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Ndala Kasheba; a year after

Ndala Kasheba passed away a year ago at age 58. A big pengo, a gap, an emptiness still remains in the lives of his family, fans, and fellow musicians that has not been filled. Ndala Kasheba. He would explain, “Ndala in Tanzania means sandals like the ones you wear to the bathroom - everybody has a pair close to them - so it means that everybody has my music in their heart. My spirit resonates to Ndala.”

He was a self-taught musician; in fact he even had his own tuning. In an interview shortly before he died, he explained, “Other guitarists are tuning in E. Me I am tuning D. My open number one is D.”

He didn’t handle a guitar until he was twelve. By the time he was 17 his name as a guitar player had started to spread, and he was a member of a new band Fauvette. His father gave him his blessing, “If you can provide the best of yourself you'll be a good artist, you'll be respected, you'll get a name and you'll be popular. Go ahead. Music is a nice profession, but be smart because all those people who are going to see you are very smart. When you are walking, look straight forward, because people are watching you, because of your smartness, because you are a star ,and you have a name. Go forward, because if you turn to watch them, you will fall. Take my words my son, go ahead, good luck. Kwisha." He followed his father’s advice– he provided the best of himself and the rest followed.

He toured Congo and Burundi for several years with the band Fauvette – of which King Kiki and the late Baziano Bweti were also members – until 1968 when he and his eight friends, boarded a boat, “following the coast, with people smuggling big bags of salt.... At 4 or 5 in the morning we reached Kigoma. We didn't even know where the immigration office was. We were just dropped off. When I arrived, I was very happy.”

He continued, “I have been happy here and because of that I changed my nationality. I know Congo by books, but I know Tanzania by life. The content of my life is filled with Tanzania because I've seen and learned a lot here.

“What did I learn in Tanzania? Yes yes. Unity. Peace. Continuity. People are good. They have that spirit of helping each other. Tanzanians by themselves are rough, but they are disciplined people; they have a deep humanity, they know how to assist each other. In many parts of this world that kind of spirit has disappeared, gone, each one is his own problem.”

Tanzania Radio has important recordings of Kasheba and his bands Safari Nkoy, Orchestra Safari Sound, and Zaita Musica. Other than those, Kasheba’s most sophisticated album is Yellow Card recorded in Dar es Salaam on 24 tracks at the Makuti Studio, first released December 2002. Playing on that album are many of Tanzania’s most important musicians: Gerry Chiyumbe and Kibambe Ramadhan on bass guitar, King Malou on alto sax, Selemani Muhuarami on tenor sax, Adbul Khatisu on drums, Kanku Kelly and Mukuna Roy on congas, and the voices of King Kiki, Kasongo Clayton, the late Baziano, and Delphin Mununga. Even today Yellow Card stands at 22 on the all Africa Stern’s music charts.

Ndala Kasheba made us happy. It seemed that he was always trying to meet other people’s needs. Now those needs are not being met and those who publicly promised to assist did not always come through.

His wife, Edith Mashamba, mother of his last child Francis, for example said that she has not received any help. Toka marehemu amefariki hatuna msaada wowote. This is not strictly true, but life has been difficult since Kasheba’s death. The 2005 tuition for the youngest child Francis pledged at the 40 days memorium, for example did not materialize. Mama Francis has tried different ways of earning a living – including importing charcoal from Moshi. Finally though Francis was expelled from Montessori School for lack of school fees and has been sent to live with his grandmother in Nakuru Kenya.

It seems that there should be more money. Yellow Card after all has been a success. Rose and Michel Tyabji the owners of Limitlesssky Records who produced the album explained:

“Making an album takes resources. We put those resources up for Kasheba but the album is not an end to itself. When money comes in, it reimburses us for out-of-pocket expenses, but we have not yet been fully reimbursed because the sales have not caught up with the expenses. We are all still in the hole, for thousands of dollars.

“Why is that? Well, costs include:
1 - Album duplication and production plus shipping
2 - Artwork creation/ promotional materials creation
3 - Promotional materials, mailing, and follow-ups with research and many phone calls
4 - Free samples of the music to DJs, etc...music critics, newspapers, magazines, etc... plus paperwork and promo materials shipped out
5 - Mail outs to stores for potential sales - a small percentage of which will buy an unknown artist’s album
6 - Constant work and energy to find new ways to get the music out there.

“Kasheba has received seemingly little money, it is true. But he received this money before we ever recouped our expenses, which most companies do not do. We can only send money when money comes in, which it only does slowly and sporadically.

“Kasheba had great success in Africa but very few know him in North America. He died before the tour we were planning could happen. He is a hard sell to the uninformed public whose choices are overwhelming. People don't care until you make them care with marketing materials. Then they take a chance, take a listen, and love it.”

On the worldwideweb Ndala Kasheba seems to be still alive as “The Greatest 12 String Guitar Story Ever Told.” Critics love Yellow Card . New York Times gave it an A- on their yearly jazz round up. “Yellow Card is the perfect panacea for all that ails ya.” writes another, “Maestro Ndala Kasheba serves up … swirling guitar melodies that leave you mesmerized; the creeping bass lines claw into your hip bones and will not let go until everyone is dancing; and the vocals feel like pure joy ... Kasheba’s music is captivating and so full of verve and spirit, one can easily get lost within his beautiful sound. This disc lifts the spirit and leaves it floating in the enriching ether of optimism and promise.” That’s how he left us.

Yellow Card can be bought online. It is also for sale at Selander Bridge in Dar es Salaam where Jumabongo can usually be found in the afternoons selling CDs to people in passing cars from a box which holds the latest Tanzanian music.

A mass for the memory of Maestro Ndala Kasheba is being held at St. Joseph’s at the sea front at 5 PM on Monday, 24 October 2005.


Kuna Maoni 6 mpaka sasa.

  1. Anonymous Anasema:

    hujatuwekea hata kibao kimoja cha kusikiliza na wewe bwana

  2. daan42 Anasema:

    Rufus is streaming some early Safari-Nkoy recordings he's digitised from vinyl 48s, at http://people.zeelandnet.nl/rufus/ and http://members.home.nl/rumba-odemba/. Interestingly, one recording is 'Nasema Sina Ndugu', which to my knowledge is credited to Orchestra Maquis. Any ideas as to the origins of this song? - it's a classic! I know Rufus has more S-N singles and he'll hopefully put them up on Musique d'Afrique. It's high time RTD remastered and digitised their vault - it's so frustrating knowing this great music is there but cannot be got hold of (and in fact is perishing)!

  3. Anonymous Anasema:

    Yeah, it is high time the RTD songs got mastered and released on CDs because they are classic.
    I want to know, because I am sure Kasheba did master some of his OSS songs and put them on CDs, so can somebody help me on how to get these CDs, in fact Michuzi you should know that, keep me informed at this address: bwirene@yahoo.com

  4. daan42 Anasema:

    There's some OSS / Kasheba songs on http://www.afropop.org/radio/program_stream/ID/6/ai/1. I found this site http://mwanasimba.online.fr/E_bands.htm which has some good old dansi. Also, more new Safari-Nkoy here: http://people.zeelandnet.nl/rufus/.
    If you know of more (or other stuff - Mbaraka Mwinshehe?!) mail me at daan42@liv.ac.uk..

  5. Anonymous Anasema:

    Michuzi how can i get those songs such as Fransica of 70"s fauvvette band.

  6. Anonymous Anasema:

    I just found that Ndala Kasheba died, this life is not fair, good people are leaving us. may gob bless him,