Academic journal article Yearbook for Traditional Music

Poetry and Languid Charm: Swahili Music from Tanzania and Kenya from the 1920s to the 1950s

Academic journal article Yearbook for Traditional Music

Poetry and Languid Charm: Swahili Music from Tanzania and Kenya from the 1920s to the 1950s

Article excerpt

Poetry and Languid Charm: Swahili Music from Tanzania and Kenya from the 1920s to the 1950s. 2007. World and Traditional Music Section of the British Library Sound Archive. Topic Records TSCD936. Compiled and annotated by Janet Topp Fargion. 15 pp. of notes in English. 1 colour, 3 b/w photographs, 5 illustrations, 1 map. 5-item bibliography, 4-item discography. 1 compact disc, 16 tracks (54:40).

This is a valuable collection of Swahili taarab songs from Dar es Salaam, Mombasa, and Zanzibar, originally recorded for commercial purposes in the early 1930s (by Columbia) and 1950s (by Hugh Tracy). Some of the included songs remain well known in East Africa, but these original versions have gone out of circulation. Janet Topp Fargion's liner notes illuminate the industrial and cultural contexts of the recordings. The tracks are clean with minimal distortion and noise.

Taarab is foremost sung poetry, but its syncretic musical settings typically attract world music consumers and should interest even non-Swahili-speaking ethnomusicologists. Topp Fargion describes as emblematic of the genre the melding of Arabic and Indian elements in "Mother-of-taarab" Siti binti Saad's "Wewe Paka" (track 3). She also directs the listener to other audible mixtures, such as Siti's "African" rendering of Arabic vocal melodies and Jauharah Orchestra's use of the Latin clave rhythm. …

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