When Tanzanian rapper Ibrahim Mussa, known as Roma Mkatoliki, premiered “Anaitwa Roma” (“they call him Roma” in Swahili) in November, he received a strong call from the government for the lyrics of the song.
The Minister of Arts and Information, Harrison Mwakyembe, said the musician “lacks academic credentials” to criticize state policies; but the hip-hop artist, born in Tanga, was a teacher. “Roma,” he told Global Voices in a telephone interview on November 26, who taught Chemistry and Computer Science for several years, but felt that hip-hop was calling him.
“I see myself as an ambassador, like the voice of someone who has no voice, to defend the difficulties and daily struggles of Tanzanians,” said Roma.
The song, which reached popularity since November 14, 2019, when it was launched online, criticizes the Government's decision in 2018 to deploy the military to buy cashews or cashews from farmers in an attempt to force intermediaries to Increase the market price.
Instead of accepting offers from companies that wanted to buy the crop at $ 1.3 per kilo, Magufuli ordered the military to buy cashew from farmers in southern Mtwara for $ 1.43 per kilo. According to the BCC: “Critics have accused the president of trying to use the cashew crisis, of Tanzania's largest exports, for political gain,” specifically in the Mtwara region, an opposition stronghold.
According to the National Nuts and Nuts Foundation Council, Tanzania produces 75% of the cashew crop in East Africa.
The successful song from Rome has received almost 800,000 views on YouTube since its launch on November 14, 2019 and has more than 4000 comments:
(embed) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=115aaUGRDNQ (/ embed)
“I had to take the song (” Anaitwa Roma “) to digital platforms because most of Tanzania's radio stations didn't play it – well, they hesitated,” Rome told Global Voices from Washington DC, where he participated in an exclusive performance to the Swahili Society USA.
That is because, in recent years, the current government described and censored Roma Mkatoliki and other musical artists who play Bongo Flava, or hip hop with Tanzanian style, especially those who criticize the Government.
In April 2017, Rome and three other people were kidnapped and tortured by armed men who broke into their recording studio in Dar es Salaam. The kidnappers also confiscated personal computers, televisions and study material. Rome and the others were imprisoned and interrogated for three days without explanation before being released.
Rumors circulated online that the kidnapping was organized by Rome itself as an advertising trick, which he flatly denied both online and in the interview with Global Voices. “Why would I invent something like my own death? Thank God I survived, ”he said.
Almost a year after the bad experience, in March 2018, the Tanzanian Communication Authority imposed a six-month veto on the music of Rome, for its “sexually explicit” song entitled “Kibamia”. The veto was applied to Rome and other Bongo Flava artists whose songs “went against Tanzanian social norms and values” according to the local newspaper The Citizen.
The Minister of Arts and Information also warned Rome to formally register with the Tanzanian artistic council, Baraza la Sanaa la Tanzania (BASATA), which is under its jurisdiction. Although the Government lifted the ban, in order for Rome to perform live shows, it must correct its lyrics and formally register with the council.
The open activist Maria Sarungi Tsehai praises the rapper activist on Twitter for having come back hard after two years of pause and for challenging the policies and priorities of the Magufuli administration.
Yoo yoo yooo! #AnaitwaRoma trending at number one (number one) right now in #Tanzania
We did it ??
Finally a worthy and serious cause for Freedom is topping the charts!
Hongera @Roma_Mkatoliki unastahili!
Kana bado ingia hapa https://t.co/gpRfNTr3LD sikiliza now! pic.twitter.com/S3QoOhbr2j
– Maria Sarungi Tsehai (@MariaSTsehai) November 15, 2019
Heey heey heeey! Anaitwa Rome in number one from already in Tanzania.
We did it! ??
Finally, a serious and dignified cause for Freedom tops the charts!
In a growing repressive environment of freedom of expression in Tanzania, the hip hop artist begins his song with a statement:
Anaitwa Rome. Hakuna wa Kumstopisha. Nani wa kumnyazaisha? Kazi Kuongea Ongea. Kesho yake on air. Kesho Kutwa Wamepotea.
