Nasty Nate
Interview

Nasty Nate is Pioneering House Music in Tanzania

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Nasty Nate is pushing House music in Tanzania, encapsulated by the daily lilting “Fungua Kinywa”, as his even-more-refreshing party, “Nasty’s House” – casts its influence across the country’s niche House music landscape. More than just a DJ, Nasty Nate is becoming an avatar for dance music in his country, the kind of creative artist who not only jumps into new music ventures but also finds a way to make them work. His mission: to rope in the club audiences as well as the cognoscenti, and provide a different music experience in the Abode of Peace.

The artist born Jonathan Selengia is breaking through a moment when everything is at its infancy: African Dance music is making inroads into the global music village, Bongo music is making a leap to Swapiano. This suits him perfectly – in a position to be one of the pioneers. Offering a global perspective through sound, Nasty Nate is in his most cohesive whole in House music. A prolific and consistent individual, he has been making and uploading mixes almost virtually every single day, for the past three years.

Carrying on where others have laid the foundation (including DJs like DJ Soulful and H the DJ), Nasty Nate is taking it to the crest in 2022. Whether House music takes off in Tanzania is to be seen, but the effort is infectious. After a thousand plus mixes, Nasty Nate still finds a way to surprise you.

Sound Safari caught up with the artist over Zoom for a meeting. Our conversation, edited for content and clarity follows as below.

Sound Safari: You have been doing your mix series, “Fungua Kinywa”, every day for the past three years. What is the backstory and motivation for it?

Nasty Nate: The series started from a bit of a sad place. In 2018 I went to stay with my dad for a while as my mum was travelling. He has dementia so there’s a certain routine at home which saw me wake up earlier than usual to get things done. When I went back to Dar es Saalam, I was still getting up early which left me with half an hour to kill. At this point, I was still working 8-5 while deejaying. I figured I might as well make use of this time. Additionally, I hated my job so playing music in the morning was a great way to start the day. It was good to just listen to tunes in the morning before the harsh realities of my day job hit me. Personally and selfishly, it put me in a good mood.

Traffic is also horrible here in the morning so I knew I’d find a few people who would appreciate getting some tracks in to make their commute a bit better. The name Fungua Kinywa came from a baptism breakfast. Somebody was welcoming us, “Karibuni chakula cha kifungua kinywa” or something along those lines and that stuck with me. I combined it with the idea I had and it has been a unique way to get out my name. Horning my skills further is also part of the motivation.

How did you get into deejaying?.

My brother taught me how to in 2015 and I went to the House music route in 2017. In 2018 is when I decided this is the route I wanted to take 100%

What pushed you to House music?

It came as a bit of a surprise. I’m a Hip-Hop fan, more of the old-school than the current music, and an RnB fan. There was a natural gravitation towards House music. I got exposed to South African House music through friends. It gave me the best feeling…and House music was just, there was a very freeing musical and deejaying experience that I got from it.

What’s the first House track you heard if you recall?

It’s two tracks actually, on the same night in 2009. It might have been one after the other: “Umlilo” by Big Naz ft DJ Tira and “Sisi Nghamba Nawe” by DJ Cleo. DJ Soulful dropped both tracks and I was like “What the hell is this sound?” It was a proper experience and that made me want to learn and discover more. My discovery was a bit slow, maybe in house parties or the likes. I also got exposed to it at work, a marketing agency, through the people working at the studio.

Tell us about your experience in marketing:
I got back to Dar es Salaam in 2007 after graduating in International Relations from the University of Sussex. I got into a graduate trainee program in a bank here. In that program, you’d move from department to department to see where you liked and fit. I went through the program and after going through most of the departments I realized none of them suited. I thanked the bank and was about to leave but they asked me to try the marketing department. It was a one-person department, me making it two, and that’s how I got into marketing for the bank and threw my employment career into it. After the program, I fully got into marketing and advertising. I am currently a full-time DJ.

What are some of the things you carry from your experience in marketing?

It comes in my communication and promotion which is sorely in social media. I try to remain relevant by making my messaging clear, making it targeted as possible as well as thinking of the consumer side. Things about those who I’m talking to – what they like and what they don’t.

How does one remain relevant in a fast-paced world?

For me, relevance is providing a different musical experience and filling a space in Dar es Saalam music culture. Not everyone wants to hear the same type of music or get the same type of experience forever in their social lives. My relevance is providing an alternative in that respect. So that’s one way. Secondly, when talking about House music, getting it out there is part of my relevance. There’s an idea (in Dar es Saalam) that House music is by white people for white people. Additionally, people think of House music as background music. I am trying to debunk such beliefs while giving folks an alternative experience of musical enjoyment where House music is at the forefront.

Nasty Nate

Give us a brief history of the House music scene in Dar es Saalam.

It started around 2010, I believe, with an event called “Groove Theory” by two sets of brothers. It was a daytime event and the music policy was strictly House music. They did this for a couple of years and it helped to get folks listening. The venues were nice, there were cool hangouts and the music was great. It gave the genre more of a chance. Unfortunately, the event changed and House music stopped being a core part of it.

