Taarab Comes to Zimbabwe

Genre : Cultural projects
Principal country concerned : Column : Music
Release/publication date : May 2015
Published on : 05/05/2015

History will be in the making from 28th April to 3rd May 2015 as the Taarab-Kidumbak Ensemble from the Dhow Countries Music Academy travels to Harare to perform for Zimbabwean and international audiences.


While taarab music has been successfully performed in India already from 1928 with recording performances by the famous singer Siti Bint Saad, numerous performances in Europe by Bi Kidude and instrumentalist Mohamed Issa Matona and other performers, this will be the first time 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. Examples of this are the spread of musical bow traditions that traveled with the Ngoni migration over one hundred years ago bringing these traditions from the South African coast to northern Malawi and southern Tanzania; yodel-singing traditions of the short-statured people of the Congo spreading southward through sections of Central Africa all the way to the Cape; and even within Tanzania with 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 historical concert tour by the Taarab-Kidumbaki Ensemble of the Dhow Countries Music Academy of Zanzibar, taking place from the 28th of April to the 3rd of May) 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 (German and British and the United States) since 1900, the music of Zanzibar had little opportunity to influence other music traditions. Exceptions to this are the music traditions of the Comoro Islands in the southern Indian Ocean that has been greatly influenced by Zanzibar taarab and other Zanzibar music traditions..and some early Indian/Persian music traditions from Zanzibar that spread in northerly directions into Uganda.

Alexander MacKay (1848-1890), missionary living many years in Uganda, in 1879 suggested that the drums and bugles he saw and heard in Buganda came from Zanzibar and other locations along the coast to the land of the Buganda. Wachsmann (1971) also said that the Buganda Chief Muteesa (chief from 1856 to 1884), ".employed a knowledgeable retainer, who had once been in the service of the Sultan of Zanzibar to train young men in the music of the drum".

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 the well known Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA). To the best of our knowledge, this will be the first time 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 offer 4 performances in Harare, i.e., 2 major performances, a street performance in the middle of Harare and a school workshop in taarab drumming, dance and song.

This historic tour will be well documented and it is the wish of the Dhow Countries Music Academy that this tour will enable more people from Zimbabwe and elsewhere to learn more about the music-making, music training at the Dhow Countries Music Academy and the greatness of the taarab-kidumbak traditions of Zanzibar.


  • Arterial network
  • Media, Sports and Entertainment Group (MSE)
  • Gens de la Caraïbe
  • Groupe 30 Afrique
  • Alliance Française VANUATU
  • Zimbabwe : Culture Fund Of Zimbabwe Trust
  • RDC : Groupe TACCEMS
  • Rwanda : Positive Production
  • Togo : Kadam Kadam
  • Niger : ONG Culture Art Humanité
  • Collectif 2004 Images
  • Africultures Burkina-Faso
  • Bénincultures / Editions Plurielles
  • Africiné
  • Afrilivres

With the support of