The Chanzo is hosting Digital Freedom and Innovation Day on April 20, 2024. Register Here

Close this search box.

Nay Wa Mitego: Artist Who Speaks Truth to Power Battles With Authorities’ Attempts to ‘Silence’ Him

Authorities have banned several of his songs; now they’re allegedly targeting his live performances.

subscribe to our newsletter!

Dar es Salaam. Speaking of Tanzania’s top music artists, Nay Wa Mitego is the name that cannot be missed on the list. A Hip Hop and Bongoflava artist, Nay identifies himself as the ‘President of Manzese’ or ‘President of the Street’.

Manzese, a working-class neighbourhood in Dar es Salaam, is where Nay wa Mitego grew up. With a population of about 62,251, Manzese is synonymous with the struggles of the have-nots in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial capital.

Moving along the streets of Dar es Salaam, you hardly miss several steps in busy streets without hearing the voice of Nay wa Mitego from stalls, public transport, pubs, and others. Somehow, somewhere, you will hear his music.

But listening to the radio, you can only hear some of his best works; recently, most are features. It all comes to his music, which appears to put him at loggerheads with the National Art Council (BASATA).

A state agency tasked with the role of promoting Tanzanian arts, BASATA has been increasingly becoming the regulator of art, picking and dissecting arts that are supposed to be played and some that are supposed not to be played.

Troubles with regulators

Nay wa Mitego is now in a deep struggle with BASATA, the problem that started when he released a song titled Amkeni, which translates into Wake-up in English. On September 02, 2023, the artist complained that he was denied a permit to perform by BASATA, costing him millions.

The song came when the government was under pressure following a controversial contract with Dubai, which would see the Emirate’s multinational entity, DP World, operate, develop, and improve Tanzanian ports.

READ MORE: Unlocking the Potential of Independent Music in Tanzania: A Shared Responsibility

In Amkeni, Nay criticised the port deal and took a shot at the government, parliament, and the media.

“Everything is clear; your mother is protecting thieves; even with the [Controller and Auditor-General] CAG, there was no action,” the artist raps in the song, which has been a hit.

“You tax everything, and you still take loans daily; moreover, you have sold the port to the Arabs with a never-ending contract,” Nay raps in the song, which has racked up 1.8 million views on YouTube.

Mass appeal

Nay wa Mitego seems to have found an ingredient that makes his songs appeal to a broader audience, even when they contain hard political messages.

“Our leaders are Panya Road [local bandits] in suits, and taxpayers are saluting them,” he raps in his five-minute track. “Tanzania media is stuck; there is no creativity in them anymore, and they don’t build the capacity of their talent; they only go for popularity. Our parliament is a fraud, Speaker is fraudulent, parliament has remained just a name.”

BASATA and the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) have banned Amkeni. But this is not the first song from the artist that authorities take issue with. Others include Wapo, banned in 2017, Alisema banned in 2018, Mama banned in 2021, and Tozo banned in 2022. All these songs have strong political messages.

READ MORE: Zanzibar to Host Major Festival of Black Arts and Culture

In its memo to the media, the government said that Amkeni “pits the people against their government, and it incites people not  to receive government development plans positively.”

‘I’m being silenced’

Now Nay Wa Mitego is under duress and frustrated by the fact that he had to cancel two of his shows, with BASATA, who is allegedly behind the decision, failing to provide him written notice.

“This is to inform my fans in Njombe and Makambako [that]  I was supposed to do a show yesterday, September 2, and today, September 3, I was supposed to perform in Makambako,” Nay said in a video statement posted on his Instagram page.

“Despite being there on time, I couldn’t perform due to some challenges,” he added. “The issue is that the people involved in issuing permits for the show claimed that BASATA has directed them not to give me any permit.”

Contacted on Tuesday for comment, BASATA Executive Secretary Kedmon Mapana said: “He is the one who should speak, we don’t work on the internet. You should ask him those questions. We will not respond to things that are on the internet, and we will not delve into the Nay Wa Mitego issue. We have other responsibilities in building the nation.”

People’s voice

During an interview with The Chanzo, Nay Wa Mitego described the authorities’ measures against him as an attempt to silence him.

“I will put this straight; this might be part of the efforts to silence me,” he said. “But I want to remind people in power I am not a politician, I am a musician.

“And I chose to become the voice of the Tanzanians who do not have a voice. I chose to help those in power, to hear the real problems of their voters. They should receive what I say in my song positively,” the artist emphasised.

READ MORE: ‘War is Not the Answer’: African Star Diamond Platnumz Take on ‘Wars’ in His New Song

In a series of Twitter posts, a prominent lawyer, Jebra Kambole, said that authorities were targeting Nay wa Mitego without giving him the right to be heard.

“Nay received his summon [regarding Amkeni] by email on July 27, 2023,” Mr Kambole said. “He was required at BASATA around 9 am in the morning [but] he was in Mbeya, so we asked for another date. They didn’t respond but went on to ban the song.”

“On August 25, we appealed to the Minister, and on August 28, 2023, BASATA called him and asked him to come without his lawyer,” Mr Kambole added.

Right to be heard

Mr Fulgence Massawe is a senior advocate at the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), a leading human rights organisation in Tanzania, who underscored Kambole’s point that authorities were targeting Nay Wa Mitego without hearing from him.

“[In this case] BASATA is the petitioner, the prosecutor, and the judge,” Mr Massawe told The Chanzo during an interview. “There is a need for an independent body to handle these types of complaints.”

Nay Wa Mitego told The Chanzo that he remains optimistic that he will be allowed to continue his artistic work. But nothing explains his ordeal as the chorus in his now-banned Amkeni song.

“We have opened our eyes, and yet we do not see my country people,” the chorus goes. “The wind is strong, and the ship is sinking. The journey is still long, but we will win. This requires faith. We will cross the desert to reach the promised land, which is still far away. Wake up, wake up.”

Digital Freedom and Innovation Day
The Chanzo is hosting Digital Freedom and Innovation Day on Saturday April 20, 2024 at Makumbusho ya Taifa.

Register to secure your spot

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *