Group: Kwanza Unit
Year Formed: 1992
Music: Conceptual hiphop
Status: Bongo hiphop pioneers
Composition: A Thick Clique
The year was 1992. A group of young MCs assembled to accomplish a very simple
but very important agenda. The formation of a hiphop group that will represent
Tanzania to the fullest. This meeting and a series of others gave birth to the first serious hiphop group in the country that was to be known as Kwanza Unit (KU). The group started its operations
Most of these MCs who formed KU were performing as solo artists and some had won Rap competitions before. KU stood firm since its birth. The group recorded the first album, the self titled album
Kwanza Unit. The album was released in 1994. The album contains the pleading track Amani,
the sportive Tucheze, the staunchy Funk maniac and the interest arousing Motivator. In 1995 they recorded a second album aptly titled Tropical techniques. It contains the venomous single Suckers,
a lesson to the wacky MCs Nata, an anti AIDS banner Play Your Part and the mournful Dedication.
Their third album is titled Kwanzanians. It contains the nostalgic hit single Msafiri, which has already shown great success on the radio. In fact it is the most successful hiphop single made in Tanzania, no diggity, no doubt. It also contains the meditative Run tings which is also a great success on TV. Kwanza Unit has moved from a family to a tribe or rather an ethnic group called Kwanzania. Kwanzania is not made up of performing artists only but also fans, supporters and everyone who is down with KU ideas, within and outside Tanzania.
Their plan is to build a fully fledged hiphop nation in the future. If this will happen then KU will be the first group in Tanzania to follow the steps of Afrika Bambaataa, the man who built the universal Zulu Nation.
Kwanza Unit has achieved an international status. In August 1998 they performed in Nairobi, Kenya. The same year they were invited to Nigeria but problems.
Kwanza Unit has achieved an international status. They have performed twice in Nairobi, Kenya. In 1998 they were invited to Nigeria but couldn't make it because of some problems.
The KU line up
Kwanza Unit is a big family made up of MCs with different backgrounds. It includes K Single, KBC, D-Rob, Rhymson, Y Thang, Gaddy and Adili (Rest In Peace). The line also include Big X, Mocee, Abbas and Fat Black. Other members include Lindu (Hefty), Robert (Zux) and Bop (living in Australia). Some of these no longer performs, but they are still down with KU. They are the
ROCKERS-KWANZA UNIT MARATHON
December 15, 1998, Rockers meet K Single
K Single talks about the trend of their lyrics and their various concepts. "When we did Kwanza Unit, we were introducing this art form into the country" he says. "A lot of people thought that rap is an American thing, it can not be Tanzanian. So we decided to prove them wrong". He says that after this album there was reaction from the public. Some didn't like it. Some liked it. There was a lot of criticisms, naysayers and so on. But the controversy came when they won the 1994 National Rap competition. As usual critics didn't want to agree that KU is the best. Basing on these reactions they released their second album, Tropical Techniques .
"Tropical techniques is a continuation of where we left with KU, it is the second chapter". He says Their first album introduced the art form into the country. Their geographical pinpoint of where we come from, the tropics". The concept is, when people listen to Tropical Techniques, they will know that KU comes from a swahili speaking nation, found in the tropics, that country is Tanzania. Now that they are known locally and
internationally they decided to release a third album, Kwanzanians. According to K Single, Kwanzania is a hypothetical country where Kwanzanians live. Everyone who is down with KU is a Kwanzanian living in Kwanzania.
K Single says KU's plan is to remain underground. "You can see me on the TV, hear me on the radio but I'm still underground. It is the mentality". He says they never plan to go commercial. He says their music can cross over to the commercial world but if you look deep into it, it is still underground. "You listen to Msafiri it is almost commercial if you concentrate on the hook. But lyrically, it is an underground thing". A lot of people think to be underground to talk about death, violence, to be above the law etc. etc. but thats all wrong. "To be underground is to be original, it is sticking to your roots, doing positive reality rap". K Single says that hiphop is a way of life. It is a cultural mirror. You have to talk about how you live, how you handle your bills etc,. "You can't do Lets go dance stuff or groove with me stuff all the time. You have to talk about the realities of life. That's what hiphop is all about.
RAP GAME HIJACKED
When KU started performing, a lot other artists started copying them. Ain't nothing wrong with this. The problem is these MCs never wanted to sit down and learn from the pioneers. "Do they know the rules of hiphop, do they know the history? " He became a bit angry at this point. "
"People took hiphop just like a new fashion" He says. "Being a tall guy doesn't make you a good basketballer and having voice doesn't mean that you can do hiphop. You need training". He doesn't agree with those who say they don't like their music because their lyrics are difficult to understand. "People
where hard into this song called Macarena and didn't understand a word. If you don't understand our music then feel the vibe". The plan of KU is to keep expanding. They would like to restore the glory of hiphop in the country. K-single urges the government to support this music. Seminars on hiphop should be conducted. KU is now scouting for new talents and they have come up with some groups like Underground Souls and Kama Kazi. He says they have no beefs with any rap group or any artists. He says whatever
that come in their lyrics is an attack to anyone trying to playahate them. It is never personal.
The Kunata concept
Nata is one the singles contained in Tropical Techniques. This is KU's prescription to all the MCs with verbal diarrhoea. "You see some guys just want to be seen on the stage, they grab the mike and forget about the beat". Nata comes from a swahili word word kunata, meaning to stick. According to KU dictionary, Nata means sticking to the beat or rather flowing with the beat. The concept is expanded in that not just sticking to the beat but also chanting meaningful lyrics.
K SINGLE LIVE AT ROCKERS
"We laid down the foundation of hiphop/ according to the rules of hiphop/ people came and violated the rules of hiphop/ they misunderstood us/ they started to act out of order/ with no respect for hiphop/
People took hiphop as a new fashion/ they just talk about dreams/ driving cars/ getting high with my women stuff/ others talk about violence, rude boy stuff/ they think that is real hiphop/ Do they know the rules?/ Do they know the history?/ Hiphop is a way of life/ a mirror to the culture/ you are supposed to talk on how you live/ how you handle your your bills/ you have to be positive/ Our aim is to remain underground/ To be underground is to be original/ it is sticking to your roots/ doing positive reality rap/ right now we are digging our own roots/ trying to restore the glory of hiphop in the country".
December 17, Rockers meet Chief Rhymson, at the Food World...
The chief of the ethnic group Kwanzania, Rhymson, is a real traditionalist. A good thing about him is he is happy all the time. This man is the man who gave the whole idea of starting what would become the top lyrical cartel in the country. "You see back then everyone was trying to copy the Americans, Run DMC, Public Enemy, those stuff. All I wanted was to have our own style, based on our own living, so I suggested that people should start rhyming in swahili". When he gave this idea everyone thought he was crazy. But then Saleh Jabir came with his dancers and started flowing in swahili. When they found that it can be done people started writing their own rhymes. There came groups like Weusi Wagumu Asilia (WWA), Hard blasters etc. But there were no commonage. "So I suggested that we form a group that would will represent Tanzanian hiphop. So in 1993 we formed a thick click called Kwanza Unit". At this moment his smile widens to show a gap set beautifully between his teeth.
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