His name is Rome, there is nothing to stop him, who will silence him? Your job is to sing and sing. Tomorrow will be in the air. The day after tomorrow, they will be lost.
At the beginning of the song, Rome criticizes the heterodox policy of Magufuli's cashew.
Hii si ni chi ya demokrasi. Mkimindi basi mnawajua. Mbona hamuwakamati? Tuyaache there. Vipi korosho za Mtwara? Maana wapiga kura wengi wakulima wafanaya biashara. Kumniyma mpinzani agenda shows your yaliyo mema. Sio kumpeleka difenda. Utani Uutie Vilema.
This nation has no democracy. If he cares, then he knows them, why not arrest them? But let's leave that matter. What about the Mtwara cashew? Look, there are many voters who are farmers and merchants. To deprive the opponent of his agenda, do only what is good for him. Do not send a defender. The joke is pathetic.
Comment on the Tanzanian leadership:
Viongozi hawana maarifa. Hawataki wakosolewe. Wanafanya kazi kwa sifa.
Our leaders have no knowledge. They do not want to bear the blame. They only work for merit.
Rome also takes a severe look at the deterioration of social services such as education and health services, raps that social workers and teachers are underpaid and sick patients face hospital fines. “My mother was a nurse, and by her profession, I am surrounded by many social workers, so I know what I am talking about.” He told Global Voices. It raps about how medical insurance should be much more important than investing in the Tanzanian national airline, one of Magufuli's megaprojects.
The award-winning poet Dotto Rangimoto comments on the lyrics of Rome on Twitter with other Internet users:
Naafiki maneno yako. Ndio tomorrow Roma kasema hatutaki ndege bali twataka bima ya afya https://t.co/lF5wXsOQ2P
– Dotto Rangimoto (@JiniKinyonga) November 18, 2019
There is a leader who says in whispers * No rule can build a path like the current regime * You will think that poor citizens will eat Lami. It is better to live with a quiet infrastructure with peace and satisfaction than to have a pavement when you cannot even have three meals!
I believe in his words. Moreover, that is what Rome means when it says it does not want an airline but a medical insurance.
Even after Minister Mwakyembe's harsh warning, Rome insists he insists that the minister is actually his fan. “If you were to find Rome right now, what would you advise?” Asked Radio East Africa on Twitter:
Kwenye Back Stage
Msanii wa Hip Hop @Roma_Mkatoliki Amesema Waziri wa habari, sanaa, utamaduni na michezo Dk Harrison Mwakyembe ni mmoja kati and mashabiki wake mkubwa.
Ukikutana na Roma hivi sasa utamshauri nini?
– East Africa Radio (@earadiofm) November 23, 2019
Behind the stage:
Hip hop artist Roma Mkatoliki has said that the Minister of Information, Art, Culture and Sports, Harrison Mwakyembe, is one of his biggest fans.
If you were to meet Rome at this time, what would you advise?
Listen to BongoFlevaTop20 10 a.m. at noon.
Despite its 330,000 followers, few answered the tweet of Radio East Africa, probably because fear has intensified in speaking online under the Magufuli administration.
“I think Mwakyembe appreciates my music, which is my fan,” Rome told GV. “We love our country, we love our leaders, we just want more understanding between the ruling party and the opposition,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Magufuli military has not gone so well with the purchase of cashew. The BBC reported that the Government is now investigating “accusations of widespread fraud in a plan to rescue the country's cashew industry.”
The BBC report questioned whether cashew cooperatives were paid more than $ 17 million under the purchase scheme, and suggested that the quantities sold were exaggerated and that “ghost” payments were made for nuts that were never re-collected.
The Government maintains that its objective was to protect cashew farmers from exploitation, but agreed with the investigation and refused to establish a minimum price in 2019.
Roma has won two Kili Music Awards as best hip hop artist. He says he plans to continue making music and acting before the public, raising awareness about violence, corruption and hardships. “Hip hop is not just music, it is a whole culture about preaching peace, fighting discrimination against black people. I'm a musician, I'm rapping. ”