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Cultural origins Late 19th century
Coastal taarab

Taarab is a music genre popular in Tanzania and Kenya. It is influenced by music from the cultures with a historical presence in East Africa, including music from South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Taarab rose to prominence in 1928 with the rise of the genre's first star, Siti binti Saad.

According to local legend, taarab was started by Sultan Seyyid Barghash bin Said (1870-1888); he liked luxury and the pleasures of life. It was this ruler who started Taarab in Zanzibar and later it spread all over East Africa. He imported a taarab ensemble from Egypt, to play in his Beit el-Ajab palace. Later on he decided to send to Egypt Mohamed Ibrahim to learn music and he also learned to play the Kanun. Upon his return he formed the Zanzibar Taarab Orchestra. In 1905, Zanzibar's second music society, Ikwhani Safaa Musical Club, was established and continues to thrive today.[citation needed]

Ikwhani Safaa and Culture Musical Club (founded in 1958) remain the leading Zanzibar taarab orchestras.[citation needed]

The word Taarab is a loanword from Arabic. The Arabic word طرب means "having joy with music".[1]

Leading Taarab singers[edit]


  1. ^ Mohamed El-Mohammady Rizk, Women in Taarab : the performing art in East Africa / Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2007.

See also[edit]

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