1997 – 1999

The combination of the electronic “trance music” of the Norwegian duo Acid Queen, and the Tanzanian taarab traditions of the Dar Es Salaam groups  Egyptian Musical Club and Sisi Kwa Sisi became “Tranzania”, an experiment in musical integration of various musical styles and influences. Nedland Kultur wanted to challenge stereotypical thinking about cultures, and to develop new and innovative music, so the one-man “cultural institution” teamed up with the Norwegian record company KKV to make this a reality. The result was music no one had imagined before this project was initiated.

The Tranzania project went hand in hand with the efforts to create new possibilities for music production for Tanzanian musicians in the recording studio project that Nedland Kultur started in Dar Es Salaam, together with the Norwegian Strømme Foundation. Digital recording equipment was brought in, and as the studio premises were not yet ready, a unique solution was found. The Norwegian Embassy to Tanzania put the annex of the Embassy building at the disposal of Nedland Kultur and partners, who were allowed to transform it into a music recording studio. Tranzania may well be the first album of music ever recorded in such a diplomatic environment, in an official Embassy building!

Every day the musicians, engineers and other participants had to be cleared for entrance into the Embassy, checked and recorded in the visitors’ registry, before the guards could let them in to start the recording session. And it was not a small number of people who were involved in the production!

Two quite large Tanzanian groups took part in the music project: Egyptian Musical Club (above), one of the oldest taraab groups of Dar Es Salaam, and Sisi Kwa Sisi (on the left, posing with the Norwegian musicians, producer and record company CEO) They are a group playing the somewhat rougher and simpler sister music to taraab: kidumbak. The Norwegian participants were the duo Acid Queen (top right).

To find inspiration, and to consult the oldest living authority on swahili coastal music, producer Sigbjørn Nedland visited the famous taraab singer Bi Kidude in Zanzibar. Swahili traditions were strongly featured in the music that was developed in the Embassy-hosted studio: taraab and kidumbak, together with the techno and trance music of the Norwegian group Acid Queen (Christian Grimshei and Stephan Groth). Sound Engineer Øystein Halvorsen, benevolently allowed to participate by his employer NRK, contributed greatly to the good results of the recording, and he also mixed the album together with Sigbjørn Nedland at NRK in Oslo. Two other very important persons in the project was Erik Hillestad of KKV records, and Olaf Gundersen of Strømme Foundation. Without their efforts, the project would not have been possible.

The CD was well received, and especially one track: “Sema” became popular, and popped up on compilation albums like the three on the left over the next couple of years. The CD also got good reviews, and was named record of the week in a few music papers and magazines.

In October 1998 the Tranzania project was invited to participate in the live Norwegian national TV event “TV-aksjonen” This is the biggest annual Norwegian charity fund raising event, viewed by a major part of Norway’s population. Egyptian Musical Club were invited to Norway, and performed together with Acid Queen on the TV show, supporting the Norwegian Refugee Council, to whom the Norwegians donated 128 million Norwegian kroner (about 15 millon USD) during the event.