‘Kikwetu Kwetu’ can be roughly be translated as ‘our own style’, or our ‘own thing’. ‘Something from where we came from’.The duo is Wahenga. The ‘ancestors’ playing ancestral music from the WaGogo and the WaHehe, close neighbors in central Tanzania. Two gifted musicians, brought together by friendship, circumstance and opportunity.
The story of Wahenga began one afternoon in 2004, when John Kitime, son of Francis (See Retrotan2020: RT-002) and at the time rhythm guitarist with the renowned Kilimanjaro Band, got a call from the Norwegian embassy. They were holding a cocktail party that evening and wanted an acoustic duo to perform. John immediately thought of his friend Anania Ngoliga with whom he performed for fun on a number of occasions at home: Anania with his traditional marimba and John on acoustic guitar.
They took the contract and performed at the party. The audience found the music great and the duo started getting calls almost every month to perform at one embassy function or another. Then in 2005 someone connected them to Bela Fleck, the great American banjo player who was in Tanzania tracing the roots of the banjo. Fleck, John and Anania hit it off instantly and the duo remained in Bagamoyo for a week providing the title for Bela Fleck’s African experience ‘Throw Down Your Heart – The Complete Africa Sessions’. http://found.ee/belafleck-tdyh-w.
A few years later, in 2009 the duo now named WAHENGA, enjoyed long tours in the US with Bela Fleck and other great artists from Africa such as Toumani Diabate, Vusi Mahlasela and D’Gary followed up again the following year with another tour with Bela Fleck, Casey Dreissen and Ngoni Ba from Mali, performing on one occasion in India with the great tabla player Zahir Hussein from Mumbai.
This recording has been a long time in the making, from that sunny afternoon in Dar in 2004, through two American tours in 2009 and 2010, to these recordings from Dar es Salaam in 2009 and this final release by RetroTan2020 in the summer of 2022.
The duo perform mostly traditional songs that they both know, drawn from my John’s WaHehe ethnic group and others from Anania’s WaGogo tribe, plus a number of common Kiswahili songs, mostly oldies (zilipendwa) by legendry stars such as Fundi Konde from Kenya and Frank Humplinck from Arusha, Tanzania.
Anania Ngoliga never really ‘learned’ how to play the thumb kalimba. His father and mother both played the instrument and he grew up he just started playing the instrument. When he was 5 his eyesight started deteriorating so was sent to the Buigiri School for the Blind where he also learned how to play the piano and the guitar. He finished his primary education in 1976 and joined the Mpwapwa Anglican Church Choir where he soon started leading the choir, composing and teaching new songs. In 1987 he moved to Dar es Salaam and a cousin of his introduced him to a member of The Jambos Band, which he joined. One day the famous Zairean musician Lovy Longomba passed by when they were having rehearsals and when he heard Anania sing he asked him to join his band, Afriso Ngoma, a much bigger band the Jambos, It was dream come true. In time he moved on to another band, the Legho Stars, appearing on stage with many of the big names in music in East and Central Africa including Tchimanga Assossa, at that time the leader of Orchesra Maquis. Anania now lives in Zanzibar leading his own band
John Kitime was born into a house full of music. His father was a multiinstrumentalist who could play the banjo, guitar, accordion, trumpet, saxophone and ukulele and, perhaps most critically, he also owned almost all of these instruments. John learned to love music from his parents. His mother was a very good singer who accompanied his father in performances, which t that time were mostly family affairs. There were a few times when his father performed for an audience outside his family, recording with the Tanganyika Broadcasting Corporation in 1960 and 1969.
In 1968 John joined his first band, a small school band before joining his first big band in 1982, a Dar es Salaam based band led Tchimanga Assossa, one of original members of Orchestra Kamale in Zaire. John has enjoyed a long and successful career with many of Tanzania’s leading dance bands, including Orchestra Makassy, Tancut Almasi, the legendary Vijana Jazz Band, Magoma Moto Band and, most recently the Kilimanjaro Band. Presently he has his own band, the JFK Band.
Anania and John still continue to date to perform at different venues including the
Bagamoyo Cultural Festival.
This recording was made in 2009 at the Zamunda Studios.in Dar Es Salaam. The sound engineer was Athanas Sajula Lukindo. RetroTan is delighted to bring this recording to a wider public so they can also enjoy one of Tanzania’s best kept secrets.