Msafiri Zawose is a Tanzanian composer, multi-instrumentalist, and bandleader. He is a pioneer of Gogo-fusion music that takes the traditional folk style of Gogo and weds it to modern rhythms and production styles.
His last name is synonymous with the Tanzanian Gogo tradition.
Born in 1982 the fifth child of Dr. Hukwe Zawose (the 20th century Gogo giant whose own pioneering work led to global recognition, tours, won the WOMAD Festival, and led to a collaboration with Michael Brook on Assembly), his family heritage dictated he be surrounded by musicians. By 13 he had already mastered the Gogo instruments including the zeze, ngoma, ndono, flute, kalimba, and ilimba, and he was also composing. He picked up the marimba at that age as well. By 15 he had already toured his nation and much of the African continent, and by 18 he'd traveled to Japan. Zawose began recording only after his father passed in 2003. Vowing to continue the family legacy, he issued his debut self-titled album of traditional Gogo a year later. The album registered on Tanzania's charts and prompted him to begin traveling with his own ensemble. He followed with the full-length album Dawale Chouya in 2007. Through 2011, Zawose continued making traditional Gogo, but in late 2012, he began fusing his unique style with modern electro-acoustic sensibilities (including jazz and Latin piano and loops) but with the Gogo instrumentation and singing always at the forefront, as attested by 2013's Mbotela and 2014's Tanganyika. 2016's Tija, with its large choruses, trance-like guitars, and piano montunos joined with Gogo melodies in a fusion record unlike anything he'd done before. Its critical reception brought him to the attention of Miles Cleret's Soundway label. He worked with the non-profit Santuri East Africa initiative, a non-profit cultural NGO that strives to create fresh, dynamic, new music with a strong regional identity; the organization facilitates collaborations between musicians, DJs, and electronic music producers with the purpose of supporting and nurturing a spirit of artistic adventurousness, bridging the gaps between traditional artists, instruments, rhythms, cultures, and the cutting edge of the global underground music scene throughout east Africa. In August 2016, Santuri traveled to Bagamoyo on the Tanzanian coast with SoundThread's Sam Jones, known for his celebrated work with Orlando Julius, Mugwsia International, and Sarabi. Jones and Zawose worked sun-up to sundown for two weeks creating the album's foundation. In June of 2017, the single "Nzala Urugu" was offered to streaming services and drew excited critical notice. It was followed a month later by the even more rapturously electronic "Pole Pole," and the album Uhamiaji in August. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi