In this episode of the Hip Hop African Podcast, we interview Tanzanian hip hop artist and activist Roma Mkatoliki about his more than a decade long career as a hip hop activist.
Roma Mkatoliki has always been known for producing music that addresses social and political issues, beginning with his first single “Tanzania“, which he released in 2007. The song was highlighted in the 2012 scholarly article Hip Hop as Social Commentary in Accra and Dar es Salaam.
In April 2017, Roma and some of his colleagues disappeared for 3 days. This incident has put Roma at direct odds with the government. More recently, in November 2019, Roma released the single “Anaitwa Roma”, which was a direct criticism of government policies.
Roma has been a source of division in Tanzania’s hip hop community. There have been a lot of debates about who Roma is, and why he continues to be so vocal. His actions have shined a bright light on other artists who have also identified as being socially conscious. Many have chosen to criticize, or distance themselves from Roma. Some of this may be to avoid scrutiny over why they themselves have not been more vocal or active. Some artists may disagree with Roma’s views, and have criticized his methods and intentions. And, some artists may support Roma, but may not have been publicly vocal in that support.
In this interview, however, it was clear that Roma Mkatoliki believes that he is doing the right thing. Our decision to interview Roma is not an endorsement of any one side. And, we are not able independently verify all of the information Roma provides during this interview. But, we feel it is important to have these conversations on diverse platforms. As a hip hop artists who is engaged in social and political commentary, it is important that Roma’s voice be heard on this platform.
The interview is done in both Swahili and English. I have attempted to summarize Roma’s responses in English, though he switches between Swahili and English in his responses.
The song that opens and closes the episode is Mkombozi, which was released in January 2020. This link takes you to the version of the song with the English subtitles.