Vanessa Mdee's Legacy: How the singer revolutionized the Tanzanian music industry


It's been three years since Vanessa Mdee gracefully bowed out of the music scene, and in this article, we honour her legacy by spotlighting 6 remarkable ways in which she revolutionized the Tanzanian music industry.

18th June, 2020 will always be remembered as one of the darkest days in the history of Tanzanian music. The reason? Vanessa Mdee who was by then the leading female singer in East Africa and the leading female force behind the Bongo Flava To The World movement announced her retirement in the music industry. 

The self proclaimed Cash Madame made the sad announcement in her Deep Dive With Vanessa Mdee Podcast in which cited depression and music industry pressure as the source of her decision. 

Vanessa’s exit came at a time when the Tanzanian music industry needed her the most as she was at the peak of her music career and fans were eagerly anticipating her upcoming Expensive EP which was never released. 

At the time, Vanessa Mdee, second only to Lady Jaydee in accolades among Tanzanian female artists, boasted a debut album that soared to the top of the charts, became a judge on East Africa’s Got Talent, held the title of being the most streamed female singer in Tanzania, she sure stood as the beacon of inspiration for countless emerging female artists.

During her time in the spotlight, Vanessa Mdee impacted almost every aspect of showbiz and the music industry, from how musicians create to how they release their output onto the world. 

Here is how Vanessa Mdee changed the Tanzanian music industry: 

  1. Empress of International collaborations 

From the inception of Bongo Flava in the late 1990s there is no female artist that has worked with many international artists like Vanessa Mdee. Vanessa Mdee made sharing the microphone with crème de la crème of African artists such as Mr. P, Mr. Eazi, K.ODistruction Boys, Cassper Nyovest and the likes, seem so easy. 

What's remarkable is that, much like Diamond Platnumz, these collaborations flowed organically for Vanessa. Her voice and sound had an air of foreignness and global appeal that made some Nigerian artists seek her vocals in their songs. 

READ ALSO: Adekunle Gold ft. Vanessa Mdee – Before You Wake Up (Remix)

This explains why Vanessa Mdee was not only featuring these artists in her songs but she was also being pursued by them as she was featured by the likes of Reekado Banks In Move, Orezi in Just Like That, Ice Prince in No Mind Dem and Legendary Beatz in Duasi among others. 

2. Opening A Record Label 

Five years before Nandy's launch of the all-female record label The African Princess in 2023, Vanessa Mdee had already paved the way with her imprint, Mdee Music. Under this banner, she nurtured talents like the emerging rap sensation Brian Simba and her sister, Mimi Mars.

In a Tanzanian music industry predominantly dominated by men, Mdee Music emerged as a beacon of hope. It not only elevated Vanessa to legendary status as a musician but also showcased her prowess as an executive and decision-maker. 

Despite the label now being dormant and solely housing Mimi Mars following Brian Simba's departure in 2021, Vanessa undeniably etched her name among the select few female Tanzanian artists who ventured into label ownership.

3. International accolades and awards

In a widely covered interview with the UK-based Sporah Show around 2016, Vanessa Mdee emphatically expressed her aspiration to one day win a Grammy Award.

This declaration wasn't mere talk, as Vanessa had already embarked on this path, consistently winning and garnering nominations in various esteemed award ceremonies across Africa.

Vanessa Mdee boasts an impressive array of accolades, having secured wins at prestigious ceremonies like the Afrima Awards, AFRIMMA, AEAUSA, Abryanz Awards, and numerous others. Notably, she has also been a prominent figure in nominations for esteemed award shows, including the Kora Awards, Nigeria Entertainment Awards, MTV MAMA, among others.

While Vanessa may not hold the highest count of awards among Tanzanian artists, she undeniably raised the Tanzanian flag high for female artists when it comes to international award shows

.4. Changing The Music Video Market 

If you were to converse with artists like Navy Kenzo, Nikki Wa Pili and Joh Makini they will  without a doubt tell you that Vanessa Mdee was the one that inspired them to travel all the way to South Africa and collaborate with acclaimed South African music video director, Justin Campos with the objective of producing high-caliber music videos capable of commanding significant airplay on esteemed platforms like MTV Base, Channel O, Trace Africa, and other prominent African music channels.

Vanessa stood out as one of the select Tanzanian artists who championed and embraced high-budget music videos, aiming for international resonance. It's no surprise that within her extensive music video portfolio, she collaborated with just one Tanzanian director, Director Kenny for "Bado". 

For her other projects, Vanessa collaborated with acclaimed directors like Justin Campos, Enos Olik, and Nikki Campos, as well as the renowned production house, Ogopa Videos.

Vanessa Mdee allocated approximately 20,000 USD for the production of her music video "Never Ever," released in 2015. This financial commitment set a notable precedent, prompting fellow Tanzanian artists to also invest more in crafting visually captivating productions.

5. Media Relations 

Tanzania will forever commemorate Vanessa Mdee's historic achievement as the country's inaugural Video Jockey to join the ranks of MTV Base. In 2012, her presence at MTV Base was marked by her hosting of "MTV Base Meets," a program with a noble mission: to empower and inspire young individuals across the globe by affording them the exceptional privilege of engaging with influential leaders.

Vanessa Mdee's venture into the media played a pivotal role in globalizing Tanzania and offering the world a savory glimpse of Tanzanian music. Throughout her tenure in the industry, she had the privilege of conducting interviews with an array of esteemed music artists such as K'Naan, Kelly Rowland, Mac Miller, Rick Ross, Ludacris, Miguel, Donald, Naazizi, Xtatic, Stella Mwangi, Camp Mulla, Tay Grin, Teargas, and Dr. Sid.

At the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards, Vanessa Mdee, alongside Nomuzi Mabena, took the stage to present the prestigious Best Collaboration Award and the esteemed Best Francophone Award. 

Their journey to Durban, South Africa, afforded Vanessa, in her role as an MTV VJ, a unique opportunity to engage in insightful interviews with prominent American artists such as Trey Songz, Miguel, and French Montana.

6. Brand monetization

Vanessa Mdee exhibited a remarkable knack for monetizing every facet of her career, from her personal image to her music endeavors. It was truly captivating to witness Vanessa seamlessly integrating The Mkito trademark, an online music retail platform, into her 2016 music video "Cash Madam." further showcasing her business acumen. 

Her commitment to her moniker Vee Money became evident when she introduced her subscription service, "Vee Money App," offering an intimate glimpse into her life.

Becoming the inaugural Tanzanian female artist to secure an ambassadorship contract with the renowned global electronics giant, Samsung, underscored Vanessa Mdee's unwavering commitment to elevating her brand and so was her lucrative endorsement deal with Crown Paints