Lovely reissue of an almost-forgotten gem from Zuhura Swaleh, powerful female figure of Taraab Music out of Nairobi, Kenya – originally released back in 1981, now back in circulation via Silene Records / Buda Musique –

This record really got into our ears, not just for it’s warmth and energy, but also due to it’s (for us at least) hard to pin geographical sense, musically speaking….

Much in keeping with the Taarab style, Zuhura’s vocal’s hold similarities with North African and Middle Eastern, as well as Oriental music (A musical cross-pollination with music of said regions and Kenya, which is situated in the mid-west of Africa, makes some sense (to us at least).
Then there’s this almost Qawwali / Sufi style going on with the tabla-esque percussion and the slow hypnotic grooves in some of the songs ‘Zizi La Huba’ for example… But the pace and feel of this music is flexible, as proved by the following song ‘Hasira Zako’ which picks up into a more distinct african rhythm, though you could even be excused if you heard similarities with Caribbean rhythms here too (listen to Senegalese / Cuban link Ouza & Teranga international band for a similar example)…

Then – perhaps the most curious influence in this music – we have this ‘tashkota’ instrument, which, as confirmed in the press release, is actually originally a japanese instrument, but doesn’t sound far away from an electric guitar, kora or sitar either – again, confirming the wide range of sounds and styles which Zuhura and Party pull in to harness and make into their own, very thrilling, very soothing, very hypnotising concoction.

That’s a big smile, and a big thumbs up from us… Now check up on some more facts below, straight from the label:

“The return of the Zanzibara series: a Deep Taarab masterpiece from legendary singer Zuhura Swaleh, recorded in Nairobi in 1981.
Zuhura Swaleh & Party initially rose to fame on the Mombasa scene in the 1970s with a new fast-paced taarab style led by the electrically amplified tashkota (actually a Japanese instrument correctly spelled as taishokoto), that resembles a mix of electric guitar, slide guitar and sitar.
Zuhura’s chakacha-styled taarab sound and stinging lyrics became popular up and down the coast, leading to invitations for performances all over Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda throughout the 1970s.

Her no-nonsense way of speaking out openly and voicing women’s concerns helped pave the way for the new “modern taarab” sound that came to fore in the 1990s.

While playing a wedding in Nairobi in 1981 Zuhura & Party were approached by the local Polygram studio to record some songs, but the record did not catch on as the lp format was not suited to the tiny portable record players in use in Kenya back then, and the record industry as a whole collapsed in the wake of the 1982 coup d’état attempt and the resulting economic slump. Only a few records were pressed and have since become collectors’ items. Locally the songs survived and remained popular as pirated dubs (first on cassette now on CDR).
One of the few Taarab LPs ever recorded for the first time on vinyl outside of Kenya!”

…I know we say this a lot, but the clips won’t do this justice… you need to let this record flow the way it was intended and let it put a spell on you – it’s really great.

TRACKLIST:
1. Singetema 04:00
2. Jino La Pembe 04:48
3. Zizi La Huba 05:50
4. Hasira Zako 04:57
5. Wasafiri 04:17
6. Bado Yuko Hai 04:41
7. Kisu 04:31
8. Ya Zamani 05:08
9. Chungu 04:40
10. Humvui Alo Vikwa 03:04

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