Led by virtuoso oud player Zein L'Abdin (born Zein L'Abdin Ahmed Alamoody in 1939), Zein Club has had a profound influence on the Mombasa taarab scene since the late '60s. Their sound, which incorporates such traditional rhythms as twari, goma, vugo, kumbwaya, and chakacha, was described by www.rootsandrhythm.com as "a new and appealing sound, interspersed with beautiful solo improvisations that exhibit (L'Abdin's) dazzling oud technique in classic Moorish (pre-flamenco) style." A native of the Lamu Islands, off the coast of northern Kenya, L'Abdin hails from a musical family. His father was an amateur kibangala (Swahili lute) player and his maternal uncle, Ali Baskuta, was a highly regarded oud player. L'Abdin's idyllic life was changed after the sudden death of his father in 1961. Although he enrolled in school in Mombasa, financial difficulties and family problems caused him to leave school and seek work in the city's seaport. He began to play oud after each work day. Electing to become a professional musician in 1960, L'Abdin became a regular performer at local weddings and other celebrations. He quickly built a reputation with his witty, original songs. Beginning in the late '60s, L'Abdin and Zein Club helped establish taarab as an important musical style. Many of the genre's best musicians served an apprenticeship in the group. Although the band expanded to include violin, accordion, keyboards, bass guitar, and percussion in the '80s, L'Abdin subsequently returned to the oud and hand percussion (dumbek, tambourine) approach of his earliest work.
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