Sounds of the Zawoses

Danford Zawose - Photo by Angel Romero
Danford Zawose – Photo by Angel Romero


World Music Central’s Angel Romero had the opportunity to briefly interview Danford Zawose of Tanzania’s renowned Zawose Family, shortly after his press conference in July 2009 at the Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak (Malaysia).

What musical instruments does the band play?

The name of the instruments we have are the izeze, a small instrument with 3 strings. There is also an iseze 4 strings and then we have an izeze with 14 strings, that is the big izeze. And then we have the ilimba [thumb piano] and then the small chilimba [thumb piano], and then we have the ngomas and we have njuga [ankle bells].


Zawose Family ilimba - Photo by Angel Romero
Zawose Family ilimba – Photo by Angel Romero


What is the ngoma?

Ngoma is the woman’s drum, tribal. It’s a drum that they put between their legs…and we also have the kayumba, which are the shakers

What musical traditions does your group represent?

The music from Dodoma and the music from the Wagogo tribes.

During the press conference you were talking about a language that is not Swahili. Which language is this?

My language is Kigogo.

Where is this language spoken?

In Dodoma. In the place where we are now living. Some people are learning how to speak it.

Hukwe Zawose, the patriarch of the family, created a music school. Can you tell us more about the music school?

We live in family so we have lots of family in our village so we try to teach the children when they are born there.

And is this a private school or government funded?

It’s private.

Do you get any government support at all?

At the beginning Dr. Zawose, he’s our father, he was teaching in the College of Arts, but when he finished there he started to prepare the group with the family and opened the school in Bagamoyo.

Do you incorporate new elements to traditional music?

Yes, we are teaching new things like music from the Makonde. We are also playing drums from different parts of our country.


Zawose Family playing ilimbas at press conference - Photo by Angel Romero
Zawose Family playing ilimbas at press conference – Photo by Angel Romero


I also heard you talk about a festival in Zanzibar

Sauti za Busara. Always we went there. And around the world we went to WOMAD to perform there. Supported Peter Gabriel on tour. We went to a lot of places: Sweden, Japan. We were there last year in November.

Who makes your musical instruments?

Our family, like me, my brother. We learn how to make musical instruments. It’s part of the school. When you are born there you can see the music when you are a child.

Do you sell the instruments to other musicians?

Yes, we are selling them.

If someone is interested in buying some of the instruments, where can they find them?

Go to the web site,

British video producer John Simpson, who was representing the band in Sarawak added: “There is also a documentary film about the family. About the story of Hukwe and about everything else. It’s being broadcast in America on Link TV.”  Simpson runs the foundation in Tanzania for the school. “When Hukwe died, it was not completed so we fundraised money to build a theater.”

The current band members of the Zawose Family are: Ndahani Zawose, Tabu Zawose, Pendo Zawose, Esteli Zawose, Andrea Zawose, Danford Zawose, and Robert Ngoroma

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Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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