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Taarab Clubs and Swahili Music Culture

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Histories of East Africa in this century generally focus upon the political dimensions of resistance, culminating in the nationalist movements which brought about independence by Kenya African Union KANU and Tanganyika African National Union TANU in those respective nations in the early 1960s. This essay examines a cultural basis of nationalism, namely the taarab orchestras and music clubs that proliferated in coastal Kenya and Tanganyika, and on Zanzibar, shortly after World War II. They were formed by Waswahili, residents of the region who spoke Kiswahili, as the language is known. I analyse a form, taarab, probably the most typically Swahili popular music, its origins, history, and role in revitalising the Waswahili. Through taarab music clubs, the Swahili developed and paid homage to their language and traditions, providing the cultural basis from which political nationalism might operate.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 1996

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