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‘My Family Thought I Had Lost My Mind’

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In Tanzania, music is played everywhere: on crowded, colorful streets, in dala dalas (minibus taxis), and in roadside bars, which serve grilled corn and roasted pistachios. Tanzanians even walk as if they are dancing.

This passion for music comes from the tribes. In this country, with a population of 50 million people, there are more than 120 of them and all of them have different traditional instruments, tunes, and songs. In the cosmopolitan Dar es Salaam, you can hear almost all of them: from the melodies played on the ilimba, an instrument of the Gogo tribe from central Tanzania, to taarab music, akin to sung poetry, and popular in Zanzibar.

Yet the younger generation prefers bongo flava, a local version of hip hop. And the local stars are more and more inspired by their American idols; they imitate their music, gestures and clothing style. No wonder that older musicians fear that, in a few decades, Tanzanians may no longer be able to make traditional instruments or even play on them.

Hilary More, lead singer of the Cocodo band from dar es Salaam (Photo by Myriam Meloni)

In colonial times, traditional music and dancing encouraged resistance. Today, artists are encouraging resistance against growing western influences to save their rich tradition.

Seventy-two-year-old Warema Chacha is a well-known litungu player, a stringed instrument of the Kurya tribe from north-western Tanzania. The older he gets, the more determined he is to pass on his knowledge and love for music to younger generations.

“I often tell young people that it’s important to value your own culture, because in this way you can know yourself better. You won’t know it by playing bongo flava,” he says at his house in Bagamoyo, 60 kilometers from Dar es Salaam.

“Many times when you don’t appreciate your own things they can disappear. If someone comes to me, I can help and teach him to play the instrument, even making him one for free,” he adds showing a self-made litungu.

An ilimba, a traditional instrument of the Gogo tribe from Tanzania. The Zawose family use it during performances. (Photo by Myriam Meloni)

He has already encouraged his grandson Ally, who plays on the African drums in a popular band Ze Spirits, to also take litungu lessons.

“The litungu is not well known and we are the only ones who can save it from disappearing and introduce it to the world because we are close to Chacha, who knows everything about this instrument,” says 21-year-old Sajaly Sharif, Ally’s friend from the band that plays afro-fusion, a mix of traditional and modern music. “This can also be a good marketing strategy for us. Like most bands, we also play the guitar, but if you go to America or Europe, you’ll find people who do it better. We can be the kings of the litungu though. And thanks to this, people may be more interested in our music,” he adds.

Chacha is also teaching young musicians that music is not only for entertainment. His songs encourage people to vote in elections and warn against malaria or AIDS.

“What is most important is its educational role and the message it carries,” he says.

Music is also an important element of national identity. In 1964, when President Julius Nyerere united Zanzibar and the mainland Tanganyika to form Tanzania, traditional art gained more significance. His government used the performances of traditional artists from different tribes to break down ethnic differences in the young nation. Chacha joined the national troupe of traditional musicians as a teenager, and played in the group on the litungu for over 36 years.

A modern guitar and a traditional African drum, belonging to the Cocodo band. (Photo by Myriam Meloni)

The Bagamoyo College of Art, near Chacha’s house, was founded in 1981 as a training ground for the national troupes. Today, it is one of a few places where people can learn real traditional music. The conditions for learning are something from a dream: classes take place just a stone’s throw from the Indian Ocean and the sound of the waves can be heard from the rooms.

“Students are increasingly interested in tribal instruments, because they don’t want to lose their culture. It is now fashionable to combine traditional and modern rhythms,” says Maulid Mohamed Saleman, a teacher at the Bagamoyo school.

He inherited his musical talent from his parents.

“My mother was a dancer, and my father a musician and a village leader. When he wanted to meet with his people, he called them by banging on the drums. Sometimes I wonder how he would have reacted if he had had the chance to listen to young people mixing the sound of the drums with modern guitars,” Saleman says with a smile.

“In the beginning my family thought that I had lost my mind,” says 34-year-old Msafiri Zawose, son of the late traditional musician Hukwe Zawose who played on the ilimba (an instrument made from wood and thin metal plates) and gained international recognition thanks to his collaboration with the British singer Peter Gabriel. “But now they like my music. It sounds different from my father’s music, but still it’s a traditional melody,” he says at his house in Bagamoyo.

