Ikhwani Safaa Music Club

Music of Zanzibar: Taarab 2

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This is the second of a four-part set by Globestyle and its affiliated labels covering the taarab music of Zanzibar. Taarab is essentially a syncretic style of Muslim musics on the African coast mixed with heavy influences from Indian film music, Egyptian and Lebanese musics, and the like. This album, from the Ikhwani Safaa club, shows off the basic sounds of the genre. The club is a musical institution on the small island, founded by the sultan of Zanzibar in 1905. Women were allowed to join after the revolution of 1964. Now the sound is full and definitely shows its influences from the rest of the African coast, the gulf, and the far-off subcontinental styles, though the language is still largely Swahili in origin. The music is highly flowing, with a clever rhythmic structure backing the whole of the songs. While the usual harmonium is missing, there is a more standard organ to replace its position in the ensemble. The singers, of both genders, are outstanding, with surprising clarity and vocal ranges. For anyone wishing to look into the many, many facets of taarab, this is one necessary stop along the tour. Others would surely include the taarab of other countries, including the strong Mombassa tradition. Still, though the picture is not complete, this is an album worthy of being heard by all interested parties.

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