From the Margins to the Mainstream: Making and Remaking an Alternative Music Economy in Dar Es Salaam
Since the arrival in Tanzania of American hip hop recordings in the 1980s, a varied, local, rapped music scene has developed. Due to high import duties, hip hop recordings were available only to wealthier Tanzanians, who consequently formed many of the early rap groups. Following liberalization of the media, however, local music incorporating rapping has become widely popular and the practice of rapping more widespread. Tanzanian rapped music has moved from a largely elite pastime to a ubiquitous form of Swahili language popular culture; from the margins to the mainstream.| As rapped music has become increasingly popular it has engendered both local musical stars and maandagraundi or 'underground' rappers. Underground rappers define themselves through their marginalization and exclusion from the circuits of commercial musical production, distribution and dissemination in Dar es Salaam. Unplanned settlements, commonly referred to by the term uswahilini, are fundamental to the practice of underground rapping, providing spaces for underground rapping practice and performance. This article will explore the ways in which underground rappers use the marginal and liminal space of uswahilini to engage in productive, creative practices, arguing that rapping acts as a means through which young men contest their marginality and assert their personhood. Rapping is a space in which young men contest not only their marginality but that of uswahilini - sonically asserting their presence in the city.