The Ultimate Legacy: 6 ways Vanessa Mdee revolutionized the Tanzanian music scene
Three years have passed since Vanessa Mdee gracefully bid farewell to the music scene, albeit temporarily, leaving behind an indelible mark on the Tanzanian music industry. In this article, we pay tribute to her legacy by highlighting the six remarkable ways in which she transformed the landscape of Tanzanian music.
On June 18, 2020, a date forever etched in the history of Tanzanian music, Vanessa Mdee, one of East Africa’s leading female singers and a driving force behind the “Bongo Flava To The World” movement, announced her retirement from the music industry. This self-proclaimed Cash Madame made the somber announcement on her “Deep Dive With Vanessa Mdee Podcast,” citing depression and the relentless pressures of the music industry as the impetus for her decision.
Vanessa’s exit came at a time when the Tanzanian music industry needed her most, as she was at the zenith of her musical career, and fans eagerly awaited her unreleased “Expensive EP.”
At the time, Vanessa Mdee, second only to Lady Jaydee in accolades among Tanzanian female artistes, boasted a debut album that soared to the top of the charts. She had also become a judge on “East Africa’s Got Talent” and held the title of the most streamed female singer in Tanzania, serving as a beacon of inspiration for countless emerging female artists.
During her time in the spotlight, Vanessa Mdee influenced nearly every facet of showbiz and the music industry, from the creative process of musicians to how they released their work into the world. Here’s how Vanessa Mdee reshaped the Tanzanian music industry:
1. Empress of International Collaborations
Vanessa Mdee stood out as a female artist in Bongo Flava who collaborated extensively with international artists. From her early days, she seamlessly shared the microphone with African greats such as Mr. P, Mr. Eazi, K.O, Distruction Boys, Cassper Nyovest, and more. Her voice and sound had a global appeal that attracted Nigerian artists and led to her featuring in their songs as well.
Notably, Vanessa Mdee was not only featuring these artists in her own songs but was also actively sought after by them. She lent her vocals to tracks by Reekado Banks in “Move,” Orezi in “Just Like That,” Ice Prince in “No Mind Dem,” and Legendary Beatz in “Duasi,” among others.
2. Pioneering a Record Label
Five years before Nandy launched the all-female record label “The African Princess” in 2023, Vanessa Mdee had already paved the way with her imprint, “Mdee Music.” Under this banner, she nurtured talents like emerging rap sensation Brian Simba and her sister, Mimi Mars.
In a Tanzanian music industry largely dominated by men, “Mdee Music” emerged as a symbol of hope. It not only elevated Vanessa to legendary status as a musician but also showcased her prowess as an executive and decision-maker. Although the label is currently dormant and houses only Mimi Mars following Brian Simba’s departure in 2021, Vanessa undeniably carved her name among the select few female Tanzanian artists who ventured into label ownership.
3. International Accolades and Awards
Vanessa Mdee had a clear aspiration to win a Grammy Award, a dream she had already begun to chase. She consistently won and received nominations at prestigious award ceremonies across Africa, including the Afrima Awards, AFRIMMA, AEAUSA, and Abryanz Awards, among others. Her presence in nominations for esteemed award shows like the Kora Awards, Nigeria Entertainment Awards, MTV MAMA, demonstrated her ability to raise the Tanzanian flag high for female artists on the international stage.
4. Transforming the Music Video Market
Vanessa Mdee’s influence extended to the realm of music videos. Artists like Navy Kenzo, Nikki Wa Pili, and Joh Makini credit her as their inspiration to collaborate with renowned South African music video director Justin Campos, aiming to produce high-quality videos for significant airplay on platforms like MTV Base, Channel O, and Trace Africa.
Vanessa was among the few Tanzanian artists who championed high-budget music videos for international appeal. Surprisingly, she worked with just one Tanzanian director, Director Kenny, for “Bado,” while collaborating with acclaimed directors like Justin Campos, Enos Olik, Nikki Campos, and the renowned production house, Ogopa Videos for other projects.
Vanessa’s commitment was evident when she allocated approximately $20,000 for the production of her music video “Never Ever” in 2015, setting a notable precedent that encouraged fellow Tanzanian artists to invest more in visually captivating productions.
5. Media Relations
Vanessa Mdee made history as Tanzania’s first Video Jockey to join the ranks of MTV Base. Her presence on MTV Base, hosting “MTV Base Meets,” aimed to empower and inspire young individuals globally by giving them the opportunity to engage with influential leaders.
Throughout her career, Vanessa conducted interviews with esteemed music artists, including K’Naan, Kelly Rowland, Mac Miller, Rick Ross, Ludacris, Miguel, Donald, Naazizi, Xtatic, Stella Mwangi, Camp Mulla, Tay Grin, Teargas, and Dr. Sid.
At the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards, Vanessa Mdee, alongside Nomuzi Mabena, presented awards and conducted insightful interviews with prominent American artists like Trey Songz, Miguel, and French Montana.
6. Monetizing Her Brand
Vanessa Mdee displayed a remarkable ability to monetize every aspect of her career, from her personal image to her music ventures. She seamlessly integrated The Mkito trademark, an online music retail platform, into her 2016 music video “Cash Madam,” showcasing her business acumen. Her dedication to her moniker “Vee Money” was evident with the introduction of her subscription service, “Vee Money App,” offering an intimate look into her life.
Becoming the first Tanzanian female artist to secure an ambassadorship contract with the renowned global electronics giant, Samsung, underscored Vanessa Mdee’s unwavering commitment to elevating her brand. Her lucrative endorsement deal with Crown Paints further demonstrated her prowess in brand monetization.