Mention the name Darassa and see the response it elicits among local music lovers. If you have not heard of him, you could be the only stranger in Jerusalem.
But it is never too late to join the club.
The musician is famed for the song ‘Muziki’ that has become a club anthem in East Africa and in particular Kenya. Darassa, whose real name is Shariff Thabeet, arrived in the country on April 25 for a grand event that took place at Nairobi’s B Club.
“I am elated to finally be here after a long time and I cannot wait to set my eyes on the beautiful sites and people,” Darassa said on his arrival. His sentiments were echoed by fellow musician Ben Pol.
Darassa was first scheduled to perform in Nairobi in February but the event was cancelled at the last minute.
“By now you are aware there was a breach of contract on the part of the local promoters involved and that left us no option but to call off the show. Despite this, I am glad I was able to make it up to my fans during the just-concluded show,” he said.
The Tanzanian star dropped out of school and has no regrets.
“I dropped out of school as a Form Four student. Not that I did not study or I was scared of exams, but my heart’s desire was far from education. Who knows, perhaps if I sat for my exams I would be doing something else,” he revealed.
His decision did not go down well with his parents but “today, I am glad that not only have I made my family proud but my music pays my bills and comfortably takes care of them”.
Lately we have witnessed a number of renowned Tanzanian musicians making headlines for the wrong reasons including dealing in narcotics.
Without mincing words, Darassa described it as a big shame and a topic he did not wish to discuss in public considering its sensitive nature.
“It is sad that most Tanzanian artists have been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. I would never let that kind of trend be part of my lifestyle despite the fact that I did not finish school. It is a bad thing to be associated with drugs, but worse to be a victim,” he said.
The rising star learnt his art from pioneer artists like AY and Lady Jaydee. He sought to clear the air about his alleged sour relationship with Diamond.
“I have no hard feelings towards Diamond despite the fact that some of my lyrics from the song ‘Muziki’ have been greatly misinterpreted to mean so,” he said.
“The fact that he and I don’t sit together, take pictures, talk openly or do shows together doesn’t mean we have beef. Truth is, both of us are busy doing some great work in terms of music among other things.”
That aside, Tanzanian artists are often portrayed as people who don’t know English. Diamond was accused of ‘killing’ the queen’s language by his fans and critics alike.
But Darassa says this was a storm in a teacup.
“Kiswahili remains our national language. That is why very few Tanzanians are familiar with English but it is nothing to be ashamed of. I see nothing wrong with it,” he said.
Darassa made history when he became the first Tanzanian artist to perform in India. His recent visit to India saw thousands of fans in attendance.
“I always make sure that my fans come first in whatever I do. They make me who I am,” he said, adding that he was working on an album to be released later this year.
The musician admits it has not been easy to balance between his music and personal life.
“The one thing about my woman is that she clearly understands that I am a public figure and has learnt to cope with the challenges that may come along with that,” he revealed.
When he performed in Nairobi, Darassa lived up to the billing by his great stage presence, which comprised unique dance styles, scintillating beats and songs with powerful lyrics.
The Diamond Rooftop venue was packed to the rafters as the sensational rapper-cum-singer sauntered onto stage.
The crowd went wild when he performed ‘Muziki’ before he proceeded to bring the roof down with the hit songs ‘Kama Untanipenda’, ‘Too Much’ and ‘Utanitoa Roho’ among others.
“I am glad Kenyans were able to enjoy my music by singing and dancing along. It is a sign that I am headed in the right direction, knowing how difficult it is to impress Kenyans,” he told Metropolitan.