|Cultural origins||Late 19th century|
Taarab is a music genre popular in Tanzania and Kenya. It is influenced by the musical traditions of the African Great Lakes, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. Taarab rose to prominence in 1928 with the advent of the genre's first star, Siti binti Saad.
According to local legend, taarab was started by Sultan Seyyid Barghash bin Said (1870-1888). He enjoyed luxury and the pleasures of life. It was this ruler who initiated taarab in Zanzibar and later it spread all over the African Great Lakes region. The sultan imported a taarab ensemble from Egypt to play in his Beit el-Ajab palace. He subsequently decided to send Mohamed Ibrahim from Zanzibar to Egypt to learn music and to play the Kanun. Upon his return, he formed the Zanzibar Taarab Orchestra. In 1905, Zanzibar's second music society, Ikwhani Safaa Musical Club, was established, and it continues to thrive today.
Ikwhani Safaa and Culture Musical Club (founded in 1958) remain the leading Zanzibar taarab orchestras.
The word taarab is a loanword from Arabic. The Arabic word طرب means "having joy with music".
After the spreading of Taarab from the Sultan's palace to Zanzibari weddings and other community events, the first famous female singer of taarab was Siti bint Saad. Beginning in 1928, she and her band were the first from the region to make commercial recordings.[ citation needed ]
Over the next several decades, bands and musicians like Bi Kidude, Mzee Yusuph, Culture Musical Club and Al-Watan Musical Club kept taarab at the forefront of the Tanzanian scene, and made inroads across the world. Playing in a similar style, Kidumbak ensembles grew popular, at least among the poor of Zanzibar, featuring two small drums, bass, violins and dancers using claves and maracas. The 1960s saw a group called the Black Star Musical Club from Tanga modernize the genre, and brought it to audiences far afield, especially Burundi and Kenya. More recently, modern taarab bands like East African Melody have emerged, as have related backbiting songs for women, called mipasho.
Taarab musicis a fusion of pre-Islamic Swahili tunes sung in rhythmic poetic style, spiced with Arab-style melodies. It is an extremely lively art form, and immensely popular especially with women, drawing all the time from old and new sources. Taarab forms a major part of the social life of the Swahili people along the coastal areas, especially in Zanzibar, Tanga and even further in Mombasa and Malindi along the Kenya coast. Wherever the Swahili speaking people travelled, Taraab culture moved with them. It has penetrated to as far as Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi in the interior of East Africa, where taarab groups compete in popularity with western-music inspired groups.
Nowadays a taarab revolutionis taking place and much heated debate continues about the music which has been changed drastically by the East African Melody phenomenon. Melody, as they are affectionately known by their mostly female fans, play modern taarab, which, for the first time, is 'taarab to dance to' and features direct lyrics, bypassing the unwritten laws of lyrical subtlety of the older groups, where the meaning of their lyrics is only alluded to, and never directly inferred. Today, taarab songs are explicit – sometimes even graphic – in sexual connotation, and much of the music of groups like Melody and Muungano is composed and played on keyboards, increasing portability for different venues. Also, the groups are much smaller in number than 'real taarab' orchestras and therefore more readily available to tour and play shows throughout the region and beyond.
Zanzibar is an autonomous region of Tanzania. It is composed of the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, 25–50 kilometres (16–31 mi) off the coast of the mainland, and consists of many small islands and two large ones: Unguja and Pemba Island. The capital is Zanzibar City, located on the island of Unguja. Its historic centre is Stone Town, a World Heritage Site.
As in other countries, the musical production in Tanzania is constantly undergoing changes. Music listened to by Tanzanians today stretches from traditional African music or the string-based taarab to a distinctive hip hop known as bongo flava.
Soukous is a genre of dance music from Congo-Kinshasa and Congo-Brazzaville. It derived from Congolese rumba in the 1960s and gained popularity in the 1980s in France. Although often used by journalists as a synonym for Congolese rumba, both the music and dance associated with soukous differ from more traditional rumba, especially in its higher tempo, longer dance sequences. Notable performers of the genre include African Fiesta, Papa Wemba and Pépé Kallé.
Stone Town of Zanzibar, also known as Mji Mkongwe, is the old part of Zanzibar City, the main city of Zanzibar, in Tanzania. The newer portion of the city is known as Ng'ambo, Swahili for 'the other side'. Stone Town is located on the western coast of Unguja, the main island of the Zanzibar Archipelago. Former capital of the Zanzibar Sultanate, and flourishing centre of the spice trade as well as the slave trade in the 19th century, it retained its importance as the main city of Zanzibar during the period of the British protectorate. When Tanganyika and Zanzibar joined each other to form the United Republic of Tanzania, Zanzibar kept a semi-autonomous status, with Stone Town as its local government seat.
Shaaban bin Robert, also known as Shaaban Robert, was a Tanzanian poet, author, and essayist who supported the preservation of Tanzanian verse traditions. Robert is celebrated as one of the greatest Tanzanian Swahili thinkers, intellectuals and writers in East Africa and has been called "poet laureate of Swahili" and is also known as the "Father of Swahili." He is also honoured as the national poet.
Following Tanganyika's independence (1961) and unification with Zanzibar (1964), leading to the formation of the state of Tanzania, President Julius Nyerere emphasised a need to construct a national identity for the citizens of the new country. To achieve this, Nyerere provided what is regarded as one of the most successful cases of ethnic repression and identity transformation in Africa. With over 130 languages spoken within its territory, Tanzania is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Africa. Despite this obstacle, ethnic divisions remained rare in Tanzania when compared to the rest of the continent.
Imani Sanga is Professor of Music in the Department of Creative Arts, formerly called Department of Fine and Performing Arts, in the College of Humanities at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He teaches courses in Ethnomusicology, Philosophy of Music, Composition and Choral Music. He also conducts the university choir.
Fatima binti Baraka, also known as Bi Kidude, was a Zanzibari-born Tanzanian Taarab singer. She has been called the "queen of Taarab and Unyago music" and was inspired by Siti binti Saad. Born in the village of Mfagimaringo, Bi Kidude was the daughter of a coconut seller in colonial Zanzibar. Bi Kidude's exact date of birth is unknown and much of her life story is uncorroborated, but she was believed to be the oldest touring singer in the world before her death. In 2005, Bi Kidude received the WOMEX award for her contribution to music and culture in Zanzibar. She was the subject of two documentaries by film maker Andrew Jones.
Congolese rumba, also known as Rumba Lingala after its predominant language, is a popular genre of dance music which originated in the Congo basin during the 1940s, deriving from Cuban son. The style gained popularity throughout Africa during the 1960s and 1970s.
Swahili culture is the culture of the Swahili people inhabiting the Swahili coast. This littoral area encompasses Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique, as well as the adjacent islands of Zanzibar and Comoros and some parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi. They speak Swahili as their native language, which belongs to the Bantu language family. Graham Connah described Swahili culture as at least partially urban, mercantile, literate, and Islamic.
Swahili literature is, generally speaking, literature written in the Swahili language, particularly by Swahili people of the East African coast and the neighboring islands. It may also refer to literature written by people who write in the Swahili language. It is an offshoot of the Bantu culture.
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Siti binti Saad (1880–1950) was a pioneering artist in the taraab genre of east African music. In an era in which male singers predominated, she was a pioneer as a woman singer in the genre: she was the first woman in East Africa to record her music in an album. In contrast to previous singers who sang in Arabic, she sang in Swahili. She sang in cities of the coast of Tanganyika and Zanzibar.
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The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Tanzania:
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