Msafiri Zawose, son of the late traditional musician Hukwe Zawose, performs with his family at their house in Bagamoyo

Msafiri has already recorded a few albums, and performed in many countries, including the United States.

Yet some older musicians are a little afraid of the consequences of mixing the styles.

“In 20 to 30 years there will be no pure traditional music. But I think it’s worth paying this price if we save traditional melodies and instruments from disappearing,” says 74-year-old Makame Faki, a famous taarab musician from Zanzibar.

On a hot Saturday night in Nafasi Art Space, a fashionable cultural center in Dar es Salaam, a crowd of young people dance to the music of Ze Spirits. They are drinking local Kilimanjaro beer and eating popcorn.

“Traditional music will evolve but not die. Tanzanians have this music in their genes,” says Rebecca Corey, the director of Nafasi and a co-founder of the Tanzanian Heritage Project, a cultural initiative whose aim is to record traditional musicians, like Chacha.

A man playing the saxophone at the Dhow Countries Music Academy in Zanzibar

Chacha has also recently performed on stage at Nafasi Art Space with his grandson and his band. Sometimes, he even listens to bongo flava songs. He admits that some of them are not so bad, but he doesn’t understand why artists dress the way they do.

“Wearing trousers below the waist is not our tradition, wearing glasses is common for CIA agents so that people cannot see their eyes. Sometimes they wear women’s glasses and think it’s fine, and sometimes clothes for women and earrings. I pray to God to help them,” he says, trying to hold back laughter.

However, he might be able to forget about their outfits if they start to take litungu lessons.

“In the end, hip hop sounds almost like the Kurya tribe heroic recitation,” he adds with a smile.

Written by Monika Rebala, Photos by Myriam Meloni

This project has been funded by the European Journalism Centre (EJC) via its Innovation in Development Reporting Grant Programme.

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Conscious Fashion: ‘So Much More You Can Do With Discarded Clothes’

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Fashion is about creating beauty, but its ugly side is the carbon emissions. Designers are now looking to play it safe, even if it means going to dangerous lengths for the sake of greener fashion.


In South Africa, the fashion industry is now starting to do its bit to negate the effects of climate change, with some designers going green, in interesting, creative and even lucrative ways.

Ayanda Nhlapo, a stylist and entrepreneur, is one of them.

She hosted and co-produced her own TV fashion show, Ayanda’s Fashion House, where she explored the work of some of South Africa’s most prolific designers and creatives in the fashion industry. The fashion aesthete says the influence of the industry is far-reaching, and therefore, must be more responsible about the environment and preservation of resources.

READ MORE: No Christmas cheer for fashion firms in never-ending sales

“I’ve always had a knack for creating, whether I’m creating from scratch or recreating something that already exists,” says Nhlapo. So, upcycling, or repurposing, is what she is into.

“However, recreating or upcycling has always given me much more excitement and a deeper sense of purpose.

“Upcycling can be challenging but rewarding in the sense that it’s not just about the creativity but it’s more so about contributing to solving the effects of fast fashion on the environment and the economy. It is very important that we preserve our culture, identity and resources,” she says.

READ MORE: IN PICTURES| The Business Of African Fashion: Nigeria Takes A Slice Of The Pie

Fascinated about culture as well as traditional wear, some of her design ideas are fairly unconventional, such as Zulu sandals made of tyres. Besides clothes, she also designs accessories, such as earrings and key-holders. One of her designs is earrings shaped like water droplets to highlight the importance of saving water, whilst also bringing forth the beauty and importance of recycling and upcycling.

Her market is largely young women, but the brand is also for those who love and consume fashion consciously. Nhlapo uses fashion as a tool to influence people and encourage them to think carefully about how they use it.

“Fortunately, through traditional media and social media, I am able to reach thousands and thousands of people, not just in South Africa but across the world. If we consume fashion correctly and consciously, we have the power to reverse certain cycles and change the direction of our future,” says Nhlapo.

