Wakazi: The King of Bilingual Rap

The Citizen Tanzania on Twitter: "Tanzania's '@Wakazi' will ...

Wakazi, the self-proclaimed “Billingual Beast,” is well known for his signature sound that includes a fusion of English and Swahili rhymes. Wakazi was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and at a young age developed a deep love of hip hop through his performances during talent shows. He never thought to pursue his passion seriously until he moved to Chicago and became an active member of the hip hop scene. After years of commitment abroad, he’s brought his talent back to Tanzania to pursue a career in the African hip hop industry. His signature ability to smoothly blend English and Swahili lyrics like no other is what makes him stand out from other artists on the scene. His focus lyrically has always to take broad-spectrum matters metaphorically and he stated in an interview, “I strive to talk about issues that are relevant in my community, about gender discrimination, child abuse, and trauma. I would give up a popular hit song and all the commercial attributes that come with it just to do a socially conscious song that could make a difference and uplift my people”

 In his song Kanda Maalum ft. Nikki Mbishi addresses issues of corruption, particularly political and police corruption that he finds to be present in Tanzania. The name itself, Kanda Maalum, means “Special Zones” which I believe is a reference to the Special zone police, supposedly serving to address terrorist attacks on primarily police and government officials that have increased in recent years. The song includes the line “the good die young wenye chuki they die old. ugomvi wa mawe bila bunduki you go die bro.” The mix of English and Swahili translates that the good die young, hateful people die old. Stone quarrel without a gun you go die bro.” The smooth mix of Swahili and English further proves Wakazi bilingual abilities as being a powerful tool he can use in his music. In this particular line I believe that he’s metaphorically trying to state that the police are corrupted and that even though they are meant to protect them, they are the ones with the gun and unfortunately innocent people die because of that. In another line he states, “nakaa pembeni ya polisi tunaibiwa. Kama mwizi sio polisi basi sisi twajiibia.” This translates to “I sit by the police side being robbed. If the thief is not the police then we are robbed.” The symbolic meaning I believe that’s behind this is that no matter if you’re on the right side of crime or no, you will face corruption from the police, which in turn makes being a thief or a victim useless titles. Additionally, as he had lived in America, Wakazi chooses to bring a bi-cultural perspective in his song lyrics and in Swahili he states, “Nimekaa tandale, Nimekaa Chicago. (I’ve stayed in politics, I’ve stayed in Chicago.) that’s ma reality and its the basis of what I know” By incorporating this he’s comparing the violence and instability he saw in Chicago with Tanzania, highlighting how it’s a constant in his life and has become his “reality”. 

Wakazi from Tanzania | Popnable

Wakazi incorporates his perspective as an immigrant to the US and his working-class roots in Dar es Salaam in his music. By producing both music in Swahili and English, he’s staying true to his identity. This truly makes him the Bilingual Beast of Tanzania, both in term of his lyrics and also in the themes, he addresses.

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