Zanzibar Music Festival

January 26th, 2011

I am very excited about an upcoming trip to a music festival in Zanzibar (Feb 9-13)!

The festival features music from East Africa, a region whose music has been much less explored internationally than West African music, with its well know stars such as Ali Farka Toure, Orchestra Baobab and Salif Keita.

Francis Falcetto’s excellent 25 CD series, Ethiopiques, has done much to bring the music from Ethiopia to a wider audience. The Best of Ethiopiques album was even a best seller in the world music charts, featured at the front of world music sections in CD stores. However, there is a wealth of traditions from the region that havent made it to the attention of the wider music-loving public.


For example, I recently came across Danyel Waro from Reunion Island. Waro is credited with helping to revive Maloya music, one of 2 main traditions indigenous to the island. Also known as the Indian Ocean blues, Maloya is rooted in slave music and the sacred percussion from the Tamil region of South India. Maloya, sung in creole, deals with themes of poverty, slavery and freedom. It was buried for decades by the French colonialists, and only began to resurface with the independence and communist movement of the 60’s. Its incredible history aside, the music speaks for itself. Waro in particular sings with a rawness and sincerity that blows me away, eschewing modern and electric instruments for traditional Maloyan ones. You can listen to him sing unaccompanied here:

danyel waro

Another tradition which I plan to learn more about (and hear more of!) is Taarab, from the coastal regions of Tanzania and Kenya, which fuses Arab, South Indian and African traditions. Incidentally, the same label that produced the Ethiopiques series also produced a series called Zanzibara, which I’m currently downloading…

I plan to write more about the festival while I’m there and afterwards make a playlist inspired by the music I hear and discover! Stay tuned! And please share any tips you may have.


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