Tag Archives: Tanganyika

Taarab and the Kiswahili language

Immediately after World War II, taarab orchestras and music clubs proliferated in coastal Kenya and Tanganyika, and on Zanzibar. They were formed by Waswahili, residents of the region who spoke the Kiswahili (Swahili) language. Through taarab music clubs, the Swahili people developed and paid homage to their language and traditions, providing the cultural basis from which political nationalism might operate.

The Swahili word mpasho is related to the verb -pasha, “to cause to get”, and it refers to someone “getting the message”. In the popular genre taarabmpasho performances involve sending and receiving powerful communications–often competitive and antagonistic in nature–through song texts. The subject may be an individual, an organization, or social group, any of which may respond with their own mpasho performance.

This according to “Hot kabisa! The mpasho phenomenon and taarab in Zanzibar” by Janet Topp Fargion, Mashindano! Competitive music performance in East Africa, ed. by Frank D. Gunderson, Gregory F. Barz, and Terence O. Ranger (Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota, 2000; 39–53; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 2000-8778) and “Taarab clubs and Swahili music culture” by Henry Douglas Daniels (Social identities 2/3 [1996] 413–438; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature, 1996-39500).

July 7 is international Kiswahili Language Day! Below is a performance of taarab music by the group Bi Kidude Zanzibar.

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Filed under Africa, From the archives, Popular music, World music