Nyege Nyege Tapes' Duke and MCZO have been denied entry into the US.
The Tanzanian artists were scheduled to perform at the Ugandan label's US debut on Saturday, May 18th, as part of Red Bull Music Festival New York. In a joint statement on MTN Nyege Nyege Festival's Facebook page, Duke and MCZO explained that they were forced to cancel their appearance alongside labelmate Kampire at Brooklyn club Black Flamingo. They thank their agent, label, lawyer, Red Bull and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand "for supporting a month-long visa application process to perform in NY for a fee that is more than our combined families make in a year."
"But in the end," they continued, "NOTHING could prove that we did not intend to run away illegally once checked in at our Holiday Inn... The [US] consular authorities seemed to sincerely think that there was a 'better life' available for us there, that we would not resist to chase."
The singeli duo, who are based in Dar Es Salaam, gave more detail about the difficulties they faced throughout the visa process.
The current situation in America does not indicate any sign that we would find more freedom, happiness and success there, or does it? The fact that we fill stadiums in Dar Es Salaam and are loved by millions in our country, that we have a tour schedule that has us play everywhere in the world, despite being featured in the the Guardian, the Economist, FACT magazine, it wasn't enough to portray ourselves as Cultural Ambassadors. They saw us as Ambassadors who would abandon their post as soon as landed, leaving our national duty to present our culture behind and, instead, hide. That's what they saw.
In contrast to the US's policies, Duke and MCZO spoke positively about their home country's attitude towards visitors: "For now, let us invite you to our beautiful Tanzania, our city Dar Es Salaam. The $50 visa is on arrival, waiting for you. Come and see our shows, visit our studios, and we can even head all together to our Nyege Festival in September in Uganda. Feel welcome!"
To close, MCZO and Duke shared a new mix, titled "The No Visa Mix." "Make sure you listen with full volume and in clothes you can comfortably dance in," they wrote. "It's our gift to you because we couldn't make it in person."
Read their statement in full.
Red Bull Music Festival posted a brief notice on Thursday, May 16th, on the Nyege Nyege Night Facebook event page: "Due to reasons beyond the festival and artists' control, MCZO and Duke will be unable to perform."
Duke released his debut album, Uingizaji Hewa, on Nyege Nyege Tapes in March. MCZO features on the LP's opening track, "Naona Laaah." The duo are set to perform at a number of festivals around the world this year, including Unsound, The World Music Expo, Summer Nostos Festival and Saturnalia.
Learn more about Duke and MCZO in Aaron Coultate's new, in-depth feature on singeli and Dar Es Salaam. Revisit his 2017 feature on Nyege Nyege, and listen back to a segment about the Tanzanian scene from a recent edition of RA Exchange's The Hour.
Photo credit: Kasia Zacharko