Unique flavour of Arabian Taarab music showcased


Zimbabweans had a feel of a unique flavour of Arabian Taarab music on Thursday night from a group from Zanzibar which performed at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa).


The audience was at first unsure of what kind of music would be churned out by the nine-member Zanzibar Taarab Kindumbak Ensemble — composed of six men and three women — who played their traditional musical instruments — the first of a kind to be seen in Zimbabwe.

The men were clad in Arabian long white robes, while the women wore glittering long lace attire and could also play their traditional musical instruments.

What was very fascinating about the group were the unique musical instruments that included violins and a box-shaped like musical instrument which they called a sanduku.

The sanduku had only one string, but it produced a very good sound and the player had his legs on the box and also used them to hit on the box, while his right hand played the single string.

While introducing the group, one of the musicians from the Zanzibar Taarab Kindumbak Ensemble told the crowd that most of the Kidumbak instruments were developed by Arabians who invested in musical instruments to entertain themselves.

“The weather in Zimbabwe is very good, but it is too cold for our kind of instruments and we have to keep tuning them,” he said during the performance.

He added that the group had produced a new CD before coming to perform at Hifa.

The music produced by the group is soft and slow, while the musicians sing mostly without dancing and one would enjoy it while seated and relaxed.

However, the crowd of about 300 people who attended the show, which was free of charge yesterday at the Coca-Cola Green stage, were then sent into stimulation when one of the three ladies in the group danced to one of their songs, swaying her hips with a cloth (African print) tied on her waist and making sexy moves.

The crowd, consisting of several Zimbabweans as well as tourists, was even more tantalised when a Zimbabwean mbira player, Kudzai, joined the group in one performance to produce a fusion of taarab music and mbira.

The effect sounded even more powerful and one was left with a lot of imagination of Arabian nights, and what the group was really saying in their lyrics because the songs sounded like folk tales.

According to the Commission of Tourism of Zanzibar, taarab music is a mixture of different musical sounds of Arabic musical traditions, Indian, Indonesian, and music from countries of the “Dhow region”, fused together with Swahili poetry which made the heart of taarab music.

The group, courtesy of the Norwegian Embassy, is scheduled for two major performances at Hifa, a street performance in the middle of Harare, and a school workshop in taarab drumming, dance and song.