In 2010 Nedland Kultur received a request from The Norwegian Embassy in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania: “Would you like to bring an artist or a band from Norway to perform at our annual pre-Christmas party?” Many embassies have this tradition of inviting guests – Tanzanians from governmental or other organisations, diplomats from other countries, collaboration partners etc., to a party during December. Nedland Kultur’s reply to the request was: “No, we do not want to bring a Norwegian act to perform for you. But we would love to bring Norwegian singers and musicians who could collaborate with a Tanzanian gospel group to make a church concert of Christmas music. Why not let that be the Embassy’s pre-Christmas event this year?”
And so it was that the traditional Christmas party was not exclusively for for diplomats and dignitaries that year. The vision of Nedland Kultur for the event was that the Embassy should, for once, relate to the ordinary Tanzanian, not just to the elite, and that the elite crowd that would normally attend such a party should rather be attending an event with a much broader scope. In Norway there is a well established tradition for special concerts in churches all over the country in the weeks before Christmas. The Embassy agreed that this would be a great opportunity to show this tradition to Tanzanians, and to the international community in Dar Es Salaam. So this year the invitation for the Christmas party went out to diplomatic personnel, and to the others who are normally invited, to come with their families . And people came, to the concert at Msasani Lutheran Church on Saturday night, and to the two Sunday church services two churches, one Lutheran and one Catholic, where the musicians and singers participated. All in all the artists played and sang for about 3.000 people during the two days.
Left: Rehearsing in the church.
Below: Poster for the concert.
The musicians and singers met a few days before the concert to rehearse together, and to try to teach each other some for their respective countries’ Christmas songs. They had some internationally known songs in common, and they learnt from each other, so that the Norwegian singers sang in Kiswahili and danced in tandem with the Upendo ladies, while the Tanzanians impressed everyone with perfect pronunciation of Norwegian lyrics. Both the concert audience on Saturday night, and the congregation in the churches where the artists performed during the regular church service on Sunday received the performance with overwhelming enthusiasm. They seemd to like what they heard, and the artists felt truly welcomed.
Tanzanian participants were the Kijitonyama Upendo Group, a popular and well known gospel choir, with their own band, and with a long history of church singing from their area in Northern parts of Dar Es Salaam. From Norway came the twin sisters Ingelin Reigstad Nordheim and Hildegunn Garnes Reigstad, known both as a duo under the name of Garness, as solo artists, and as soloists with Oslo Gospel Choir. They were accompanied by drummer/percussionist Stein Inge Brækhus and keyboard player Torjus Vierli.
After the Saturday night concert, the Embassy staff organised an outdoor event outside the church, where traditional Norwegian Christmas cookies and a warm spice drink called “gløgg” was served. There, staff from other embassies, diplomats, aid workers and other Europeans with their families mingled with the Tanzanian concert audience.