Boomkat Product Review:
Nyege Nyege presents another lightning-fast set from Tanzania's fresh 'n boundlessly creative singeli scene, this time zeroing in on Duke's Pamoja Records studio and its local cast of young MCs. There's nowt else like this - jerky, breakneck 200bpm+ rollers with Dar Es Salaam's most exciting vocalists trading bars overhead.
Pamoja boss Duke started making music when he was just 13 years old, opening the doors to his studio when he turned 18. "Sounds of Pamoja" is a document of his self-styled "hip-hop singeli" sound and his contribution to the blossoming Tanzanian scene, featuring a varied roster of youthful spitters: Pirato MC, Dogo Kibo, MC Kuke, Dogo Lizzy, MC Dinho, MC Kidene and of course MCZO, who'll be familiar to anyone who caught Duke on tour pre-COVID-19. And for a country with half its population under 15 years old, it's hardly surprising that Tanzania's most vital dance sounds are being pioneered by a group of producers and vocalists barely over 20.
'Sounds of Pamoja' brings back the sweat of rave backrooms or rap basement parties, with samples, shoutouts and chipmunked adverts hiccuping between breathless MCs and overdriven, clattering production. This is dance music that exists leagues outside the polite world of business techno and the nauseating sponsored content realm: its tongue twisting vocals and blink-and-you-miss-it glo-fi rhythmic shakes make it an uncategorizable and challenging movement for the lifestyle set. As soon as you think you have a finger on what's going on, the beat is likely to shift, the sample flip and the vocal mutate into something completely different.
Duke's outlook is different from many of his contemporaries; influenced by US rap as much as local Tanzanian producers and performers, he finds a sweet spot between the surreal, tongue-twisting sound of early Busta Rhymes and singeli pioneers like Jay Mitta and Bampa Pana. So the music we're treated to here sounds rougher and harder than the sounds on Nyege Nyege's last Tanzanian compilation, 2017's brilliant "Sounds of Sisso". Since then the sound has shifted considerably, and Duke's take on singeli retains the backbone of taarab - a popular traditional fusion of East African and Middle Eastern sounds - but offers it the immediacy of a ringtone.
If you wanna remember what joy and pure physicality sounds like, there's few other dance movements out there right now with the same levels of kinetic pressurei. "Sounds of Pamoja" is for the dancers, in the best possible way..