As recorded music developed in the early part of the 20th century, there was more and more pressure on commercial record labels to capitalise on indigenous music in Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean. This was not some sort of altruistic exercise, rather a market that was open to exploitation. On the East African coast, site of the present day Tanzania and Kenya, there was a “gold rush” fever in the 1930s to record the local music stars.

The music recorded was mostly “taarab”, sung poetry accompanied by an ensemble that played with both traditional African rhythms with Arabic influences and used Arabic and Indian instruments. This exciting music is being here released on CD for the first time, and has been remastered to produce outstanding sound quality from the original 78 rpm recordings.

“Drawn from the extraordinary collection of original recordings at the National Sound Archive, this project, overseen by Dr Janet Topp-Fargion, is, quite simply, a delight from the first second to the last. Wonderfully readable and enlightening notes, historic illustrations and full recording details, this new release presents an engaging portrait of its targeted time and place. The packaging and sound quality are faultless, the programme both enlightening and entertaining, and there’s almost nothing else like it available. Need any more hints?” fRoots

Text and compilation by Janet Topp Fargion

Jauharah Orchestra Nna hamu (The yearning keeps increasing in my heart)
Nasor Khalfan with the Jauharah Orchestra Makugyana (Hijaz kar)
(There isn’t one who wouldn’t desire you, if you clean yourself up)
Siti bindi Saad and group Wewe Paka (You are a cat)
Sheikh Mbaruk with Siti bindi Saad and group Usiweke tamaa mbele (Don’t be greedy)
Egyptian Musical Club Sheikh Salimn’s song
6  Ramazan na Subeit bin Ambar Taksim nahwand / wimbo wa vinanda viwil
Watoto wa Madrasa El-Hasanain Ya Rabba ssama (Oh! Lord of Heaven)
Egyptian Musical Club Mwizionaumwa (I am ill, my fellow)
Siti bindi Saad and group Muhogo wa Jang’ombe (Cassava of Jang’ombe)
10  Sheikh Mbaruk with Siti bindi Saad and group Kigalawa (Like a wooden boat with an outrigger)
11  Alwatan Musical Club Ee, Baba Pakistani (Hey, “Daddy” Pakistani)
12  Bom Amberton Nahawand no. 2
13  Alwatan Musical Club Hayana Ukomo (There is no end)
14  Siti Ganduri and Party of Ras Maalim Rivue Nimekwisha swalitika (I am done with being questioned)
15  Maalim Abdi Natamani uwa [ua] (I desire a flower [love])
16  Alwatan Musical Club singer M Maftaha Iwapi risala? (Where is the message?)

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