News from the Stairwell

The weblog of The Stairwell Sisters – All-Gal Old-Time String Band

Steph’s Last Tanzanian Post – Bday Dream Comes True!

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We’re all so happy for (and envious of) Steph! See excerpts from her post below -

…one (dream) was to go to the office of Radio Tanzania, the national radio station, which has a large collection (157) of field recordings of tribal music, which they sell on dubbed cassettes (poor quality, sadly) for $1.00 each. I got 12.

Thanks to Keith, several months before I came to Tanzania I had the opportunity to hear a CD of some traditional music from the Gogo tribe. The people are called Wagogo. That music instantly captivated me and I couldn’t believe my ears. I loved it! The Wagogo are the ones who play zeze.From the liner notes I saw that their land is in the area around Dodoma. I decided then that I was going to find the Wagogo people and play music with them! Call it a pipe dream, but guess how I spent the day before and the day of my birthday??? In a remote hamlet, not even a village, out in the Wagogo countryside, surrounded by an entire village, eager to perform their music and dance for me! They hoped, of course, that I could help them get a recording and more support, I told them I couldn’t and that I was there as a fellow musician interested to share music with them, although I did contribute money and beer to the various choir leaders. I also wanted to give them Sisters’ CDS, but they didn’t know what CDs were. My driver said he would copy the CDs onto tapes and give them to the musicians. And if anyone has any ideas about helping Zeze orchestras, talk to me!


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I felt like I was in a national geographic movie. Imagine being in front of the orchestra, along with a large group of people dancing and singing, and then the rest of the village crowded around. It was unreal. And, to top it off, at the end I played several tunes on my fiddle for them, surrounded by a hundred listeners. As we were leaving, they asked to hear the tape, so we put it in the car’s tape player and blasted it (as high as the lousy fidelty would allow). All hundred gathered around the car, it was a sight!

Attached you will see one of the older girls’ drumming corps (you may notice that they hit each others’ drums, too), and a cute one of the youngest girls dancing with the rest of the village to the zeze orchestra. Finally, a shot of one of the two orchestras that played for me.

See many of you soon, Love, stephanie



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