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Documentary, Music Video

United States





This film is about the Tanzanian rhumba band, Mlimani Park Orchestra, a.k.a. SIKINDE. Active since 1978, the band has been touted by critics as one of the true great rumba bands on the African continent. The New York Times, in describing the band’s renown in East Africa, compared them in terms of popularity with the Beatles, and in terms of longevity, with the Rolling Stones. Three of the original twelve band members are still in the group, and several other original members are still active in bands in Dar es Salaam.
Sikinde performs in the popular music genre known as musiki wa dansi (literally, “music for dancing”), a variation of the Cuban-based rumba idiom that has been enormously impactful throughout central, eastern, and western Africa for the past eighty years. There are only a handful of significant musiki wa dansi bands operating in Dar es Salaam today, and those that are left compete with each other furiously in long-standing public rivalries that continue to contribute towards drawing crowds. Though the band has experienced a decline in popularity over the past decade as its fans and adherents have gotten older and younger music fans have been exposed to other international genres such as hip-hop, the group has recently experienced a notable nostalgic revival in popularity via radio shows and festivals. It is significant to note, that the tone of the film is not one of “sad, wistful nostalgia,” or one that propagates a “capture-it-all-before-it-disappears,” or “salvage ethnography” sentiment. This is a respectful endeavor that documents a vital, still-living, music performance tradition.
This film situates band members as creative agents in a local cultural context, showcasing narratives about musical life lived under state Socialism from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s (Ujamaa), and current life in the global neoliberal democratic milieu (soko huria). The film focuses on individual band members’ personalities – especially the enigmatic and charming Hassan Rehani Bitchuka, the long-time and current vocalist “star” of the band. By focusing on, situating, and interpreting aspects of their individual creative lives to include their fame, experience, expertise, connections, musical abilities, articulate demeanors, collaborative processes, performance practices, and songs, this project demonstrates further the significance of documentary film from an ethnomusicological and historical perspective.
Edited with a musicians’s timing, the film comprises rehearsal and performance footage, archival stills, and interviews with significant current and former band members, fans and fan club members, producers and engineers, managers, media personalities (Rajab Zomboko), and political figures, to include (his Excellency) Jakaya Kikwete, former President of Tanzania. The narrative arc of the film is a series of twelve themed vignettes about the workings of the group and its struggle for marketplace relevance in the twenty-first century, including “The Originators,” “Why Sikinde?,” “Remix Prep,” “The Golden Voice,” “Hasan Rehani Bitchuka,” “Survival,” “Msondo vs. Sikinde,” “Mfaume” (my man),” “Studio Remix,” “Ni Naniye? (who is the one?),” “Shemeji Issa (in-law Issa),” “Jakaya Kikwete,” and “The Future.”

Frank Gunderson


Frank Gunderson

stories about mlimani park orchestra
Film Reel
Film Reel
Film Reel
Upcoming screening:

Selections and Awards:

Munich Music Video Awards
March 15, 2022
European Premiere
Best Feature Music Documentary

Malabar Film Festival
April 14, 2022
Indian Premiere
Best International Music Documentary

2-11-17 International Film Festival
April 1, 2022
Best Documentary Feature Film

LoudSoulMusic Festival
October 9, 2022

Black Swan International Film Festival
West Bengal
April 12, 2022

Sixth Music Film Festival
June 3, 2022

Black Star International Film Festival
September 20, 2022

7th Music Film Festival
Los Angeles
June 3, 2022
United States

Saana Blast! Arts Festival
Dar es Salaam
June 9, 2022
African continent premiere
Tanzania, United Republic of

MindField Film Festival
Albuqurque, NM
August 14, 2023
United States

DRUK International Film Festival
November 23, 2022
Best Documentary Film

Rameshwaram International Film Festival
November 23, 2022
SemiFinalist, Best Documentary Feature Film

Parai Musical International Awards
November 10, 2022
Semifinalist, Best Documentary Music Video

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