16 June 2019

Tanzania: Ongala Festival Coming to Bagamoyo

A tribute to the life and music of Ramadhan Mtoro Ongala Mugamba better known by his stage name Dr Remmy, will be held in Bagamoyo in August.

The Remmy Ongala Festival will be held at the Old German Boma in the historical town of Bagamoyo from August 23-25. The festival is a celebration of the musical heritage Dr Remmy left behind.

The inaugural festival was held last August at Kigamboni in Dar es Salaam and proved to be a huge success.

Aziza Ongala, the daughter of Dr Remmy and the director of the festival, said the event's move from Dar es Salaam to Bagamoyo is permanent.


The iconic Tanzanian musician is best remembered for being the father of the country's urban music, with his poignant lyrics on the everyday struggles of ordinary people.

Ongala was a composer, singer and guitarist. He performed with his Orchestre Super Matimila Band and was famous for using three different guitars fusing traditional Tanzanian rhythms with the Soukous beat from DR Congo.

Ms Ongala said: "One of the fundamental objectives of the festival is to bridge the gap between the old musicians of Ongala's time, the 1970s and 1980s, with the younger generation of Tanzanian and East African musicians. And it is befitting for this festival to be held in a place such as Bagamoyo that has a big population of creatives. We thought it would bring a natural synergy and also contribute to local tourism."

Ongala got the "Dr Remmy" moniker because his fans said his music had healing qualities. It certainly spoke to his audience and he is quoted as saying: Mimi ni kama mwandishi wa habari, naimba kwa mahitaji ya watu wote duniani (I am like a journalist, I sing for the needs of everyone in the world.)

His journey to becoming a successful artiste who eventually got signed by the Real World Records label founded by WOMAD and Peter Gabriel proves his music's global appeal.


Ongala lost his parents at an early age forcing him to work as a musician on the streets for a living and also support his siblings. His song Kifo, on the tribulations of death, is considered one of East Africa's Swahili urban music classics.

Born in western Tanzania in 1947, he lived and worked with bands in then Zaire (DR Congo) and Uganda before moving to Dar es Salaam where a sponsor gifted him musical instruments for a band he played with and which he later owned and called Orchestre Super Matimila.

The festival in his honour is looking to shine a spotlight on his legacy and musicians who like him, respect their heritage and are passionate about their craft. This year several East African musicians will entertain the audience. From Tanzania are veterans Msafiri Zawose, Swahili Ally, and rising stars in contemporary East African music Siti & the Band, the trio who are revolutionising Taarab music as expected.

They will be joined by Fadhilee, Papillion and Ambasa Mandela from Kenya.

A special constituted tribute band will play Dr Remmy's music, led by some members of the original Orchestre Super Matimila as well Ongala's son, Thomas Ongala, who has a grainy voice just like his late father's.


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