Welcome to RetroTan2020 and the relaunch of a pioneering music company from Tanzania in the 1990s


The original idea, following on from the success of the UK company, RetroAfric (www.retroafric.com), was to encourage access to specific country music traditions, building on the knowledge and enthusiasm of the three original partners: Graeme Ewens, with his unrivalled knowledge of Congolese music, Charles Easmon, the go-to guy for Ghanaian musical material and Ronnie Graham, working with Tanzanian and Zanzibari stars of the 1960s.

RetroTan got underway in 1995, managed by a small collective of professional and amateur enthusiasts. Using a Sony DAT and high-speed cassette duplicators, the new label quickly signed up the cream of Tanzanian musician and over the next four years released both original recordings:- Shikamoo Jazz, Bi Kidude, Francis MwaKitime, Didier Bosco, Baby Rehema and 2 Proud, as well as reissues of Remy Ongala, Vijana Jazz, Orchestra Maquis and Moses Se Fan Fan. From taraab to ‘dansi’, mchiriku to rap, the new label cast a broad net.

Guided by the ethical concerns of RetroAfric, the new company paid both advances and royalties, setting itself apart from the massive cassette piracy of the time. In time, and despite a second burst of releases early in the 21st century, including more mchiriku, taraab, Ottu Jazz, Vijana Jazz, Mliminai Park and Orch. Maquis, the venture finally collapsed, unable to compete on a far from level playing field.

But over the course of the next 20 years, the musical landscape was transformed by, on the one hand, the demise of vinyl and cassettes and, on the other, the wholesale switch to streaming, on-line platforms and blogs. Original Tanzanian music could now potentially reach a truly global audience. So, 20 years on, and with only three of the six original directors still going, it was felt the time was right to relaunch the label as RetroTan2020. The concept was simple: Re-issue the original recordings, provide a platform for new material and continue to research Tanzanian music history.

We are delighted to offer our first three releases on RetroTan2020, starting with the very earliest recordings from Zanzibar and two acoustic albums recorded in the mid-1990s. We will not be releasing CDs or vinyl although there will be very limited edition CDs available for promotional purposes only. There is much more in the pipeline so please do check in regularly for label updates, the monthly blog and details of how to access the music.