Travel: Tanzania Chapter Two — Bagamoyo

See Part 1 of my blog posts on Tanzania: Dar Es Salaam

See Part 3 of my blog posts on Tanzania: Zanzibar

The next part of my trip found us in Bagamoyo, a small town on the coast of Tanzania, also informally the centre of the arts in Tanzania for the last two decades. We were here to visit the Zawose Family, a local family of musicians who have made quite a name for themselves on the world music platform.

This family of musicians was once led by the father and head of the family, Hukwe Zawose, who sadly died from Aids in 2003, leaving behind 7 wives and over 40 children. Before he died, Hukwe Zawose did alot of work with world music enthusiast Peter Gabriel and released several albums on his record label. Today, his brothers, children and grandchildren continue his legacy.

Curious fact: This indigenous musical group is especially popular….in Japan. They’ve enjoyed unprecedented record sales in Japan and in fact, we ran into 2-3 Japanese tourists hanging around in the Zawose village when we came by to visit. Japanese musicians such as Sakaki Mango have travelled all the way to Bagamoyo to learn to play the traditional thumb piano, also called the mbira, with Hukwe Zawose. Hukwe seventh wife, even, was Japanese.

We were lucky to be able to catch a private performance in their village, held in a theatre built recently on the grounds. This theatre was built primarily to provide a space for them to practise and showcase their art. For many years, members of the family were stomping around with their feet in the sand, driving up plumes of dust into the air and into their systems — perhaps not that serious to most of us, but as many of them suffer from HIV and AIDS, their delicate respiratory systems couldn’t take it. The stage below is a simple, beautiful solution.

Bagamoyo means “Lay Down Your Hearts”. There is also a beautiful documentary of the same name, directed by John Simpson, which details the journey of the Zawose family, from the rise and fame of Hukwe around the world, how much his music and talent was loved, to the sudden and tragic demise of him and other members of this family. Emotional and raw, yet hilarious at moments, the documentary also shows how the family is today keeping alive his legacy and talent by continuing the music he passed down to them.

Random Japanese making scary dance faces at poor bewildered Zawose girlMe all covered up  (socks!? in this weather!) like a paranoid tourist afraid of getting malaria. Fail.

We got to explore the rest of the town too. Bagamoyo is a fishing town, and we came across people buying fish directly from fishermen on the beach.

We then went for a walk through the open air market, where they BBQ alot of the seafood.

No BBQ is complete without the chilli sauce (above). On the edge of the Indian Ocean, Bagamoyo was also once a vital pick up and transit point for slaves being shipped out from Africa to the Arab world. These blocks are a sober reminder of a horrific past — this is where the slaves would be tied up to before being hauled out to sea. Today, they are ironically used to dry little fish in the sun.

Although I wouldn’t say Bagamoyo is a culinary destination, I did get my first taste of the awesome Pili-Pili sauce in this restaurant called Jerafa, run by a local Muslim family. Rough directions to find it: When you enter the town, it is on the right hand-side, close to the court building. The only place to get good Pilau(Biryani) in Bagamoyo.

Bagamoyo in general wasn’t too exciting a food destination, but this was definitely a hearty, delicious start to my trip there. If you think the chicken looks undercooked, I’m pretty certain it was. Fine to eat though.

Although a coastal town, I was a little disappointed by the seafood I ate in Bagamoyo in general. They tend to overcook it and unfortunately, all the best fish is taken to Dar and to other countries. This is why for every foodie, every trip to Tanzania MUST end in Zanzibar. Watch out for my next blog post.

If you would like to support the Zawose Foundation, you can buy a CD or make a donation at www.zawose.org

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