In Conversation With . . . Alex Kajumulo, Part II

Alex Kajumulo is a Seattle-based recording artist and producer at Babukaju Records. His song ?Maza Africa? was a finalist in the 2007 International Songwriting Competition.

His songs and live performances are vibrant and joyful celebrations of love and justice. Kajumulo freely mixes musical genres in his songs and actively seeks collaborations with musicians all over the world. He is currently getting ready for an African tour that will include stops in his home country, Tanzania.

Recently he took the time to chat with Wanda Waterman St. Louis about his life and his music. (For the first part of this interview, click here.)

Entering the World of Sport

After my uncle left the village we never heard from him again, and we couldn’t find him. My uncle loved soccer, so it occurred to me that if I played soccer maybe I could find him.

When I got a little older my mother called me and I went to the city (the capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam) to stay with her. People who saw me play soccer started to pay attention. And I went on to play soccer all over the world. Now I teach kids how to play soccer.

In order to be creative I simply observe and analyze things. I make up a song in my head and when I am ready I go into the studio and record it. I don’t write anything down; I have a bush head. In the bush you have to program everything into your head because you have nothing to write with.

I don’t want to say that songwriting is easy, because that sounds cocky. But it does come naturally to me. Right now I’m working on an album called Never Surrender, with 12 songs, which I wrote in one month. The recording takes longer because I have to hire different people to play the different instruments. All my music is live, none of it computerized. I play a lot of instruments but I’m not super good at any except percussion.


I grew up with socialism in Tanzania, during the time when Nyerere was president. Now I live with capitalism.

Socialism is very good. You care for other people. Capitalism is about me me me me me me me. I do a lot of work for free. I coach soccer for kids for free. If they have no money I give them a scholarship. But the people who grew up here, they don’t do that kind of stuff. They want money. When you are socialist you look after your neighbour. In America there are a lot of greedy people. The music corporations, they wanted to sign me, but I refused. Now I have my own record label.

First Clothing a Maple Leaf

I love Canada. When my uncle came to Toronto he sent me a Canadian T-shirt. I used to walk around buck naked and that T-shirt was my first clothing.

When I was coming to North America I arranged to land in Toronto, because I thought that if I could just go outside the airport I would see my uncle somewhere. I bought a Canadian flag T-shirt from the Toronto airport so that when I came across the Canadian border into the US I would be wearing the Canadian flag.

When I finished my first album I sent it to the 89.5 radio station in Toronto. That was the first area I sent it to, and the first area in which it became a hit. So I’m connected to Canada.

Throwing Stones at the Golden Arches

I wrote a song called ?Super Size People.? There’s a big corporation that is angry about this song?McDonalds’s Corporation?because in it I said that the big corporations are killing our children with junk food. When you want to go to McDonalds’s and buy some food they expect you to say please when they are selling you their poison.

Belief Systems

One day when I was young I stole a mango from my neighbour’s tree and the guy caught me, held onto my hand, and took me to my grandfather. My grandfather was very mad. He said to me, ?I’m not punishing you because you stole?I’m punishing you because you got caught! The man was old! How could you let yourself be caught by an old person? You embarrass me! You’re not smart enough!?

He sent me to confession. In the confessional booth I opened the little window. I went back to my grandfather furious, and said, ?You lied to me! That wasn’t God?I know that guy!?

That was the last time I went to the Catholic Church.

In Tanzania most people know my music, but even there some people have a problem with my songs. We black people fight so hard not to be hated, and then we hate other people! That’s just stupid. I have one song, ?One Love is the Law,? and another song called ?What is Love?? in which I talk about gays and lesbians. The Catholic people are very angry about these songs. They have the power to stop my music from being played on the radio because [a] lot of the radio stations are Christian.