History will be in the making from 28 April to 3 May 2015 as the Taarab-Kidumbak Ensemble from the Dhow Countries Music Academy (DCMA) in Zanzibar travels to Harare to perform for Zimbabwean and international audiences at the well-known Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA).
While indigenous to East Africa, taarab is no stranger to travel. The music was successfully performed in India as early as 1928 and in Europe by the likes of famous singer Siti Bint Saad, Bi Kidude and instrumentalist Mohamed Issa Matona and others. The upcoming performance at HIFA will be the first time that taarab will make its way into the interior of Africa as far south-west as Zimbabwe.
Intra-African streams of music influence have had significant influence on the spreading of music traditions within Africa. One example of this is the spread of musical bow traditions that traveled with the Ngoni migration over 100 years ago, bringing these traditions from the South African coast to northern Malawi and southern Tanzania. Elsewhere, the yodel-singing traditions of the short-statured people of the Congo spread southward through sections of Central Africa all the way to the Cape. Within Tanzania, Massai song traditions greatly influencing Wagogo vocal music.
While these north-south musical migrations took place many years ago, there have been little similar east-west musical migrations. This is why the upcoming concert tour by the Taarab-Kidumba Ensemble of the DCMA in Zanzibar is so significant. While Zanzibar music has been greatly affected by the music of the Portuguese from the 1500s to the 1700s, the Arab traditions from the 1700s to the 1900s and the European/American traditions since 1900, the music of Zanzibar has had little opportunity to influence other music traditions. Exceptions to this are the music traditions of the Comoro Islands in the southern Indian Ocean, which has been greatly influenced by Zanzibar taarab and other Zanzibar music traditions, and some early Indian/Persian music traditions from Zanzibar, which spread in northerly directions into Uganda.
Now, the taarab music of Zanzibar, greatly influenced by the café music of Egypt 150 years ago, will be brought to Zimbabwe for performances at HIFA. This will quite possibly be the first time that the taarab and the kidumbak traditions of Zanzibar are performed this far west of the East African coastline. The 10 musicians from the Dhow Countries Music Academy will make this historic safari and will put on four performances in Harare: two major performances, a street performance in the middle of Harare and a school workshop in taarab drumming, dance and song.
With this historic tour the DCMA aims to enable people from Zimbabwe and elsewhere to learn more about music-making, music training at the Dhow Countries Music Academy and the greatness of the taarab-kidumbak traditions of Zanzibar.