By Alex Perullo
Buy Book Online View Online Media

Indiana University Press

ISBN 978-0-253-22292-3

496 Pages

PURL 3.3 | Performance: TOT Taarab performs “Kinyang’unya” (Old Hag)

Media reference: pages 91-95

About this recording

Khadija Kopa, the best-known singer in TOT Taarab, sings her song “Kinyang’unya” (Old Hag). Kopa, who began her career in 1990 with Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar, has become one of the most celebrated modern taarab singers in Tanzania. As in other taarab performances, the line of singers sitting behind Kopa plays an important role in the song by allowing Kopa to lower the microphone, act out the song, and entertain the audience with her gestures during the chorus.

Kopa deals with many interruptions during her performance. This is common during well-known songs, which are typically performed toward the end of the show, once the audience has become more comfortable with the stage and performance setting.

During the video, watch the woman in the orange shirt as she moves back and forth across the stage. When she nears Khadija Kopa, she tips her. As she crosses back, she sings the lyrics to the song. Tipping provides a means for the audience member to both thank Kopa for the song, and also signal to the audience that the song reflects how she feels about someone or some issue. 

Lyrics for  “Kinyang’unya” (Old Hag)

Kinyang’unya usitake ya watu kinyang’unya

Kinyang’unya yako yanakushinda kinyang’unya

Kinyang’unya usitake ya watu kinyang’unya

Kinyang’unya kumbe hujaboya si bure umerogwa- 

Nasikia wewe nasikia nasikia wewe wajitapa

Watu ukiwajulisha wewe ukiwajulisha

Eti n’nakuogopa nakuogopa wataka kunikomesha - 


You old hag, imitate not what others do, you old hag

You old hag, you can’t even manage your own affairs, you old hag

You old hag, imitate not what others do, you old hag

You old hag, you haven’t yet exhausted what you are capable of doing, it isn’t by chance, you must be possessed.

I hear you, I hear, I hear you stirring yourself up

You go about informing people, yes, you inform them

That I am afraid, afraid of you, since you want to thwart me.


Tanzania One Theatre (TOT) formed in 1992. It is closely, or loosely—depending on whom you ask—associated with the political party CCM (Chama cha Mapinduzi/Revolutionary Party). Tanzania One Theatre performs various genres of music, including ngoma (not shown here), kwayataarab, and dansi in a day-long event at Christmas.

TOT's shows generally begin with ngoma performances and move to kwaya, then either taarab or dansi, and concluding with the most popular genre. The most popular genre frequently fluctuates between taarab and dansi, depending on which groups have hit songs and are featured on the radio more frequently. 

The shows can last hours, although some performances feature only one of the TOT bands and are therefore much shorter. During the performance, there are also choreographed dance routines and occasionally other forms of entertainment, such assarakasi acts and comedy routines.

TOT's performance took place in Vijana Social Hall, a government establishment that often featured the group Vijana Jazz (vijana is the word for youth in Kiswahili). The hall is located in Kinondoni, Dar es Salaam, and was a prominent feature in the country's nightlife before other clubs formed in the area, such as Mango Garden.