Hali Duni

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In the small red recording room of a local studio, a group of eight boys from Kariakoo and Tandale neighborhoods in Dar es Salaam recently sang:  


Hali Duni ya Maisha inatukaba

Vijana mtaani tuna tabika

Jamii yetu vipi awu mmelala

Vijana tunahitaji msaada


This state of impoverishment is strangling us

We kids on the streets are suffering from it

Our community, why don't you speak about it? You sleep over it

The youth need your assistance


These alarming words and tough questions form the refrain of a song coming as a message from urban youth.  It was written entirely by the boys following their involvement in the Tanzania Participatory Poverty Assessment Process.  

The TzPPA uses many techniques to gather, develop and verify useful information.  Mr. Charles Kadonya, of the Economic and Social Research Foundation, and Ms. Annette Ngaiza, of ActionAid, designed one of the most innovative and interesting of these.  They wanted to bring youth together to analyse the special difficulties faced in Dar es Salaam.  This research is difficult because it demands a lot of time and hard work to think through complex issues, such as the underlying causes of drug abuse, domestic violence, the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS and other forces depressing urban communities. The question was how to interest young people in committing themselves to such a long process... 

The answer was music.  Eight boys rose to the challenge and spent a week in their communities observing, asking tough questions, discussing and developing their own conclusions.  In other words, the boys themselves became the “researchers” responsible for writing and communicating a message from the streets to the offices of local and national policymakers. 

Mr. Ahmed Dola, who goes by the stage name of Balozi, is a well-known hip-hop star in Dar es Salaam.  He taught the boys how to transform this message into powerful rhythmic lyrics.  The result is a hard-hitting song, entitled Hali Duni, written entirely by youth from Kariakoo and Tandale. 

The lyrics are disturbing because they make us confront the terrible conditions under which many young urban boys and girls live.  Indeed, we are told that many experience great insecurity in their day-to-day lives and constantly worry about the future.  In part, this is because youth frequently feel they cannot rely on parents or neighbours for shelter or support.  Of course, many adults are similarly isolated; but it is worse for youth because they typically lack employable skills and often face age-discrimination.  So, how can they feed themselves?  According to the lyrics of Hali Duni, this is the grim reality forcing some young sisters – despite their fear of HIV/AIDS – to sell their bodies and some brothers into selling drugs.

Hali Duni is an extraordinarily mature song from such a young group of boys.  Indeed, one cannot help but be struck by the compassion with which they sing about ordinary people and the disillusionment they feel towards politicians and political processes.  As such, this song is a wakeup call for all of us; and the alarm is singing, “Hali duni ya maisha inatukaba… Jamii yetu vipi awu mmelala/Vijana tunahitaji msaada.”

In July, Hali Duni reached Number 2 in the Dar es Salaam Pop Music Charts.  The boys responsible for this remarkable song have been interviewed about the experiences and special vulnerability of urban youth on several national and regional radio programmes, as well as two television shows.