Adapting to Modern Society
Adapting to Modern Times Today, there are various radio stations that are broadcasted throughout Tanzania. However, from the 1950s until the mid-1990s, Radio Tanzania was the country’s sole station, consisting of music, poetry, drama, and speeches. There are currently more than 15,000 reels of these tapes that are sitting on the shelves of the BBC building in Dar es Salaam. Reviving the Radio Tanzania Archives is a project that has a goal of digitizing and preserving these tapes before they are destroyed.
Throughout reading the booklet by the Heritage Project and after listening to the NPR segment, I noticed a common theme of indigenization of modernity. I argue that the project is using modern technology in order to preserve traditional ways. This topic has also been an important concept of the papers by Christen and Hodgson. In order to reach their goal, the people of the Tanzania Heritage project must use modern knowledge to convert the reel tapes into digital material. When they are able to make this conversion, they will be exemplifying the act of using modern ways in order to preserve traditions.
The traditions that they are preserving refer to the history that is embedded in the forms of media that were broadcasted on the radio. According to the Heritage Project, Radio Tanzania was “both a key instrument of the state and public service, used as a tool for promoting unity and national pride through music” (booklet:8). The Radio represented more than just entertainment, it was involved in politics, and social relations as well. In the NPR segment, they state that the Radio was strictly Tanzanian, a station that was sung by and for the Tanzanian people.
The station represents the purity of the Tanzanians without the influence from other institutions. In reproducing these tapes through digitization, people from all different parts of the world will be able to experience a part of the Tanzanian past. The restoration of them allows the Tanzanian tradition to live on indefinitely. Another important concern for the Heritage Project is for the future generations of Tanzania. The co-founder, Benson Rukantabula, hopes that “If we digitize the archives, they (younger generation) can know where they lost their way”(booklet:13).
By using the modern technology to preserve the archives, the project hopes to inspire future generations to create music based on traditional values. King Kiki, one of the legends of the Radio Tanzania era, still plays to sold-out crowds weekly. Another artist of the radio, John Kitime also continues to play live shows throughout Tanzania. The fact that both of these men are still playing to live audience signifies how valuable the music still is. This type of music is also known as Swahili Jazz music, and it was the most popular form of Tanzanian music from the 1960s until the mid-1990s.
One important feature of this type of music, according to the co-founder of the Tanzanian Heritage Project, is that you do not have to know the Swahili language to appreciate the music. The project believes in the universality of music, and how it crosses cultural barriers. If more of this music was available for people, then people would naturally begin to recognize the traditional rhythms and melodies of Tanzanian history. The broadcast of this music would increase the influence of traditional Tanzanian culture worldwide. The compact disc of the Warumungu women is also an example of the indigenization of modernity. The recorded songs define Warumungu women’s ancestral relations, their ongoing community status, and their continued relation to specific sets of country” (Christen:417). It is only with the compact disc, which is the product of modern society, that they are able to spread this music and their traditions internationally. To show the goal of reaching outside cultures, there is an insert that includes both English and Warumungu, in which the women voice their traditions, and explain their decision to put the disc into circulation.
This insert gives a long history to the reader, and allows them an inside perspective of Warumungu history. Along with broadcasting nationally, this music is also recognized locally, and it is a central goal of the Warumungu women to create a new generation of “red-orcher women. ” The disc was an important source of security for the Warumungu women, to ensure them that their younger generation would recognize and notice their ancestor’s traditions. In addition to the women’s desire to show their traditions to outside cultures and to their own younger generation, they were also aware of the economic benefit that the disc had for them.
Nappanangka, a senior Warumungu women said that her “expectation is that the compact disc’s circulation will increase her power as a ‘red-orcher woman’ while also helping her pay for a new Toyota Land Cruiser” (Christen:424). With the success of the compact disc, the women were hoping for recognition as well as some economic benefit; both of which would help their society. In conclusion, the Warumungu women used the compact disc in order to protect their future generations and to preserve their own customs.
The Maasai culture has experienced rapid change throughout its history. In the past, the Maasai culture was ignored because of its primitive ways. Recently, since the tourism industry has become a significant business, the Tanzanian nation-state officials have begun to recognize the Maasai, and use their authentic lifestyle to attract tourists. The Maasai have used this recognition “to their own advantage, linking current efforts to protect their lands and livelihoods and access development resources to global campaigns for the rights of indigenous peoples”(Hodgson:135).
Their cultural lifestyle is being preserved due to the modern theme of tourism. In addition, the Maasai culture has experienced a shifting of roles of masculinities over many years. Traditionally, the Maasai culture has been associated with pastoralism and a dominant warrior-like masculinity. In the past, when a Maasai adopted certain forms of modernity, they were called “Ormeek”, which was associated with weakness and ignorance. However, the word Ormeek now takes on a more positive meaning and is valued and respected.
Most of the Maasai community has learned that education is a key to the future, and Maasai men “want to educate all of their children so that they can survive in what they perceive as a rapidly changing world” (Hodgson:140). With this education, the Maasai are able to get jobs in the government, and are able to have a voice for the Maasai people. The older generation depends on the younger generation to take care of them, because of the great power that education has in their society. However, although they are adopting these new ways, many of the Maasai people continue to incorporate traditional ways into their daily routines.
The social relations of the Maasai culture have basically remained the same, although education has been a key component that has been added. In conclusion, while adapting to modern ways, the Maasai culture has still maintained many of their traditional values, while also using newfound forms of education to provide new advancements for their culture. Reviving the Radio Tanzania Archives is a project with a goal much like that of the Warumungu women. Although the world is advancing, they are trying to preserve their traditions, and make them available worldwide. They do not want to lose heir past due to changing society; they want to recreate it so it can help future generations and inspire them. The Maasai also recognize that they are living in a changing world, and they are beginning to use new forms of education in order to promote their culture to outsiders. All three pieces of work share a commonality of trying to preserve traditional means by using modern technology. Even though they are aware the world around them is unpredictable, they are not ready to forget their traditions, and step in line with modern times completely. They will use modern means in order to preserve the traditions that they wish to protect.