Music Groups – A to I | Music Groups – J to Q | Music Groups – R to Z

JKU Steel Band

From an African island tradition far away in the Caribbean, the steel band tradition has come to East Africa where it is laying down new musical roots. The 15 pan players deliver fresh renditions of classical styles as well as playing Caribbean & African rumba, reggae and taarab.


Kikundi cha Sanaa Mafunzo

One of the oldest cultural groups on the island, with many cultural activities. The group is always busy, entertaining at social ceremonies and other functions. For festivals they can showcase a variety of styles, including the “beni” local brass band style, which has made a massive resurgence of popularity recently in Zanzibar, as “mbwa kachoka”.

Kikundi cha Taifa cha Taarab

This is a group composed of various artists from different taarab orchestras and groups from both Unguja and Pemba islands of Zanzibar. La creme de la creme, this group of multi-talented artists, from usually “opposing” orchestras, only comes together for very special occasions. With all the legendary taarab musicians from the islands on stage at the same time, appearance of this group brings guaranteed satisfaction to classical taarab lovers with soul food a plenty!

Mahfudh Ali Mahfudh & Kipepeo

Mahfudh Ali, originally from Zanzibar, spent most of his life in USA and UK, where he is better known as Kamilo of group Kipepeo (Butterfly) which was making inroads in the rock and indie charts. A regular hit at the annual ZIFF Festival where he works with artists from Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania and usually elsewhere besides. Since returning to Zanzibar three years ago, Mahfudh’s poetical and liberating music has been greatly inspired by everyday life, friendships, emotion and political happenings. Last year Mahfudh’s shows were full of surprises, as he jammed with Indian tabla players from one minute to Gambian kora players in the next. Expect fire – and passion in abundance.

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pic: Mahfudh Ali Mahfudh by Yusuf Mahmoud

Malindi Taarab (see Nadi Ikhwan Safaa)

Mila na Utamaduni  (see Culture Musical Club)

Mtendeni Maulid Group / Maulidi ya Hom

The Maulidi ya Homu is a visually spectacular and spiritually uplifting experience that, once witnessed, will never be forgotten. In the 21st Century there are only three remaining groups in the world practising this religious artform – all based in Zanzibar. Maulidi ya Homu comes from a centuries-old tradition with roots in the Arab World and/or Indonesia – even the people who practise it do not know for sure about its origins.

The Mtendeni Maulid Group is the oldest surviving group, led to date by Ustadh Majid Said Mansour, who founded the group in the mid-1960s. He says that the group was supported financially during its early years by the late Abeid Amani Karume, first President of Zanzibar, who appreciated the cultural importance of preserving this unique tradition, largely unknown by the outside world.

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pic: Mtendeni Maulid Group by Javed Jafferji

For several decades the group had no financial support and only survived due to the perseverance of its leader and founder, as well as the fact that the people of Zanzibar clearly hold the tradition close to their hearts and turn out in thousands to witness the shows when they perform at Islamic religious festivals. The first time the group performed at an arts festival with many non-Muslims in attendance was at a recent ZIFF Festival of the Dhow Countries, where the group received audience choice as best performance out of more than sixty groups who participated. For many years both women and men participated in Maulidi ya Homu performances, but these days it is mostly performed only by men, who make a spectacular sight on stage in their white kanzu and kofia (traditional Zanzibari Muslim dress). The songs are always played at night time and are based around religious texts, praising Almighty God and the prophet Mohammed.

The musicians play only percussion and are arranged on the floor or kneeling in a line with the dancers, starting very softly and almost motionless as the music and singing slowly unfolds and encapsulates, weaving its spell among both artists and audience. Slowly the rhythm and music builds in intensity, until the right moment, when the musicians take everything to another completely higher level.

Nadi Ikhwan Safaa (Malindi Taarab)

Founded in 1905, this orchestra can probably trace its roots back further than any other orchestra in Africa. Every known musician from Zanzibar has at some point or other performed or played with “Malindi” (as they are also affectionately known) and recently they are enjoying a strong revival in popularity with the local population. Celebrating their 98th birthday this year, this gathering of hobby musicians from all walks of life is still going strong and you can expect a soulful and uplifting performance brimming with life – no senile weaknesses here! This is taarab in its original beauty – delicate poetry, outstanding vocal performances, which reveal in their elaborate ornamentation the close connection to their Arabic roots, and finely chiselled instrumentals. Love, companionship, friendship, the enjoyment of music, the pains of sadness, all find expression in the moving performances and the sweet sounds of their orchestral arrangements. Idi Farhan, one of their oldest and most respected members sums it up: “It goes to the mind and then to the heart and to the blood and you feel happy at the end.”

Recordings: ‘Music of Zanzibar, Vol 2’ : Ikhwani Safaa Musical Club’ (Globestyle, 1988) and many local cassette releases

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pic : Idi Farhan of Malindi Taarab by Hildegard Kiel

Nia Safi Ngoma Group

Zanzibar traditional music and dance group, playing best of local music styles, including kibati, bomu, lelemama, gonga and more.

Recordings: Zanzibar Music Collection (Heartbeat Records, 2003)

Pafmeka Ngoma Troupe (Boha)

One of the big hits every year at the ZIFF Festival, Pafmeka Group give a storming repertoire, showcasing a variety of ngoma and dance styles from mainland Tanzania as well as the islands of Unguja and Pemba (Zanzibar). Featuring local ngoma hero Boha on vocals, who when he gets going on the kibati style, leave the upcoming so-called rap artists with their chins touching the floor.

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pic: Pafmeka Ngoma Troupe by Yusuf Mahmoud

Partners Family

Duo of young rap artists coming with a new style fusion of traditional ngomas with rap rhymes. This extraordinary combination delivers a unique style for first time in Zanzibar. Using simple and traditional instruments like drums, nyanga, etc to produce fantastic beats, their music is so pure. Can you imagine msewe (a local traditional dance from Pemba) in hip hop style?