When Tanzanian singer Diamond Platnumz 31 exploded onto the African music scene in 2010 with his debut LP, Kamwambie, his sole mission was to be able to buy food for his mother. He didn’t realize that his sound and vision would go on to transform both East African popular music and the heights its regional superstar talent could reach.To date, his businesses collectively employ more than 100 people, with investments in real estate, fragrances and even a tech company. Diamond even has his own Wasafi Festival, which covers more than 10 regions in the county yearly and features local and international artists (Wizkid, Innos B, Tiwa Savage). Now that Diamond Platnumz’s profile is continuing to rise outside of East Africa, he now wants to break into American popular music.
I came from a slum area called Tandale. Even my family never expected that I would get to where I am right now. Penetrating the market and the game were very hard. I was coming up with ways I could get signed. My mom gave me a gold ring, and I had to sell that to get into the studio to pay for the first session. After recording my first song, I didn’t have enough experience. The song wasn’t that good, but it led me to my first manager, who paid for my first album. During the recording of the first album, the guy got into some finance problems. I started to hustle. It took me a couple of years, but in 2009, that’s when I had my first hit. It introduced me to the music industry here in Tanzania.
One thing I’ve learned is, artists in Africa would shine for like five years, and then they’d get lost. I figured out that if there’s a backup plan, then it’s easier to sustain in the music industry. I never wanted to do music just to get money. You can do it because you have to express something or tell a story. I used to tell the music industry in Tanzania what I’m feeling and what I wanted the industry to be like. No one understood that; they thought I was crazy or something. I had to come out with my own record label because I knew what I wanted in the music, but no one would listen. I wanted to take artists from scratch and develop them, All of my artists are doing very good.
Sometimes in the industry, things can be crazy. Ninety percent of all of the media don’t want to play your music; a lot of propaganda can bring you down. We survived through YouTube and all digital platforms. That was the right time to start our own media with both the radio and TV stations. It was hard, but I’m so proud to say the radio and TV station are number one in Tanzania. I told the government the main point is to create jobs for different youth in the streets. When I came out, nobody used dancers. I started using dancers, and now everybody follows. Then, we needed bodyguards, security and photographers. Artists used to perform and leave, but I wanted to document my concerts. I started having videographers. When I got the license, critics started complaining. Things went well, and everybody saw my vision. I started investing in different apartments, I got perfume, and I’m launching my betting company.
When I first started, we never used to have Spotify, Apple Music or iTunes here, so I started my platform, wasafi.com, so that people could download music via mobile phones. Most people here don’t have bank accounts, so they put money on their phones. I don’t want to just depend on just music; I want to leave a legacy.
The massively successful Tanzanian performer behind songs like “Number One,” “Kamwambie,” “Kidogo,” “Sikomi,” “Inama,” “Baba Leo,” “Nana” and “Jeje” took bongo flava, his native country’s genre made up of hip-hop beats; Arabic; African styles like taarab and dansi; R&B and Caribbean influences, and gave its standard “slow, heartbroken songs” more uptempo production.
Unlike his bongo flava predecessors Dully Sykes, Juma Nature, TID and Q Chief, Diamond Platnumz wanted more crossover appeal, so he incorporated more English translations into music that’s normally recorded in Swahili. The BET Award nominee’s breezy sound, celebratory vibes and catchy melodies eventually led him to cameo appearances alongside Stateside acts like Omarion (“African Beauty”), Rick Ross (“Waka”), Ne-Yo (“Marry You”) and most recently, Alicia Keys (“Wasted Energy”).