 She goes on to say that the fashion industry is among the highest polluters  in the world, however, thankfully, it is gradually moving towards a more responsible way of operating.

“In fact, green fashion is the next big thing. Designers and consumers are finally becoming more and more aware of the damages and negative, rippling effects of fashion and are now beginning to take such issues seriously. We are starting to see more sustainable fabrics on the runway and more eco-friendly brands launching into the market, while well-established brands are also moving in the direction of going green. Before we know it, green fashion will be the only thing we know.”

READ MORE: Fashion, Fame and Finances With SA Designer, David Tlale

South African designer JJ Schoeman elaborates on ‘fast fashion’ and ‘green fashion’.

“I think we need to still go on a robust campaign on the implications of fast fashion, where we create more awareness around its consumption, as I feel that most consumers are still a little blasé about their purchase.

“There was a call for green fashion, because of the wasteful nature of production lines within our industry. This call was made to encourage designers like myself to use environmentally-friendly fabrics and methods in the production line.”

One of the ways he implements this in his production line is to cut material in a way there is less wastage.

“Over and above this, I also found ways in which to ‘get rid’ of the waste we accumulated over a season – these included donating to the trade, for reuse. I also try my absolute best to use fabrics that are more environment-friendly, but of course, I always need to take into consideration what the client wants.”

Schoeman opines the green fashion trend is growing.

“Absolutely, if we just take into consideration the amount of international names that have agreed to not using real fur in their collections. Recently, I read about the #G7Biarritz movement, which saw the Prada Group, Ralph Lauren and 30 other fashion industry brands sign the pact. The Fashion Pact is going to change the game in sustainable fashion all over the world.”

Yet another trend is ‘thrifting fashion’ that has become the cornerstone of shopping trends popular among the youth.

Vathiswa Yiba is an employee at a vintage thrift store in the lively Braamfontein area of Johannesburg. She has immersed herself in the culture of thrifting.

The store is one of several thrift stores in the city, and among the popular ones at the thrift market not far from Africa’s largest railway station, the Johannesburg Park Station.

“Thrifting is buying clothes that people think are not good enough anymore and those that they have discarded,” says 22-year-old Yiba.

“It’s interesting with thrifting because the most dangerous places are where you find the nicer things”

– Vathiswa Yiba

The lower prices also offer financial reprieve and more options for the buyer.

Yiba has been thrifting since her high school days when she started with her own clothes. 

“I don’t step into retail stores unless I am buying shoes,” she says.

“My first thrift was buying from people who sold from their bags, then from their car boots, then I leveled up and started going to the biggest market in the  Johannesburg Central Business District; MTN Taxi Rank, known for its pavement crimes, despite the danger in that part of town, they have the best clothes.”

The street-savvy Yiba offers advice to those who are novices in the industry. 

“It’s interesting with thrifting because the most dangerous places are where you find the nicer things, and here is a tip when you are going thrifting – make sure you have loose change and put it in safe pockets, away from pick-pocketers. That way you will be able to shop safely. However, you can find good-looking items but it’s not in your size; which is where the community comes in.

“We have tailors to alter the garments for you and it will be exclusive because it’s thrifted, no one has the same clothes. There is so much more you can do with discarded clothes. With the littlest things, you can make an amazing thing and you’ll be the only one who has it.”

Of course, there is a tinge of stigma associated with thrifting. Yiba says people think the clothes could also have belonged to those who have passed away, but she’s of the view that thrifting creates other opportunities.

“The [thrift clothing] may look messy and seem dusty, but once cleaned or altered, they will look retail. So it’s not just the connotations, it can be something perfect and the next person wouldn’t even know.”

These are sentiments also echoed by Leago Nhlapo, a content creator for fashion brands like Adidas, Sportscene and Skechers, who began his journey as thrifter.

“It started with thrifting because it makes you unique; there is no similar garment, every single garment is different from the next. So, I jumped from really cheap clothes [recycled clothes] to really expensive clothes,” he says.

However, Leago encourages green fashion because he says the fast fashion industry is the second-highest contributor to carbon emissions. 

