Voices from Kiswahili Blogosphere

Mawazo na Mawaidha from Kenya follows closely localization of different versions of computer software and programs in Swahili. This week he writes and comments briefly on the launching of Swahili Windows and Office programs. Kilinux (the Open Swahili Localization Project) released its open source Swahili office suite, Jambo Open Office, December 2004.

Studying the new Microsoft version and Jambo Open Office, he observes that the choice of words and terms between the two initiatives is so different that it makes one think that they are using two different languages. He also thinks that Microsoft’s Swahili words for its Windows and Office programs might be confusing to users.

Mwandani is happy that Bi Kidude, the 93 year old musician from Zanzibar, received the Womex Award at the 11th annual Womex World Music Expo in England. Bi Kidude, who started singing in the 1920’s, is the subject of a new documentary “As Old As My Tongue: The Myth and Life of Bi Kidude,” which was also released during the Expo. Following the footsteps of the legendary Siti Binti Saad, Bi Kidude is credited with the reinvention of Taarab by incorporating local flavor and unyago drumming.

Mwandani informs us about another less known group from the outskirts of Dar Es Salaam, Jagwa Music, which participated in the Expo. The group plays a very unique type of music called Mchiriku. Mchiriku is a very popular style among low income communities in Tanzania, particularly along the coast. Its repetitive, fast paced rhythms are considered unsoothing and too disturbing by most wealthy and educated Tanzanians. Very few radio stations play Mchiriku. Mchiriku is played with a small hand-held keyboard, usually resting on the musician’s lap, a battered old tin, which is beaten with sticks, a tin full of pebbles or sand, whistles, and drums. Mchiriku songs are known for biting social commentary.

Harakati revives the discussion about the current Swahili word for blog: blogu. Harakati does not like the word. Several Swahili bloggers have expressed the same feelings in the past. Harakati wants the discussion to continue.

It is a common practice among Swahili poets to challenge each other using various poetry techniques and deep Swahili. For example, one poet writes a poem and another poet responds to that poem through a poem of his/her own. This practice has long been associated with Uhuru, the only Tanzanian newspaper that for many years provided a space for Swahili poets to publish their work. Two poet bloggers, Kasri la Mwanazuo and Fasihi za Ufasaha are moving this practice to cyberspace through their blogs.

This is a particularly interesting moment in the Kiswahili blogosphere. The possibility that blogging can become one of the ways in which Tanzanian writers and poets can bypass problems related to cost of publication and economics of distribution is an exciting one. For example, because of limited distribution, Swahili novels are mostly read in Tanzania and Kenya. If Swahili literary works are available online in digital format, making them globally accessible, Swahili speakers in Oman, India, the US, China, Mexico, South Africa and elsewhere will be able to read them. Utilizing this opportunity, Kasri la Mwanazuo is planning on releasing his first novel on his blog.

On December 14, 2005 Tanzanians went to the polls to elect the Union President and Members of Parliament who will serve the country for the next five years. As it was expected by those following Zanzibar politics, there are reports of violence. Fikra Thabiti writes about the election from Zanzibar. He tells us that the opposition, the Civic United Front (CUF), has won the hotly contested Mji Mkongwe constituency.

The Civic United Front is very strong in the Island of Pemba, the home island of its Secretary General, Seif Hamad. Seif Hamad was narrowly defeated by the current President of Zanzibar, Amani Karume, in October this year. In the last two multiparty elections, CUF won all seats in Pemba and one in the Island of Unguja (the seat of the government of Zanzibar). The only constituency CUF usually wins in Unguja is Mji Mkongwe. Fikra Thabiti witnessed heavy police presence around the area trying to stop CUF supporters from celebrating their victory.

Photoblogger, Issa Michuzi, shows us Tanzania’s “white house” where the next president, to be announced shortly, will reside.

And if you did not know that animals in Tanzania use public transport look at this photo.

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