This article focuses on narratives told by the Zaramo people of east central Tanzania, the largest ethnic group in the regions surrounding Dar es Salaam. Their tradition includes a founder-leader known as Pazi Kilama or Pazi Kibwe Banduka who is said to have come to the aid of the Shomvi, Swahili-speaking residents of Indian Ocean coastal settlements, who were being attacked by the Kamba people of Kenya. Subsequently, the Shomvi agreed to offer the Pazi an annual tribute as ongoing payment for his assistance. Analyzing the Kamba War account as both foundation narrative and historical text, it becomes possible to recover the emergence of Zaramo ethnic consciousness in the context of a bourgeoning nineteenth-century caravan economy as well as in relation to the melding of Zaramo and Shomvi cultural patterns into a precolonial mosaic society predating the rise of Zanzibar's commercial empire as a dominant power of the mid-nineteenth century.

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