwaingia," words and music composed by Ndugu Gideon Mdegella, mwalimu, Kwaya ya Upendo, Azania Front Lutheran Cathedral, Dar Es Salaam.

The Kwaya faces the assembled group and expresses the support of the community, not just of the Kwaya community, but of the greater community assembled. The Kwaya leaves as it came, singing and dancing, clapping and drumming.

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