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date: 21 August 2019


  • Janet Topp Fargion


A musical genre, the term ṭāarab comes from the Arabic ṭārab (from the root ṭrb), meaning pleasure, rapture, entertainment, or these emotions as evoked by music. In East Africa it denotes a style of popular entertainment music played at weddings and other celebrations along the Swahili coast. The style contains the features of a typical Indian Ocean music, combining influences from Egypt, the Arabian peninsula, India and the West with local musical practices. Musicians generally agree that taarab was introduced to the island of Zanzibar from Egypt during the reign of the third Omani sultan, Sultan Barghash bin Said (1870–88). Since its introduction, the style has spread throughout the East African coastal region and has become stylistically and ideologically entwined with Swahili identity.

The original instrumentation and repertory is based on the Egyptian takht tradition featuring ‘ūd, qānūn (plucked zither), nāy (end-blown flute), riqq (small frame drum), violin and ...

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