Sanaa Taarab was born in 1983, after the then Zanzibar Ballet group stopped its activities. In its early years the group managed to perform by borrowing equipment from Culture Musical Club, with whom they have a long and positive relationship. Currently the group has twenty artists who are employed by the Department of Culture in the Ministry of Information, Culture and Sports. Sanaa is the only group performing both "modern" and "traditional" acoustic taarab.
Throughout their career, Sanaa has recorded 19 albums onto cassette, which have not been released commercially due to fear of piracy. The group's earnings come from regular performances in weddings and social clubs around Zanzibar.
The group has contributed a number of big names to the island's rich musical scene, including the late Maalim Seif Salim, Fatma Issa, the only woman in Zanzibar who composes, arranges as well as sings. Others are Zanzibar's leading qanun player Maulid Haji, Bi Mtumwa and Fatma Juma.
In 1998 the government of Japan sponsored the group with a new PA system and music equipment, hence enabling the group to stand on its own.
Sanaa's shows always create a special atmosphere by catering for both modern and classical taarab fans. They mostly sing songs about relationships, in typical Swahili poetry, engaging fans to sing along. Some excited fans line up back and forth to "tunza" - a traditional way of showing appreciation, by giving something to the musicians.