Long before world fusion was a marketing category for the music industry, African, South Indian, and the Middle Eastern musical cultures commingled on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. Situated at a confluence of intercontinental trading routes in the Indian Ocean, Zanzibar provided -- and continues to provide -- a natural meeting place for polyglot sounds from around the globe. Zanzibar: Music of Celebration presents a sampling of live field recordings made on this island crossroads between 1989 and 1990. A Topic Records and British Library National Sound Archive release, it gives us a glimpse of Zanzibar's vibrant music scene by way of its two main styles: Taarab and Maulidi. The CD's first five cuts introduce Taarab, which is often played at weddings and other large festivals around the Swahili coast. From the lush, Egyptian-influenced sound of Culture Music Club's exotically orchestrated "Dhikrayat" to the Indian imbued sounds of Changanlal Keshavij Pithadia's "Prayer," Taarab underscores the diversity of Zanzibar's cultural makeup. Alternatively, Maulidi is customarily reserved for sacred occasions, such as celebrating the birth of Mohammed, though it too is making rounds into more secular settings. The two examples of Maulidi heard here -- Sheikh Othuma Rahman's staid "Recitation From the Koran" and Rashid Makame's strident "Kidumbak" -- reflect both the traditional and more contemporary versions. Whatever it is, Maulidi or Taarab, all the cuts on Zanzibar: Music of Celebration beam with an aura of revelry. Janet Topp Fargion's liner notes and photographs complement her unique field recordings and give use a first-rate introduction to the multifarious cultures and musics from this unique Indian Ocean outpost.
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AllMusic Review by John Vallier