Beni ya Kingi (Brass Band Mbwa Kachoka)
Let freedom ring! Zanzibar’s hottest brass band plays popular wedding music with a strong focus on rhythm and dance, and audience participation. Beni ya Kingi borrows choruses from the latest taarab hits and arranges them in extended medleys – in carnival spirit with more than a hint of jazz.
Bi Kidude is an institution on Zanzibar, and remains East Africa’s greatest living musical legend. The doyenne of Zanzibar taarab, she also plays other musical styles including more ngoma-based unyago and msondo. Kidude started out her musical career in the 1920s, and learnt many of her songs with Siti bint Saad. As Bi Fatuma binti Baraka (Bi Kidude) herself says, “How can I stop singing? When I sing I feel like a 14-year old girl again.”
This intriguing and inspiring woman is a repository and leading exponent of Swahili culture. Bi Kidude’s shows last year at the Swiss EXPO were a national sensation. Her artistic talents were acknowledged by ZIFF at the second festival in 1999, when she was awarded “Lifetime Achievement Award for Contribution to the Arts.”
Recordings: ‘Zanzibar’ (Retro Afric), ‘Machozi ya Huba’ (Heartbeat Records)
Contact: Tel: 0747 475001
Black Roots Cultural Group
Black Roots Cultural Group have been immersed in the islands’ arts scene for many years. Apart from their usual drama plays, these days the group is reinterpreting local traditional dances. The potent messages they convey through their drama reach all levels of society in Tanzania and is a main reason for their success, as well as the popularity of their weekly TV plays. With leadership and guidance of the charismatic Othman Mohamed (Makombora), the most famous actor in the Zanzibar islands, Black Roots is more mature and focussed.
Award-winning dj selector and pioneer of the new wave taa-rap style (taarab + rap). Started in rap music in 1995, with various groups but went solo, deciding to forge new territories rather than follow other local hiphop artists many of whom imitate American rap music. Cool Para is resident DJ at Bwawani Hotel’s Komba Disco.
Culture Musical Club (Mila na Utamaduni)
Culture Musical Club is not only the largest, but also one of the most prolific and successful orchestras of Zanzibar and they present taarab music, Swahili style at its best. In addition to innumerable performances in Stonetown, villages of Zanzibar and on Tanzania mainland, this group has toured internationally with outstanding success and has won over audiences in France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, the Arab Emirates and Reunion with their lush sound and utterly dedicated performance of songs and instrumental solos. They perform new compositions on a regular basis and have developed a distinct and uniquely Swahili style. Their CD releases have made the name Culture Musical Club known to audiences throughout the world so that rehearsals in their club house have become somewhat of a tourist attraction. This, however, does not interfere with the first and foremost aim of their social gathering – namely to enjoy music and to be moved by it. So sit back and let the rich orchestral sounds, the inventive songs and the joy of the music transport you!
Recordings: Spices of Zanzibar (Network Medien, 1996); Bashraf (Dizim, 2000); The Music of Zanzibar (Globestyle, 1988)
East African Melody
Leading exponents of the so-called modern taarab phenomenon, Melody never fail to upset the purists with their ‘rusha roho’ musical style and mipasho lyrics, breaking all the taboos of subtlety which is usually present in more traditional taarab music. In constant demand throughout East Africa and the Gulf States where they often perform, cassette sales of this group outstrip the market for all local artists.
Flying Stars Acrobats
Flying Stars were founded back in 1990 and give a lively show highlighting their exceptional skills in acrobatics and dance. Their recent tour in Botswana and other Southern African states, enable them to show new skills and techniques they learnt on the road. The group has already visited Kenya, Mozambique and Malawi.
Recently established group with nine artists, fusing local traditional music with modern styles. Using a Galaton guitar, local ngoma drums, chelewa and marimba, the group produces a unique music style which they describe as Afro Folk. They have been performing in concert halls, social functions and in tourist hotels around Zanzibar. The group expects to release its first album, Pesa, later this year.
G-Clef Taarab Band
Mohamed Issa Haji, named after his famous musician-father “Matona”, formed his band G-Clef in 1995 and they have since earned their merits not only by their unrelenting performance schedule, but also their vast experience in different styles and different venues. First and foremost G-Clef plays taarab, or a modern version of this style, fondly known as rusha roho, and they are one of the most sought-after bands for entertainment at weddings. The excellent singers know their repertoire and they know how to move an audience. This is music to dance or listen to – they have all facets of the spectrum down. For taarab with a twist, don’t miss G-Clef!
Halikuniki Comedy Group
The two most famous comedians in Zanzibar, Halikuniki and Sekembuke with other artists are great entertainers with their popular comedy plays. Well known throughout Zanzibar, with people of all ages, Halikuniki and Sekembuke participate in a variety of ceremonies and guarantee to leave you helpless with laughter.
Imani Ngoma Troupe
Imani Dancing Troupe’s aims include reviving and developing some of the many ngoma and dance styles from Zanzibar and Tanzania, and to promote them at an international level. As well as using ngoma (drums) in most of their performances, they also use other local instruments, including zumari (horn), violin and sanduku (tea-chest bass) for specific songs. Among the dances the group play are msewe, kyaso and gonga from Pemba island, tukulanga from Unguja island, lizombe from Ruvuma region, mangaka and sindimba from southern regions of Tanzania.
Imani Ngoma also have much experience in leading traditional drum and dance workshops – highly recommended.