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Songs Of The Bapagati (Long-Distance Porters)

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Chapter Summary

Porterage constituted one of the most ancient and massive forms of labor migration in African history. The expansion of local trade to long-distance trade was exacerbated further with the rise of the Zanzibar-based trade system, which introduced the slave trade, the ivory trade, and the European expeditions. The primary trade routes using Sukuma-Nyamwezi porters were the central route from Bagamoyo to Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika, and from Tabora north toward Buganda and Bunyoro. Music accompanied nearly every imaginable activity on the caravan, but never more than while on the road and upon the occasion of arrivals and departures. Inspiration for the large lammelophones found in the Nyamwezi region came from nineteenth-century bapagati having contacts with Congolese musicians. A common theme in bapagati song is waiting in the coastal towns for the next caravan going inland.

Keywords: bapagati song; long-distance trade; Sukuma-Nyamwezi porters



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