Satan’s gone! DJ plays techno taarab

MBOSSO’S new release A mepote a album is a hard-driving hit in the music of the new generation coming along with rare craftsmanship.

Mbosso, whose birth name is Mbwana Rajab Kilungi, has brought on the same stage two music genres that previously looked quite far apart. Aged months, Amepotea album is artistically deserved to be a Techno Taarab, according to the views of his multinational fans and that makes it danceable.

Most intriguing in this new release is Sitaki which looks to be most the brilliant indicator of what analysts label as Techno Taraab.

Taarab music is a fusion of pre-Islamic Swahili tunes sung in poetic style, spiced with Arab-styled maqamat scales. It is a crystal clear fusion of the traditional taarab and Amapiano, a South African style that has adapted American House and Techno genres that hit the airwaves in the mid-1980s and 90s.

“I love the Tanzanian amapiano version.. wish I knew Swahili.. love and respect from Botswana,” commented thabojotia4858 from Botswana.

“Tanzanians know how to make proper use of Amapiano Instruments even more than South Africans …good music,” says @johnke5838 From an undisclosed Spanish-speaking country, Divai Miguel Nakeuti8722 commented: “Mbosso é cantor que não tem inimigo (Mbosso is a singer who has no enemy).” Ibraheem Yacoub4390 said: “Inside the movie a song inside a song.”

While Said Abdulkadir Mjahid added: “Successfully delivered, everything on point from the audio (taarab and amapiano).

“This is really Tanzanian music. I suggest the Tanzanian musicians with their good Swahili language should follow this route in music,” commented Seleman Shidda9688.

With a pulsating call-andresponse rhythm, Taarab as per Mbosso’s innovation has opened the door to dancing and this time it is for everyone, not solely a dance for women.

Nowadays a taarab revolution is taking place and much heated debate continues about the music which has been changed drastically by the modern taarab groups who for the first time, made ‘taarab a dance music. Besides Mbosso, Allen Joshua Mlelwa has crafted a taarab-flavoured song Niacheni Niimbe.

From Watam, Mombasa, Masha Mapenzi has released Nainua Macho Yangu, a hit that deserves to be Gospel Chakacha. It is in this race to win fans in Mainland East Africa, that early music of groups like Melody and Muungano is played on keyboards, increasing portability for different venues.

Also, the groups are much smaller in number than ‘real taarab’ orchestras and therefore more readily available to tour and play shows throughout the region and beyond.

We are still waiting to see more innovations after seeing the Amapiano bass and drum kit in Mbosso’s innovation that injected call and response rhythm in once rhythm-less taarab. His innovation is almost similar to blues which has become popular after adding Cuban rhythm to form Rhythm and Blues or simply R&B as it is popularly known today.

As opposed to rhythmless blues, R&B has simple repetitive parts mesh, creating momentum and rhythmic interplay producing mellow, lilting, and often hypnotic textures. Ahmet Ertegun, producer for Atlantic Records, is reported to have said that “Afro-Cuban rhythms added colour and excitement to the basic drive of R&B.

Traditional Taarab strictly adheres to Arabic maqamat scales and doesn’t contain any kind of rhythm that governs the popular music of Mainland East Africa.

Maqam literally “rank”; plural maqamat, is the system of melodic modes, which is mainly melodic. The maqam is a melody type.

It is “a technique of improvisation” that defines the pitches, patterns, and development of a piece of music and is “unique to Arabian art music”. Shakira Saidl’s Kifo Cha Mahaba and Moyo Unacheka Macho Yanalia are the bestknown tunes adhered to maqamat scales.

Both compositions and improvisations in traditional Arabic music are based on the maqam system. Maqamat can be realised with either vocal or instrumental music, and do not include a rhythmic component. Three main musical cultures belong to the maqam modal family: Arabic, Persian, and Turkish.

Quarter tones can be notated using half-flats (half flat or flat stroke) or halfsharps (half sharp). Traditional taarab performed by the likes of Ikhwaan Safaa or Zanzibar Culture Club has been being performed either on fretless instruments like the violin or on instruments that allow a sufficient degree of tunability and microtonal control like the qanun.

If Taarab has to be played on fretted instruments with steel strings like an electric guitar, microtonal control can be achieved by string bending, as when playing blues.

If taarab has to be supported by a guitar, then rock music guitarists would fit in this setup. Let’s try Rock guitar heroes like Steve Vai in Teeth of the Hydra or Joe Satriani’s Surfing with Aliens contain some bending notes that match the traditional taarab’s prolonged harmony(ghani). Since rock guitar dwells on harmony it has never been popular in Bantuspeaking Africa whose music strictly adheres to a call-andresponse rhythm.

It is that fact that makes Vai, Satriani and other heroes of rock guitar like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page or Eddie Van Halen to remain unnoticed in Africa. So far East Africans have witnessed so many projects associated with taarab being finely executed and some of them produced wonderful works.

Prior to Mbosso’s recent innovation, Nandy and Aslay did a good job in Sabalkheri Mpenzi composed by Zanzibar’s taarab legend Bakari Abeid in 1974 and some months before Lina Sanga collaborated with Mwana FA to release Yalaiti, one of the oldest taarab classics done by Sitti Bint Saad and that rewarded both of them. In the late 1970s, Mwanza Ujamaa Taarab recorded Nkulukumbi, the first taarab song sung in the Wahaya language from the Kagera region and the hit won fans in the Western regions of Tanzania.

Also a force to reckon with in the taarab revolution was JKT Taarab’s Elizabeth Sijila whose hit Manahodha added some colours of Wagogo tribe flavour in the song brightened by Ezekiel Ganule’s tuneful Qanun play. Bakari Abeid’s Sabalkeheri Mpenzi, Yalaiti by Sitti Bint Saad, and two taarab hits; Kifo cha Mahaba and Moyo Unalia Macho Yanacheka by Shakira Said are arguably the most popular classic hits that have been sampled or re-played by several Bongo Flava artistes in the recent years. Taarab is a music genre popular in East African coastlines of Tanzania and Kenya with its core in Zanzibar.

Taarab rose to prominence in 1928 with the advent of the genre’s first star, Siti binti Saad. According to local legend, taarab was popularised by Sultan Seyyid Barghash bin Said (1870-1888) who enjoyed luxury and the pleasures of life. The word taarab means “having pleasure, delight with music”.

It was this ruler who initiated taarab in Zanzibar and later it spread all over the African Great Lakes region as depicted through the success of Shani and Jasmin musical clubs of Burundi and Mwanza Ujamaa Taarab. The sultan imported a taarab ensemble from Egypt to play in his Beit el-Ajab palace. He subsequently decided to send Mohamed Ibrahim from Zanzibar to Egypt to learn music and to play the Qanun and oud.

Upon his return, he formed the Zanzibar Taarab Orchestra. In 1905, Zanzibar’s second music society, Ikwhani Safaa Musical Club, was established, and it continues to thrive today. Ikwhani Safaa and Culture Musical Club (founded in 1958) remain the leading Zanzibar’s tradition taarab orchestras. After the spreading of Taarab from the Sultan’s palace to Zanzibari weddings and other community events, the first famous female singer of taarab was Siti bint Saad.

Beginning in 1928, she and her band were the first from the region to make commercial recordings and was the first East African to be recorded in the Bombay HMV studios, in 1928. She would go on to become one of the most famous taarab musicians of all time. Miguel Suleyman is a Tanzanian ethnomusicologist based in Dar es Salaam

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