“The more people buy clothes, the more we contribute to global warming and we all know the global crisis, so if we recycle clothes, there will not be a need to make clothes, there are enough clothes for everyone existing. I am proof that second-hand clothes are cool and look better than people paying tons of cash.”

Seventy kilometers south of Johannesburg’s Central Business District is Nokwakha Qobo, who was born in the squatter camps of Phuma Zibethane in Sharpeville. And in the garbage dumps of these camps, the fashion designer in her emerged.

Qobo currently has a clothing line with an international reach. She fashions garments out of wastepaper she collects from rubbish dumps. 

“I’m a self-taught designer from a dump in Vanderbijlpark, that’s where I learned everything

– Nokwakha Qobo

As a young girl, Qobo had to walk to school, and through the course of her journey home, she would pass a garbage site where old fashion magazines and newspapers were discarded.

It is often said that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’. This adage was not lost on her because she took inspiration from the articles in those magazines and now creates pieces that are sought after.

“That’s where I learned about fashion trends, that’s where I learned about different colors for different seasons, that’s where I learned about the body structure of a woman, actually, I’m a self-taught designer from a dump in Vanderbijlpark, that’s where I learned everything,” she says.

Inadvertently, she too is contributing towards a shift in culture based on conscious consumption.

Perhaps, with the benefit of time, green fashion will be the norm as many believe we already have all we need.

Motlabana Monnakgotla

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HUGO BOSS Partners With Porsche To Bring Action-Packed Racing Experience Through Formula E

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Brought to you by Hugo Boss

HUGO BOSS and Porsche have partnered to bring an action-packed racing experience to the streets of the world’s major cities through Formula E.

Formula E is known for its fascinating races globally. The partnership will have a strong focus on the future of motorsport. In doing so the races will host a unique series for the development of electric vehicle technology, refining the design, functionality and sustainability of electric cars while creating an exciting global entertainment brand.

HUGO BOSS which boasts a long tradition of motorsports sponsorship – has been successfully engaged in the electric-powered racing series since the end of 2017.

In this collaboration, HUGO BOSS brings its 35 years of experience and expertise in the motorsport arena to Formula E, as well as the dynamic style the fashion brand is renowned for.


Alejandro Agag (Formula E CEO) and Mark Langer (HUGO BOSS CEO)

Mark Langer HUGO BOSS, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) says that though they have been working successfully with motorsports over the years, he is exceptionally pleased that as a fashion brand they are taking the cooperation to new heights.

“As a fashion brand, we are always looking at innovative approaches to design and sustainability. When we first encountered Formula E, we immediately saw its potential and we are pleased to be the first apparel partner to support this exciting new motorsport series,” he says.

The fashion group is also the official outfitter to the entire Porsche motorsports team worldwide.

The fascination with perfect design and innovation, along with the Porshe and Hugo Boss shared passion for racing, inspired Hugo Boss to produce the Porsche x Boss capsule collection.

Its standout features include premium leather and wool materials presented in the Porsche and HUGO BOSS colors of silver, black and red.


Porsche x BOSS: introducing a new collaboration | BOSS

Since March, a range of menswear styles from the debut capsule collection is available online and at selected BOSS stores. In South Africa the first pieces of the capsule will come as a part of the FW 19 collection.

Alejandro Agag, Founder and CEO of Formula E says he is confident that the racers will put their best foot forward on the racecourse.

“This new partnership will see the team on the ground at each race dressed with a winning mindset and ready to deliver a spectacular event in cities across the world. As the first Official Apparel Partner of the series, we look forward to seeing the dynamic style and innovation on show that BOSS is renowned for,” says Agag.


Hugo Boss x Porsche  

Oliver Blume CEO of Porsche AG says Formula E is an exceptionally attractive racing series for motorsport vehicles to develop.

“It offers us the perfect environment to strategically evolve our vehicles in terms of efficiency and sustainability. We’re looking forward to being on board in the 2019/2020 season. In this context, the renowned fashion group HUGO BOSS represents the perfect partner to outfit our team.”

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Life

Taking A Bite Out Of Africa

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Hungry in London with a stomach dreaming of home? From the smoky to the sensory, the city offers distinct African culinary encounters.

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