My Favorite Things Tanzania

1. Music: Opt for Taarab, the Arabic style from Zanzibar, start hereBongo Flava: Swahili Rap from Tanzania is above average for its genre.  By the way, the Rough Guide Tanzania music CD is a bit lame.

Then there is Freddie Mercury, who was born in Zanzibar.  Right now I’d rate "Killer Queen" and the "Bicycle/Fat Bottomed Girls" medley as my favorites.  The Manichean element (Mercury’s parents were Parsees) is evident in "Bohemian Rhapsody," among other songs.  Queen remains underrated, and I never tire of listening.

2. Cinema: This movie comes recommended, I’ve never seen it.  Darwin’s Nightmare is set in the country, I haven’t seen it.

3. Film, set in: Hatari!, with John Wayne, isn’t bad in a jokey sort of way.  It is, after all, directed by Howard Hawks.  Hatari, by the way, means "danger" in Swahili.

4. Sculpture: Makonde is the dominant style.  Try this older one.

5. Painting: The best-known naive style is Tingatinga.  Here is one of the better pieces.  It doesn’t compare to Haiti.  Here is more.  The leading Tanzanian naive painter was — can you guess? — E.S. Tingatinga.

6. Fiction?  Ask me again once I’ve learned Swahili.

The bottom line: Freddy is long gone, and they play Congolese "lingala" music in the clubs, so it’s culturally a little dull here; in any case I am working on a micro-credit project with Karol Boudreaux.


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