26 April 2008

Kenya: Dar Music Group On a Peace Mission

Nairobi — As Kenya continues with peace and resettlement efforts after the post-election violence, so do East African musicians take their position to play their role.

African Stars, or Twanga Pepeta International, one of Tanzania's most popular groups, is set to tour Kenya next week for an "Amani Tour" series of shows

Rotamu Promotions, the organiser, says the first two shows are to be held at New Deep West Resort, Nairobi, n Friday. The next is at Club Casaurina (formerly Coco Beach) of Buru Buru, also in the city, the next day.

Rotamu says the group is enthusiastic about the tour. "The Kenyan and Tanzanian bond has been particularly strong, considering the role in striking the peace accord played by both Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and former President Benjamin Mkapa," says a spokesperson.

A member of the promotion team visited Dar es Salaam last week to finalise the arrangements.

This will be the second time in a year for African Stars to visit Kenya, the group's last having been for a charity tour last year, but this was rather low-key.

However, this time round the band hopes to make up for is setback, and the members assurance their fans of the best entertainment.

African Stars are scheduled to arrive in Nairobi on Thursday afternoon from Dar es Salaam.

The group, led by Hamisi Amigolas, has lined up special songs like Africa Unity, Family Conflict and Amani Africa - all aimed at Kenya's quick recovery from the mayhem. They have of late reportedly been rehearsing on the peace songs for the anticipated tour.

The basis of the group's popularity is its ability to blend Tanzanian rhythms with Lingala rhumba beats, coupled with the captivating stage show, Twanga Pepeta.

It also performs using the zouk, soca-calypso and ndombolo beats. Spicing up the shows is the use of its won rappers or animators.

For the past one or so decades, the African Stars band has been in the forefront of popularising the fusion of typical Tanzanian and Congolese beats.

But not all been rosy about the group. There have been several offshoots from African Stars, which was founded by Msiliwa Baraka as chairman alongside his wife Asha, the current executive director.

Their Tanzanian fans know them as an offshoot of the MK Group of New Africa Hotel, Dar es Salaam in 1985-1994.

African Stars was initially based at Bahari Beach Hotel, but later moved to Magore Street, also in Dar, where they have been entertaining music loves at various leading spots.

Among the spots are Tazara, Gerezani Railway, Leaders and Singa Singa Clubs.

The group also had a sister band, African Revolution "Tam Tam", which featured Ramadhan Banza Stone.

Ace singer and composer Ally Choki who has been in and out of the group, is also behind African Stars' scintillating performances.

Prior to moving back home in Tanzania in the 1990s, Choki was based in Kenya, where he had stints with groups such as Ulinzi Orchestre and the Extra Kimwa, the latter having been based in Kisumu.

When African Stars toured Kenya last year, Choki was in the group.

He has performed also with the now defunct Extra Bongo and Mchinga Sound Generation, and he recently joined the TOT Plus band. The African Stars is best known for popular songs like Mtu Pesa, Kisa cha Mpemba, Password, Jirani and Safari (2005).

In terms of success back home, the group is credited with having been the overall winner of the 2000/2001 best band of the year award at the Tanzania Music Awards. In 2000 the group's Kisa cha Mpemba was voted the No. 2 song.

African Stars scooped the best show dance and best dance band diadem at the Guinness Music Awards ceremony for 2001/02.

The best dance show

Last year, the group bagged the best dance show band in East Africa during the Pearl of Africa Music Awards ceremony.

Mtu Mpesa, a greatly popular composition by Banza Stone, was voted the best song of the year during the Kilimanjaro Music Awards.

Other leading members of the band Stars band are Lwiza Mbutu, Saleh Kupaza, Jessica Charles, Miraj Hassan Shakasha and Ally Akida.

To bolster its stage show are dancers Aisha Madinda, Lilian Internet and Mama Brezzy.

Due to the large number of members, the group is now split into two - African Stars "Twanga Pepeta Internationale" and African Stars "Twanga Pepeta Chipolopolo".

During its second show at Casaurina, the group will perform alongside the resident Bilenge Musica band, led by Lesasa Jocker.

The third show will be a family show at Deep West Resort Club on Sunday.

Arrangements are beng made to have African Stars perform also in other Kenyan towns.

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