Various artists Sounds of Pamoja Nyege Nyege Tapes
For those who’ve never heard Tanzania’s singeli before, the opening track on the Sounds of Pamoja compilation from Uganda’s Nyege Nyege Tapes might come as a bit of a shock. The song drops you right into the ludicrous tempos and adrenaline-soaked vocal flows that have marked out singeli as the most electrifying (and at times overwhelming) music coming out of east Africa.
Sounds of Pamoja functions as a sister release to 2017’s Sound of Sisso, which showcased the artists based at Sisso Studios – one of the instrumental spaces that nurture the sound in the prominent Tanzanian city, Dar es Salaam. This compilation focuses instead on Pamoja Studio, run by Duke, a mainstay in the scene, whose manic production skills underpin most of the album.
Tracks like Kamatia Chini illustrate the genre at its most intense, with rapid-fire MCing sitting incongruously on top of heavily pitch-shifted, and slightly jarring, samples. Ganja – featuring MC Pilato and regular Duke collaborator Mczo – is stripped back and leaner, though at over eight minutes, it’s still a real test of endurance for attention-starved minds.
The compilation might well alienate as many listeners as it entices: singeli is relentless and, for some, the intense tempos will simply be too much. But for those who are able to adjust their brainwaves, the project might prove to be the start of an addiction, for beneath the furious beats lies a spirit that is truly life-affirming and optimistic.