Then there was another big event in 2014 called “Party in The Park” where they had Black Motion, Mafikizholo and Beatenberg. There was also another one called “Sundayz” that fit the pattern. We’ve had these periods where we have a good run with House music shows then a few extended time outs. At least starting last year we are getting House music on the radio, rather Amapiano is getting airplay. Our House scene is still in its infancy but there’s been growth.

How has your experience been in pushing House music in Tanzania?

It’s been positive otherwise I’d probably have quit. Then again, I’m stubborn. In September 2018 I started an event called ‘Sip and Vibe’ with my close friend, Anesu. It was sorely Afro House and Amapiano. Some believed that it would catch on but a lot more others were sceptical. “Man, are you sure you want to go with this type of music? Are you going to get folks to get into this and are you going to play it for 6-8 hours?” There was only one way to find out. I believed it would catch on but knew it would take time. We got 50-80 people in the first event. The second one in December was a total disaster. We had power issues on top of sound and technical issues. To add to the chaos, Sauti Sol were in town for a concert.

Our idea was to get people to come to our event as a starting point and leave for the Sauti Sol concert later. People did come to our event but with the issues we had they left. We did a couple more shows and by December 2019 we had about two hundred attendees. We even managed to pull a sponsor. Things like this show there’s growth. It’s a steady thing that requires patience, I’ll tell you that. It requires consistency, tolerance and a whole lot of pushing. However, progress has been made.

What is Amapiano doing for the Tanzanian House music scene?

Amapiano is mainstream and with that the chance for people to explore other House music sounds. In regards to DJs, it has given us more chances. When Amapiano acts come to perform they’ll be at least one House DJ on the billing.

Tanzania’s version of Amapiano, Swapiano, is catching on rapidly. Talk to us about that.

Bongoflava producers are making one or two tracks for the mainstream musicians. They are not exactly House music producers, at least not on a mass scale. You can tell that for them this is a wave as the production sounds superficial. They haven’t taken time to learn the sound. When a Tanzanian mainstream act works with a proper House music producer you can tell with how the quality changes. The only Tanzanian House music producer that I know of (and rate) is Nelix. He enjoys it and is passionate about the music. Plus he is talented and because of that, his music stands out.

Nasty Nate

How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect your scene?

Nasty Nate: It affected us from March 2020 to about July of the same year. That’s because of the stance the government took at the time. Coronavirus wasn’t acknowledged at first, then it kind of was. We didn’t have official government lockdowns but some venues came up with their own rules. It was not forced on them though some regional leaders encouraged people to take protective measures. It was upon the customers and venues to manage their own risk.

Have you deejayed in Nairobi before?

Not yet. There was a plan then you guys had a lockdown. The plan is still there so I hope this year it works out. I am in touch with MGM, OneDown, Saint Evo, Tina Ador and others. I want to play in Nairobi especially since compared to our scene, we are still in our infancy. We are nowhere near where your scene is right now. The response I get in Dar es Saalam is maybe a quarter or a fifth of what I believe I’d get from Nairobi. Getting that energy will be amazing to me, probably overwhelming even. I’ve played many many gigs that were empty, or dead, or you know, just not lively. But it’s all part of the process. Deejaying there, hopefully, will be a dope experience from the energy by the crowd and being with fellow folks who have a passion for the music.

Watching the Nairobi scene from the outside, what are some of the things that we are doing right?

One of the things that you guys are doing properly is music production. You have a good number of deejays and producers who are making quality House music including the different dialects and sounds. There’s a Kenyan sound developing. The use of Swahili is very representative of the region. I’ve been asked multiple times “where are you getting these jams.” It exposes folks and helps bring them to the scene. It shows that this sound isn’t only for white people. I tell them it’s Kenyans like Idd Azziz, Saint Evo and there I get to introduce them to artists like Nelix.

Over these last two years, seeing the events and the acts you’re getting as well as the music coming out of Nairobi has been great. Knowing there’s history with what you’ve taken me through: from Paco Perez, 6 AM, Daylight Festival and all of this stuff that goes all the way back to your present-day scene answers some questions I’ve been having. One, how have you managed this, and two, we’ll we ever get there? But hey, let’s keep pushing and see how it goes!

Do you produce your music?

I do not but I know the basics of the basic – I started learning then I fell off. This year it’s a priority to have a track at least by the end of the year. I have linked up with Nelix a few times so he’s helped with that and I have one idea for a track that I think will be amazing. I can’t share it yet.

It’s top-secret?

It is. If it sounds as good when it’s made as it sounds as in my head, maaaaaan…

Follow Nasty Nate on socials: Soundcloud: (Nasty Nate TZ), Instagram: (@nastynatetz)

djfita

DJ Fita is a Kenyan DJ, music producer and music journalist. He is the founder of Sound Safari.

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