2000 – 2003

After establishing Marimba Studio in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, the first digital studio in town, Nedland Kultur set out to do a production with young, talented musicians from Dar. Sigbjørn Nedland started visiting the popular bands in town at their rehearsal places, and spotted talented musicians, asking the band leaders if he could “borrow” them for a project. The band that slowly assembled around the new studio got the name “Mradi Band”, and the young musicians were given a challenge: “Try to develop modern pop music out of something you find in your tradition”. And did they ever!

Before the end of the 1990s there were no possibilities to produce music recordings of international quality in Dar Es Salaam. There were only cassette studios, recording four or eight track simple productions (with lots of tape hiss). With the coming of Marimba Studio, this changed. The musicians invited into the Mradi Band project by Nedland Kultur were the first ones to really start to exploit these new possibilities

The musicians were eager to explore the new tools that the studio gave them to create and develop their music. Nedland Kultur challenged them to try to do something different from what almost every Dar Es Salaam band did at the time: copy music from other countries: American rock and r&b, Jamaican reggae, British pop, Congolese sokous etc. The message that Nedland Kultur gave them, was this: “You can get quite good at playing American r&b or Jamaican reggae, but it will be very hard to get better at it than the Americans or the Jamaicans, because this is their music, developed in those countries. But if you create music that contains the same modern music elements, but is based on your own traditions and culture, it is very possible for you to be the best in the world to play that music, because these ar your own traditions, your own culture, and no one knows it better than you yourselves!”

The singers and musicians took up the challenge, and performed amazingly well. The result was an album of songs with strong Tanzanian identity, but definitely also a pop music album. After an initial session, the various memebers of the group went to their families, to the village where their family came from, to traditional musicians or people they knew who had some knowledge of songs, poems, melodies or instruments. They came back with a rich harvest of material from many parts of Tanzania. Then they went into rehearsals with producer Sigbjørn Nedland, and at the next studio session it all came together: Traditional melodies from the villages, the arab-influenced costal taarab music, local ngoma drums and instruments from the music tradition of Tanzania, like the kalimba. This, together with african vocal harmonies, modern electric instruments and a natural understanding of international popular music developed into something hitherto unheard. The group created a totally new Tanzanian pop music.

Right: Jamila S. Abri, vocals, Anania Ngoriga, kalimba, Maryam Said, vocals.

Below: Bizimana Ntavyo, vocals & keyboards, Nurdin Athuman, guitars & vocals, Esrom Rudala, vocals, keyboard, drums, Norman Bikaka, guitars, Joseph Watuguru, bass.

The Mradi Band album was the first of several albums by Nedland Kultur to be recorded at Studio Marimba in Dar Es Salaam (although not the first to be relelased). The production was stretched out over a period of time, and was also a training project for people who wanted to become sound engineers. Experienced soundman Kai Stokkeland from Norway travelled with Nedland Kultur to Tanzania and worked with the local sound guys in the studio, and together with producer Sigbjørn Nedland he also mixed the album at the NRK Studios in Kristiansand, Norway.

The CD by Mradi Group got some nice reviews.