Msondo Ngoma: Story of Tanzania’s most influential dance music group

Msondo Ngoma (formerly known as NUTA Jazz Band, renamed Juwata Jazz Band, and then OTTU Jazz Band) is an influential and long-lived Tanzanian dance music band. Having been established in 1964, it is the oldest active dance/jazz band in Tanzania. 

History 

The band began in 1964 and was originally named NUTA Jazz Band, after its sponsor, the National Union of Tanganyika Workers (NUTA), which was the sole trade union in the country. 

In the 1960s, NUTA Jazz Band was very influential both artistically and in terms of financial organization; it was one of the first dance bands to constitute itself into a cooperative of salaried musicians (a model that would become widespread in the 1970s). The jazz band was initially led by trumpeter-cum-singer Joseph Lusungu and saxophonist Mnenge Ramadhani, who defined the brass-centred sound of the band. 

It held its position as one of the biggest musical groups in the country from the word go in 1964 and maintained that position and popularity throughout the latter half of the 1960s and most of the 1970s. 

In 1977, it experienced a major change in personnel, with many of its most talented musicians, including Muhiddin Maalim ‘Gurumo’ and Hassani Bitchuka, leaving the band to form a new ensemble, Mlimani Park Orchestra. 

That year the music group the band changed its name to Juwata Jazz Band, after the Kiswahili name of its sponsor, NUTA, Jumuiya ya Wafanyakazi Tanzania. About the same time, guitarist Saidi Mabera became the new leader of the band. He wrote several of Juwata’s hit songs of the 1980s. 

After Mabera, both Maalim and Bitchuka, who rejoined the band in 1991, became leaders. Maalim is credited with one of the major hits of Juwata in the 1990s, Usia kwa watoto. 

The band changed its name again in 1991 from Juwata Jazz to OTTU Jazz, when the trade union that sponsored it was renamed Organisation of Tanzanian Trade Unions.