Kagera to Geita

It’s a chilly morning here in Kagera Region, northwestern Tanzania. I have just boarded a shuttle en route to the mineral-rich Geita Region. As we hit the road, I find myself glued to the screen installed to entertain passengers.The video being played is familiar. I watched it numerous times two decades ago. It’s a Swahili song titled Mbona by PNC featuring Mr. Blue. Back in the day, it was one of my favorite tracks.

Jawabu bado sijapata kabisa
Kilichofanya mpaka we ukanitosa
Au sababu mapene sijashika ............

These lyrics rekindle archived memories. Watching Mr. Blue on the screen, my mind drifts all the way back to my college days. I reminisce about the night I rubbed shoulders with him, at the legendary Club Bilicanas, in Dar es Salaam. If my memory serves me right, my encounter with the Mapozi hitmaker took place in the early 2000s. Donning a blue durag, oversized basketball jersey and baggy jeans, the kid was balling out of control. I remember seeing him downing something alcoholic and wonder, "aren’t you too young to drink?"

Fast-forward to 2022, I am pumped up by Mr. Blue’s old school melodies at 5 a.m. I haven’t been keeping up with the evolution of Bongo Flavor, but I understand the artist in question is still in the game.

As the driver switches gears, I find myself singing along. 

Baby, usimwache ...
Check analia kwenye verse
Baby, usimdrive crazy
Noma noma noma noma noma noma ......

If you are reading this from Trinidad and Tobago, Swahili is widely spoken within the East African Community and parts of Mozambique. In Tanzania, it serves as the Lingua Franca — uniting more than 120 ethnic groups.