In Tanzania, pirated video copies of foreign films are a popular phenomenon but what makes it really interesting is there is a group of people in Tanzania, who are known as VJs, and they perform live simultaneous translation and commentary.

They are the people in video parlours to translate foreign films to live audiences, bridging cultural gaps between foreign films and local audiences. Live. Real-time. And with a twist.

The video jockeys usually stand or sit for the entire length of the movies from Hollywood, Bollywood or China and narrate them with energetic humour and re-enact the dialogues with unique context and anecdotes that are much closer to the everyday life of Tanzanians.

Bollywood has been enchanting audiences all over the world with its vibrant music, dance, and dramatic storylines, and Tanzania is no exception. The influence of Bollywood in Tanzania can be seen from the bustling streets of Dar es Salaam to the serene shores of Zanzibar.

The origins of Bollywood’s popularity in Tanzania can be traced back to the 1960s, when Indian films were first introduced to the country. Tanzanians were immediately drawn to the colorful and melodious films that offered a glimpse into Indian culture.

Between 1960 and 1980, Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Madhubala, and Nimmi all gained widespread recognition in Tanzania. Sundays theaters in the city that screened new Bollywood movies run to packed audiences.

Yet when the video narrators take over, the real movie dialogues go by the wayside and the local VJs’ narration takes the lead. Local influences are added to Hollywood and Bollywood films to increase their appeal to local audiences.

This low-cost form of film narration became a cultural phenomenon in rural Africa where otherwise people cannot afford a foreign film experience. VJs of Tanzania are the living subtitles of the community.

They say art imitates life. Each of our lives is a story waiting to be told, a movie perhaps waiting to be made.



  • Matthias Krings, Turning Rice into Pilau: the Art of Video Narration in Tanzania,
  • Laura Fair, They stole the show!: Indian films in coastal Tanzania, 1950s1980s, Journal of African Media