Music has featured prominently in Tanzania’s political campaigns this year ahead of the Oct. 28 general elections.
The ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), or Party of the Revolution, has trotted out the biggest number of musicians during rallies by incumbent President John Pombe Magufuli. CCM opened Magufuli’s campaign in late August with a stadium-filled special concert of 200 songs by more than 100 artists from the Afro-pop music genre widely known as Bongo Flava.
But it is “One Love,” the reggae song from the faraway Caribbean island nation of Jamaica, that has unexpectedly emerged as a rallying song for the opposition party Chadema. The hit by the late reggae icon Bob Marley plays at public appearances for Chadema’s presidential candidate, Tundu Lissu.
Tumaini Makene, Lissu’s campaign manager, says a DJ played “One Love” at a rally in southern Tanzania and the candidate broke into an impromptu reggae dance, stoking a frenzy among the huge crowd. The song, released on the 1977 album “Exodus,” has since become a staple of Lissu’s campaign, often used to open rallies or else to calm the crowd when it seems to go out of control.
Tanzania’s electoral campaigns have been particularly music-heavy this year.
The ruling CCM party commands the biggest attractions, pulling large crowds to rallies featuring popular Bongo Flava musicians such as Diamond Platnumz, Ali Kiba and Harmonize.
But it is the young female artist Zuchu who has spurred the most popular song for Magufuli’s campaign. “Tanzania Ya Sasa,” which translates as “Today’s Tanzania,” extols the successes of Magufuli during his first five years in power.
Chadema has its share of local musicians at its rallies, but Marley’s songs – “One Love” and “Buffalo Soldier” among them – are the crowd favorites. Chadema campaign DJs line up a playlist heavy with his reggae songs.
Chadema officials say their presidential candidate did not specifically ask for Marley’s music. He simply responded to the vibes of the songs chosen by the DJs at his public rallies.