By Billie Odidi THE EAST AFRICAN Posted Monday, December 12 2011 at 00:00 The years after independence in 1960s and 70s witnessed a boom in East African music driven by Tanzanian bands, which benefited from State patronage. Musicians of groups like Nuta Jazz, Vijana Jazz, Jamhuri Jazz Band and Cuban Marimba were paid official salaries and some were even employees of government departments. Most of these top bands used to visit neighbouring Kenya at least once a year for public performances while others like the legendary Simba Wanyika set up their base in Nairobi permanently. The only recording facility available on Mainland Tanzania was to be found at the State-run Radio Tanzania Dar Es Salaam (RTD). Once or twice a year, the bands came to the one-track studio for a session, recording five songs at a time. The radio got music for its programmes, which were heard on shortwave band across East Africa, the bands in turn gained fame and publicity for their live performances. From the late 60s the radio station consistently sponsored and exclusively featured Tanzanian bands on its programmes, contributing to the development of a Tanzanian music style known in Swahili as Mtindo. The relationship sometimes turned sour, as when the group DDC Milimani Park Orchestra, also sponsored by a state corporation, decided not to record for RTD because some of their recordings had been pirated and released in neighbouring Kenya, where Tanzanian music was in high demand. It turned out that almost all records of Tanzanian bands released for a long period in the 70s were stolen from, or illegally copied from the library of RTD. No proper payments or contractual arrangements were made and the musicians were not able to track the sales of their music. The musicians complained that unscrupulous traders had smuggled the tapes out of Tanzania and sold them to producers in Nairobi. One of the first Tanzanian groups to migrate to Kenya was Arusha Jazz, the predecessor of the mighty Simba Wanyika. Founded by Wilson Peter Kinyonga and his brothers George and William, the group began performing in the coastal town of Mombasa in 1971. Over the next 20 years Simba Wanyika was the dominant group in Nairobi's club scene and made tonnes of recordings even though the original group split several times in subsequent years. Music hub Nairobi was clearly the musical hub of East Africa from as early as the mid 1960s with the arrival of the first lot of Congolese and Tanzanian musicians. The presence of the major record companies such as EMI, CBS and Polygram and the only pressing plant for vinyl records in the region (East Africa Records) presented an irresistible attraction to the best musicians from the surrounding countries. Vijana Jazz is considered among the most influential bands of the "dansi" (dance music) era. Formed in 1971 the name Vijana (Swahili for youth) was a reference to the sponsorship by the youth wing of Tanzania's ruling political party. They were one of the first bands to take advantage of a concession offered by the Tanzanian government in 1978 to allow bands to import musical instruments. Vijana Jazz gained popularity for their innovative use of synthesisers and drum machines as their records spread like a bushfire across the region. At the beginning of 1975 the members of the band entered the Hi-Fidelity Studios in Nairobi and recorded an album under the name Koka Koka Sex Batallion. The assumed name was a ruse to conceal the fact that Vijana Jazz already had many singles released and was keen not to flood the market. 35 years later, two of those six songs recorded on that album together with other rarities by the great Tanzanian group have been digitised and just released in a compilation CD by Sterns Music, the London based World Music record label, offering a glimpse of the unique energy that was East African music in the 1970s. In Tanzania, the bands created dance styles called mtindo in Swahili, and Vijana Jazz became synonymous with "Kamata Sukuma" (grab and push) which is featured on this compilation, a lively song where band leader and composer the late Hemed Maneti seeks to find out whether people really understand what that style was all about. The mtindo was the trademark of any band and played a major part in the rivalry that existed between the big bands in Tanzania. The instrumental piece Koka Koka no. 1 is a lively piece whose title is a reference to another mtindo, based on what East African musicologist Doug Patterson, who dug the archives to find these songs, describes as ‘highly rhythmic with congas and a sound like beating on a hollow log." In East Africa, Vijana Jazz became a household name with the song Niliruka ukuta (I jumped over the wall) a hilarious story of a man who has to flee when the husband of his lover returns home in the middle of the night. Thankfully that song is also contained on this compilation. The political mood in East Africa in the 1970s was marked by the exuberance of the regional federation and the musicians often composed songs in praise of the leadership at the time. Ujirani Mwema (Good Neighbourliness) salutes the Presidents of Tanzania, Kenya, Zaire (DR Congo) and Zambia but makes no mention of Uganda, which was in the grip of the Idi Amin dictatorship at the time. Naturally most of the songs on the album are in Kiswahili, with the exception of two in other Tanzanian languages. What this album offers though is nostalgia for the generation that lived through the golden era of East African music. For the uninitiated, the vintage sounds here are a lesson in solid musicianship from an era gone by. Either way, the Koka Koka Sex Batallion is an absolute collector's item.