A Sharp Tongue Flows from the Motherland

Tanzania-native Nakaaya Sumari just signed to Sony Music after her 2008 debut album, Nervous Conditions—which she released independently—took East Africa by storm. So if she's not on your radar yet, you better believe she will be soon. Nakaaya calls her music "afro fusion," a blend of Swahili lyrics over hip-hop beats in a slickly produced R&B style. Influenced by a range of artists including the recently passed Miriam Makeba, Bob Marley, and Mos Def, Nakaaya's vibe is unique and overtly political. When asked by Pop'Africana if it makes her nervous to be dubbed a "political" artist, Nakaaya responded:


"No, I am not afraid. It is that very same fear that has put my people, particularly my sisters, in this position of still being oppressed. It is that very same fear that has stripped us of our rights to speak, question, demand and simply be. People, especially Africans, pay more attention to music than they do the authorities for obvious reasons. Music touches the hearts of men, and when that happens, attitudes change and then the beautiful becomes inevitable—CHANGE."

Her biggest hit, "Mr. Politician"—which features Dead Prez's M1, who also happens to be her newlywedded husband—encourages people to question their leaders and calls duplicitous politicians to the mat asking "if you talk the talk, can you walk the walk?" Nakaaya says her music is intended to "entertain" and "teach"; she sees it as a tool to talk about issues that effect people's lives—from government corruption or love or discrimination.

After seeing her perform in Copenhagen, Denmark, Nakaaya was invited to speak at a conference about music development in "third world" countries. That moment of serendipity put her in front of music executives, including one from the label who signed her. Sony Music will re-record Nakaaya's album for an international audience, and the second release will launch in Dubai this month. "We want to start with Middle East, where East African music is becoming bigger every day, then we can do other launches in different parts of the world, Tanzania included," Nakaaya says.

Keep an eye out for this one, folks!

by Mandy Van Deven
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