EOL 2 Kwayas, Kandas, Kiosks (Barz)
Kiosks: The Kanda Kiosk Project
|In April of 1994, I participated in an
ethnographic research project, along with several other
researchers, that attempted to survey the Dar Es Salaam
street kiosks that sell musical kandas. For our study we
selected a carefully delineated section of downtown Dar
Es Salaam to which a representative cross-section of
people living and working in the city had immediate
access. This project grew out of my curiosity about the
quickly changing repertoires and styles of music sold in
Dar street kanda kiosks. I had determined that a survey
of the inventory of the downtown kiosks and interviews
with kiosk vendors would lead to valuable information
demographic and sales information.
With the assistance of seven other researchers--all students in the Department of Art, Music and Theatre at the University of Dar Es Salaam--we covered one of the most densely populated and traveled areas of downtown Dar Es Salaam.(4) Preliminary findings of the survey demonstrate that kwaya music of all types (popular, traditional, hymns, mapambio, choruses, etc.) competes well with other popular secular genres at the more general kiosks, that is the kiosks carrying the largest and most varied inventory.
The two inventories of representative street kiosks in Kanda Kiosk #1 and Kanda Kiosk #2 illustrate the strong position kwaya music maintains in Dar street kiosks. Zairean music is the top kanda seller at both kiosks, as it is for most of the larger kiosks in Dar Es Salaam. Yet, kwaya music is close to the top in both cases. (The labels affixed to specific musical genres themselves are those given by the kiosk vendors, and the order given is roughly the order in which the most stock is sold, again according to the individual vendor.)
Kanda Kiosk #1--Musical Genres
Kanda Kiosk #2--Musical Genres
Zairean music sells the most at both kiosks, as is standard at most kanda kiosks that sell a large variety of musical genres. According to the vendor of kiosk number one, it is mostly men of the older generation who buy Zairean music, men who would presumably have the most disposable income to purchase kandas. Younger men, according to the vendor of the second kiosk, are more inclined to purchase kandas of Reggae or Funk music. The first vendor related to us that it is mostly middle-aged women purchasing kwaya kandas. He quickly added that he did not know for whom these women were buying the kwaya kandas, suggesting to one of the researchers that the purchase of kwaya kandas might not always be for the women themselves. The vendor of the second kiosk disagreed, however, telling us that youths and middle-aged men and women are the chief buyers of kwaya kandas
At kiosks that restrict their stock to kwaya music only, the newer popular urban kwaya music is the most popular selling kanda. "Groups that produce kandas using electric guitars and Casio keyboards are easier to sell," according to one kiosk vendor. The vendor of a well-known kiosk at the corner of Maktaba and India Streets informed me that the old style, or more traditional kwaya music is mostly sold on Sundays at the temporary kwaya kiosks found in front of the churches, but "for a price" he could get his hands on anything for me if I wanted it.
The results of this survey project--which I have only briefly outlined here-- confirmed for all of us involved that kwaya kandas, while acknowledged to be crossing over to a more popular sound, are invariably considered a separate musical genre from mainstream popular music. Each vendor described popular kwaya music as belonging to the larger genre of kwaya music; there was never confusion over whether popular kwaya kandas were, in fact, kwaya music. No matter how much kwaya music imitates, borrows, or sounds similar to other genres of popular Tanzanian music, it will never be described or sold in the same categories as those other popular musics. Kwaya music will not be confused with or mistaken for Reggae, Jazzi, Dansi, Zairean Soukous, or Kwasa Kwasa, and it appears to work hard at maintaining that distinction. Yet, popular kwaya music continues to dialogue with other popular styles as it persists in re-inventing contemporary Tanzanian culture.
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