Tanzania: Diamond Sings Desmond, the World Listens

BONGO Flava mega star, Diamond Platnumz is one of the top African musicians making waves in the global music industry today.

He joins singers like Davido, Tiwa Savage, Wizkid, Sarkodie, Fally Ipupa and Sho Madjozi in the bandwagon of the top- ten list of African musicians .

Starting from the 1990s, African musicians have been recognised in the world music sphere, and have continued waxing stronger.

Diamond was ranked the fourth-best musician in Africa in 2021, previously he was the third-best musician in Africa but dropped to the 5th position in 2022.

He seems a Tanzanian by birth, as his music retains a global appeal simply as the master of Afropop and Bongo Flava ( hip hop and R&B).

Born on October 2nd, 1989, in Dar es Salaam, Diamond broke into the Tanzanian music industry in 2010 with Mbagala from his music album Kamwambie.

The 12- song album also included his hit single Kamwambie, which reigned in Tanzania and Africa. In 2012 Diamond released another album Lala Salama which contained ten songs.

In 2018 he gained more popularity in the music industry featuring many artists around the world, including Rick Ross, Omarion, Davido, P-Square, Tiwa Savage, Flavour and many others in his album A Boy from Tandale released in 2018 by Universal Music Group after joining the music group in 2017.

Many musicians have also featured Diamond, which has earned him the third-best musician in Africa. Adding to his music popularity, Diamond is also known for his dancing talent, having shown his move in his music.

He is regarded as one of the best dancers among other African musicians.

Depicting the reality of life in a poor suburb of Dar es Salaam, ‘Mbagala, the seventh song in Kamwambie album, his first album brought Diamond to the attention of a few music fans as it looked very Dar es Salaam centric but to the global level reviewers of his early career name Moyo Wangu from ‘Lala Salama’ album and Later Number as his s eponymous hits that made a huge appeal globally.

Taking from the multinationals’ comments in Youtube channel, Diamond and his generation’s mates came to prominence as the heirs to the former masters who brought African music to the limelight, artists like Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Manu Dibango, Osibisa, Lucky Dube, Brenda Fassie being the most notable.

Pointblank, the multinational viewers claim his eponymous hits; Moyo Wangu, Number One and Nataka Kulewa, made him the continent’s megastar .

“This is the song that changed the game in East Africa,” @crazyworld1742 wrote on Moyo Wangu:

“I am a South African but these guys are my number one, siyabonga (means thank you) you are the best,” wrote @cybercentre8661 on Number One remix.

Zimbabwean Isaac Mugomba wrote:

“Moyo wangu watching from zimbabwe 2021 moyo wangu means my heart in Shona language.”

“I did not know the song until two days back when I heard it playing from my local radio station here in South Africa, it’s a Heat and I was surprised to find out it is 8 years old. Guys you rock, this is a Heat,” commented @nenettemampuli5975 on Number One

“Saxophone in the beginning, King Maloo. He killed,” said one of his East African fans.

@marcelhesse6387 wrote on Number One:” I am from Germany. I was in Kenya at this time and loved this song.”

Also worth to consider is the Cuban viewer @pastacastaneda6614 who wrote:

“Me gusta mucho…la musica..pero esto es bello soy cubana y amo a los africanos that can be simply translated as I like the music a lot… but this is beautiful I’m Cuban and I love Africans.”

Whether Diamond knows it or not, letting Akulyake Saleh King Maluu dictate terms with his suave sound of alto saxophone as depicted through Moyo Wangu and Number One, created what it could suit as throwback to Jive Kwela era, a township music genre that spoke of joy and sorrow the South African faced under the Apartheid regime.

Though it is likely to be unheard by the present generation of music fans in Southern and Eastern Africa, what Diamond played evoked the memories of the practitioners of the bluesy saxophone sound of the 1960s and 70s that came from American jazz inspiration.

The three smash hits, for the analysts of jazz music,pay homage to the reign of Spokes Mashiyane, Lewis Nkosi, Dark City Sisters, Mahotella Queens, Miriam Makeba, Doroth Masuka and the later practitioners such as Soul Brothers, Mzwake Mbuli and Mafikizolo.

Worth listening includes ‘Meva’ by Spokes Mashiyane and later recorded by West Nkosi. Diamond-like shrills in singing were seen in Soul Brothers whose biggest hits in Tanzania were Kulukhuni and Uyozisola(Uso Manta).

American Paul Desmond who served as alto saxophonist in Dave Brubeck band, has been the biggest influence to practitioners of Jive Kwela and other varieties of jazz-influenced South African genres.

Desmond has been named to have an influence in the sounding of varieties of musicians who manned woodwind and brass instruments and it was his Honky Tonk style that won him disciples in South Africa and other parts of Africa.

But to Georges Kimwanga Mateta Verkys, the East and Central Africa sax legend, his mastery of the both alto and tenor saxophones, credits go to King Curtis, also a legendary Jazz saxophonist.

Verkys in his interview with the writer at the now defunct Embassy Hotel in Dar es Salaam in 1998, said openly that King Curtis’ Honky Tonk style has influenced almost all good saxophonists Africa has ever produced.

Among the notable works of King Curtis and Kingpins band is Memphis Soul Stew he recorded in 1971.

Technically the Honky Tonk style has dominated the sound of saxophones in Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo in the pre-Ndombolo era.

Going through many saxophone sounds it has been established that most of them fall in F key for alto saxophone and G for tenor saxophone.

In most works of both alto saxophonists; Desmond and King Curtis F# has been dominant.

King Curtis also recorded several great versions of Honky Tonk. By the way, there are at least two or three “classic licks” in the King Curtis version. You’ll know ’em when you hear ’em. King Curtis repeats one of these licks throughout an entire chorus.

Digging deep in the whole saxophone craze of the 1970s and 80s, from the revelation of brass/woodwind virtuosi, Tanzanians also did embraced as disclosed by trumpeter Balele Sololo and saxophone legend, Luisa Elias John who had a remarkable career with Jamhuri Jazz, Simba wa Nyika and Mwenge Jazz.

“Saxophone can express both joy and sorrow and has been used to express feeling of Tanzanians during peace and war times,”

Sololo, the grade 7th music graduate said in 1985 during his heydays that F Sharp dominated in the majority of smash hits.

“We have been doing most of our songs in F Sharp when it comes to the horn section,” he said at the Mwenge area during a rehearsal session.

Adding Luiza Elias John, said both American jazz and Afro Cuba son montuno have contributed much in drawing lines for rumba music.