A Return to Tradition

Witnesz Kibonge Mwepec is a female rap artist from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Witnesz is considered the biggest female MC in East Africa, and this is a title that she worked hard to achieve. She is regarded as an artist with ingenuity, complexity, and an amazing sense of humor. In her videos, Witnesz typically adorns traditional East African clothing, and she raps/sings in Swahili.

Prior to translating the lyrics, I just watched the video and listened to the lyrics. I wanted to see if I could get an idea of what the song was about, solely based on the images shown in the video. I paid attention to the setting of the video, the colors used, the clothing they wore, and the overall vibe of the song. After watching the video three times, I had the idea that the song was about a return to tradition. I thought this included honoring elders, ancestors, and Tanzanian customs. In the video, Witnesz and the dancers are having a celebration, or a chama. Men play the drums, the group does traditional dances, food is being prepared, there are dance circles, and a boy comes to meet a girl. The colors in the video were vibrant, and highlighted the colors of their skin. In addition to this, all of the clothing was traditional. This made me think that the theme of this video was a return to Tanzanian traditions and customs. Continue reading “A Return to Tradition”

When the East is in the House…

Always wanted to hear the classic Blahzay Blahzay song “Danger” in a hip-hop track from East Africa. This is a video of images and footage of East African hip hop artists (Tanzania, Uganda, & Kenya) with “Danger” playing in the background.

30 days of Tanzanian hip hop: Day 17 Witnesz

30 days of Tanzanian hip hop: Day 17 – Witnesz in 2010. She’s one of the women that have been active in hip hop in TZ the longest. It is hard for female emcees. Most get pushed to do pop music or Bongo Flava. And when they do, people say they are not real emcees. But, male emcees who switch to pop still get to keep their emcee status. Witnesz1


The best song/video Witnesz ever released was Zero, with Fid Q. It’s the song most people remember her for.





*30 days of TZ hip hop is to show some of what I experienced the past year in Tanzania.

Witnesz Star – Tanzania

Birth name: Witness F. Mwaijaga
Artistic name: Witnesz Star
Birth date: November 15, 1982
Philosophy of life: “Do the impossible if the possible ai’nt working.”

Witnesz was born Witness F. Mwaijaga on November 15, 1982 in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam. From her early years she was raised by her Canadian stepfather Stanley Meldrum and credits him for encouraging her and telling her, ”you can be anything as long as you put your mind, energy and soul to it.’’  Witnesz claims to be the most distinctive personality in rap and possessor of its most recognizable delivery, a halting, Busta Rhymes-inspired style with incredible complexity, ingenuity, and humor.  Witnesz has proved to be East Africa’s most outstanding hip-hop female icon, and she doesn’t need to be told that she was born to win because she knows that winning is part of her birth rights.

Her musical path began in 2005 as a researcher on hip-hop’s influence in the slums and ghettos of Kinondoni Dar es Salaam. Once she realized that there were no female MC’s doing hip-hop, she decided she wanted to change that and started vying performing along side the male dominated game of hip hop.  At the time she added a whole new flavor to the industry in terms of her performance style.  She characterizes herself as very laid back in person, but on stage performing she transforms into a wild bull.  In fact she’s so unpredictable on stage that apparently a lot of people assume she’s on drugs only to discover that she gets a natural high from performing more than anything and that’s where the early name of BAD GEAR was born.  In the verses of the song “Zero” she raps, “am still witnessing the bad gear of hip-hop” explaining her name transition from Bad Gear to Witnesz.  The inspiration for her hit single “Zero” came up as people in Tanzania were using Witnesz as a landmark for female hip-hop music in East and Central Africa.  In the chorus she says “Wanaotaka shindana Nami sema”  (ya all who want to compete with just say it/where are u? ..”watapata zero” (you will get nothing but zero)…”Na tena, Tena Na tena” (again and again).

Through the years, she has won different awards and competitions including the Coca Cola Pop Star in 2004 when she was briefly a member of Tanzania’s pop star group called Wakilisha (meaning representing).  The group broke up after eight months due to a mismanagement funds among other things.  In 2005 she collaborated with Zap Mama and recorded a song titled “For The Blues.” The song condemned female circumcision and has received international recognition.  Care International in collaboration with Care Norger invited Witnesz to perform in Oslo Norway as a Tanzania representative sharing the stage with Mari Boine and Angelie Kidjo.  That performance got her an offer to record an album with Norway’s best hip-hop group and 2006 grammy award winner Dark-Side Of The Force.  In 2008, Channel O Music Video Awards nominated Witnesz in 3 categories: Zero Best Duo/Group, Best Hip hop Video, and Best African East and went home with a trophy for Best African East Award.   In 2009, World Hip-hop Awards in Nigeria voted her as best music of the world.  In 2009, her song “Zero” was voted by the Tanzania Music Awards for Best Rapper category.  Her song “Zero Being” was included in a collaborated effort in an album compilation based in Norway and featured a varieties of artists from Africa titled “Imagine Africa”.  In 2009, two songs were chosen for a Norwegian project album under Nedland Kultur, a song called “Umwe” and “Attention Please.”  In 2010, Witnesz performed and gave a speech at the UNDP election in support of  Project Launch representing the youth and women.

“Street child of DAR ES SALAAM Growing up as hip hop tomboy like a dandelion Pushing through asphalt of bongo city Street wise street child serving rap beats,Words are tough; tunes are sweet Reaching out strength and sensibility Power and compassion proving her ability Her verbal capability dirty street credibility Passion and her musical agility.”     Witnesz