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Five times Tanzanian authorities have banned songs, arrested musicians

By Freya Wanjiku September 19th, 2023 3 min read

In the vibrant heart of Tanzanian music, where rhythms meet rebellion, the government has often clashed with artists over what it deems ‘appropriate’ content.

From accusations of incitement to alleged irreverence in religious portrayals, the battle between creative expression and national norms continues to strike a chord.

Below are Tanzanian artists whose songs were stricken off by the Tanzanian government;

Sifa Bujune

Last week, Tanzanian authorities arrested Sifa Bujune, a gospel artist on accusations of promoting an inciteful song.

The arrest came in connection with his Tanzania inaelekea wapi (where is Tanzania heading to) song. Authorities claimed that the song which was uploaded on social media was likely to cause arrest.

With a catchy phrase of ‘mnatuona nyani’ (you perceive us to be monkeys) the song’s lyrics question why Tanzanians are arrested when they demand answers from the government.

“Our cries are not being heard, the cost of living is skyrocketing, taxes are stifling us, life has become unbearable,” the artist sings while indicating the reason there is no intervention is because the leaders are viewing ordinary citizens as monkeys.

Ney wa Mitego

In August this year, veteran rapper Emmanuel Elibariki, known by his stage name Ney wa Mitego, stirred controversy with his song “Amkeni,” which led to its prohibition.

In the song, Ney voiced his criticisms of President Samia Suluhu’s administration. As a result, the National Arts Council of Tanzania (Basata) decided to ban the song.

Ney wa Mitego highlighted issues of alleged corruption within the Suluhu administration and accused the president of not fulfilling her commitments.

Siku zote ninachoamini cha bure hakina maana. Wanatupa elimu mbovu ya bure isiyo na maana ndio maana sikuizi tuna wasomi wajinga sana. Promo ya Mama ni kubwa kuliko ata utendaji wake, (Every day what I believe in has no meaning. The education is poor and of low standards that is why have educated fools. The advert about Mama Suluhu is bigger than her works),” he rapped.

Diamond Platnumz

Not once has the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) banned Diamond Platnumz’s songs.

Last year, TCRA banned his ‘Mtasubiri’ song which he featured Zuchu despite it garnering more than 10 million views on YouTube within a month.

TCRA said that the video had ‘disrespectful church choir scenes.’ In their statement signed by the TCRA Director General Jabiri Bakari, TCRA explained, “In that video, there is a clip showing the two are singing in a church choir then goes somewhere else. That part has fuelled not-so-good debate from certain religious people. [It] shows disrespect to certain religious denominations.”

It then instructed all local television stations and digital platforms to stop airing the video until the two artists— Nassib Abdul alias Diamond Platnumz and Zuhura Othuman Soud best known as Zuchu— remove the disrespectful scene from the clip.

In 2018, Diamond faced censorship when his tracks “Waka Waka” and “Hallelujah” were deemed contrary to the nation’s norms and values by TCRA, leading to their ban from local TV and radio stations. These tracks were among 15 others that faced similar restrictions by the Tanzanian government.

Reacting to the ban, Diamond expressed confusion over the inconsistency in censorship, pointing out that raunchy videos by American rapper Nicki Minaj still enjoyed widespread airplay in Tanzania. Labeling the decision as misguided, he appealed to the Assistant Minister for Communication, Art, and Sports, Juliana Shonza, to be more informed about market dynamics and to liaise with relevant stakeholders before making such determinations.

Further, he confidently stated that the ban in Tanzania didn’t affect him much since his music was appreciated and available outside the country, allowing him to perform without restrictions abroad.

Roma Mkatoliki

Born Abernego Damiani, Roma Mkatoliki’s song Kibamia was banned from being played on the airwaves for violating Tanzanian norms and values.

A statement released by TCRA in 2018 said that its decision was reached after receiving a letter from the Basata bearing a list of records and respective artists whose tracks violated the Tanzanian norms and values.

“The said records have lyrics which violate ethics of regulations of broadcasting services (content)2005,” read part of the TCRA letter.

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