Radiodiffusion Internasionaal Annexe

J. K. T. Taarab
March 10, 2012, 9:19 am
Filed under: Tanzania

Mcheza Bao

Njiwa Peleka Salamu

Taarab is a music genre popular in Tanzania, as well as neighboring Kenya. Much like Dangdut music of Indonesia, you can hear the Arabic and Indian influences that are a result of the cross-pollination with trade routes across the Indian Ocean.

Taarab is believed to have originated in Egypt, with their film orchestras provided an important model in the ’50s. More recently, Egyptian and Lebanese pop and especially Hindi film music have influenced the music’s melodies and vocal styles. Taarab songs explore romance and marriage, though their stylized Swahili poetry can suggest political interpretations. The instrumentation can include African drums, tablas, dumbek, riq, oud, qanun, taishōgoto, as well as organ and accordion. There is also usually guitar and bass, but often get lost in the mix with the violins and cellos.

The only information that I have been able to find on J. K. T. Taarab, is that they were from Tanzania’s capitol, Dar es Salaam. For more information on Taarab music, check out Likembe – where you can find some tracks by Jasmin Musical Club and Shani Musical Club, as well as a few others – and

Catalog number AHD (MC) 034 on FLATIM Records / Ahadi Productions of Nairobi, Kenya. No release date listed.

Note: The song Mcheza Bao is cut short due to the fact that the side of the cassette ends before the song does.



Glad to see that you are posting again. As always I’m anxious to hear what you are listening to. Keep ’em coming!

Comment by sean

Tarab music is Arabic in all of what this word has of meaning. Arab yemenites were the first to make tarab popular around the Arabian Peninsula 6000 years ago. They were traders who traveled far and away to places such as Tanzania, Zanzibar, Kenya (eastwardly, Indonesia and Malaysia), and took their music and influences wherever they traveled. Tarab is generally popular in Zanzibar, and most particularly Comoro Islands.

The Egyptian reference for such a musical genre has its roots in the Turkish Empire. Ottomans took the music to heightened levels, finally making it a royal-only privilege. That’s actually why most Egyptian popular ‘chaabi’ music is called ‘saltanah’ (Arabic: سلطنة), and it refers to how the Sultans used to enjoy this kind of music for their sole pleasure. With the demise of that Empire and the removal of all castes in the Arab world, people… every-day, Average-Joe-like people wanted to have a share of the musical cake. And, ever since the early 1900s musicians started to call their music ‘tarab’, or sometimes ‘tarab aseel’; or to be precise ‘original tarab’.

Tarab as a word comes from the Arabic language word ‘Turab/Tirab’: تراب. Turab is sand literally. Thousands of years ago and way back when real-music existed, people reached transcendent levels of elevatory musical ecstasy so much that when a group of musicians (real ones), started to play their well-intonated music… the listeners start to trance and their faces touch the earth. Arabs do still sit on earth, mind you, much like other eastern cultures like Japanese, and Chinese. This earth is where the elements meet together within the body (made of four elements, and they are by superiority: Wind, Fire, Water, and Earth). This music is one of the musical keys that opens up doors to the unison of human beings with the non-human world and lively forms. It’s back to earthly ur-origins that this music would do to but a chosen few individuals.

Modern African Tarab music has nothing to do with this ages-old tradition and even when it’s sweet to give a listen to, it’s still far from achieving this oneness goal that music was first created for.

Thanks for your amazingest site.


Comment by Hammer

JKT is short for – Jeshi la Kujenga Taifa – it means: the army to buildup the nation (quite sure it is swahili).
As far as i know JKT is known in the world of classic taarab, nowadays modern taarab plays a bigger role in Tanzania.

There is a very interesting and complex research about the history of taarab in Tanzania, you can find it online, unfortunatly it is in german and is called: „Kwa Raha Zangu“ – Zu meinem Vergnügen.

Many thanks for this post.

Comment by Si

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: