Music Essays on Bi Kidude: The Relationship between Music and Culture

Bi Kidude: The Relationship between Music and Culture


Music is an essential part of culture in any nation. The evolution of music in any specific country symbolizes key changes in the cultural practices of that country and can be an indicator of strengthening or decaying moral values. Elements of music such as the tones, videos and cultural intonations affect cultural changes significantly. For instance, Duke (par. 3.5) outlines the ways in which music can affect cultural values through impacts such as therapy and catharsis. The Tanzanian culture, like any other national culture, has undergone significant transformations over the past years. As an indication, music from the country can be used to provide a general outlook into the influential factors that have changed the Tanzanian culture and how the national culture of Tanzania has impacted the type or content of music produced in the country. A cross temporary analysis of Bi Kidude’s music will thus be conducted in this paper to provide a general outlook on the impacts of culture on music and vice versa.

The study thus attempts to answer the following questions:

  1. How has the culture of Tanzania changed through the years?
  2. What have been the impacts of the culture changes in the music industry – particularly with reference to Bi Kidude’s music?
  3. How does music impact on the national cultures of a county?

Background: Bi Kidude and Tanzanian Culture

Bi Kidude was a legendary Tanzanian musician who at one time was considered the oldest singer in history. Born around 1910, Bi Kidude lived through many years of cultural renaissance and can be considered to be a perfect representation of evolving music in a changing cultural world. The impacts of the cultural changes on her music were not only felt by the Tanzanian but also across the world as her voice spanned the music industry for more than 50 years. According to Ewens (par. 3- 4), the original compositions made by Bi Kidude and another old age singer, Binti Saad was of the Dumbak type, which essentially consisted of traditional drums and voices. The changes in the taarab music category eventually led to the realization of the pre-modern taarab, comprising of violins, flutes and an assortment of Arabic instruments which were used mostly in the later years of Bi Kidude’s life and musical career. The legend began performing music at a time in history where male patriarchy was dominant and the main themes of their songs consisted of renunciation of male sexual behaviors. This was followed by a period of industry dormancy, during which Bi Kidude mostly participated in the Swahili cultural dances during female rites of passage.   This culture eventually faded away as Bi Kidude also shifted from the more private cultural dances to elaborate national and global music performance with the twinkling stars band (Ewens par. 6).

Ebeli (466) describes some of the cultural changes that have taken place in Ghana and their significance to the musical industry. Like in Ghana, Tanzania has also undergone periods of cultural changes characterized by shifts from retrogressive cultures such as female genital mutilation, lack of equality in gender considerations and strict adherence to cultural values. Through the years, the observed changes in Ghanaian music are in tandem with the changes observed in the cultural practices and values. Acceptance of certain music types across different age has also changed significantly following the changes in the cultural values and subsequent changes in the musical themes and presentation modes. The same can be said of Tanzania, especially with reference to Bi Kidude’s music, from the provocative tones used in the early years to the more generalized tones in the later years. DeJaeghere (161) describes some of the cultural changes in Tanzania and how they have impacted the education sector and the lifestyle norms of the people. These changes reflect the changes that are observed through years of Bi Kidude’s music.

Research Findings

The history of Bi Kidude exemplifies changes in the music types and themes as driven by culture or vice versa. In line with Duke (16), music can be an important driver of cultural change in many ways. In particular, musical themes developed through the persistence of artistes can push for societal changes towards certain types of cultures. While it is probable that Bi Kidude’s music changed due to cultural changes, it is also possible that the changes in culture were born of the persistence of the artistes of the time. For instance, Bi Kidude’s music on male dominance came at a time when the culture of male chauvinism and dominance had taken root in Tanzania. Changes from this culture only came later after the music. This is an indication that the music could have performed a role in sensitizing the society on the need for gender equality and respect for the female gender. On the other hand, the participation of Bi Kidude on the female rites of passage is an indication of support for the culture. This thus means that the culture had to end first for Bi Kidude to shift her musical outlook, evidence that culture can also change the music of a country.

While culture changed the music industry in Tanzania and Bi Kidude’s music in particular significantly, various authors also allude to the impacts of technological changes on music and its acceptance. Lunsqui (11) and Shapero (21) assert that technological changes have resulted in the change of musical perceptions and how people accept music across the ages. For instance, in the case of Bi Kidude, the shift from the Dumbak music to the modern taarab can only be associated with the technological advances. This is due to the fact that without technology, the themes of the music could have changed without similar changes in the modes of music performance. As such, it can be deduced that the changes in the music were due to the combination of culture and technology, impacting on the content and the modes of relay respectively. In the You Tube video by the musical club and Bi Kidude, the changes in content can be observed through the 167 videos that cut across time.


Bi Kidude was an enigmatic personality in the Tanzanian music industry. Having lived through ages characterized by cultural and technological revolution, the music produced by this legend varies significantly in terms of themes as well as the mode of relay. The themes, based on the findings of the study are influenced by cultural changes as much as cultural changes are also affected by the themes. For instance, the shift from male patriarchy to gender equality was driven by music themes. Similarly, the music themes changed after this shift towards gender equality due to the passage of that particular cultural period. Technology on the other hand contributed to the mode of performance of music to a large extent, thereby affecting the acceptance of the music across different ages.



Works Cited

DeJaeghere, Joan. Educating entrepreneurial citizens: neoliberalism and youth livelihoods in Tanzania. Taylor & Francis, 2017.

Duke, Selwyn. Influential beats: the cultural impact of music. The New American, 9 January 2014.

Ebeli, Eva A. Indigenous musical culture in Ghana: A contemporary perspective. The International Journal of Humanities and Social Studies 3, 7(2015): 463- 468.

Ewens, Graeme. Bi Kidude orbituary. World Music, 2013 April 17. Retrieved from

Lunsqui, Alexandre. Music and Globalization: Diversity, Banalization and Culturalization. Filigrane. Musique, esthétique, sciences, société. [En ligne], Musique et globalisation, Numéros de la revue. 2012.

Musical Club and Bi Kidude. You Tube Videos. Retrieved from

Shapero, Dean. The impacts of technology on music star’s cultural influence. The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications 6, 1(2015):20-27.