East African Music

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Sudan was for a long time the corridor between the Arab world and Black Africa. In addition to soul music, jazz and reggae, we find in Sudan a strong Egyptian music influence, such as the use of the «oud» (Arabic lute instrument), and «merdoum» rhythm imported by the nomads of the desert who live in the Arabo-Muslim area.

It is necessary to mention the presence of monodic music which origin goes back to very ancient times. Egypt is the most representative country of this style of music, and of the modern composers as Mohammed Abdel mastered this music style. Moreover, the proximity with countries of East Africa involved impregnation, since certain types of instruments were propagated to Mali.

In Sudan, we can observe the maintenance of ritual soufi music such as «zar» and «zikr» who produce trance. The north of the country very Islamized is a melting pot of urban music. Among them, the big band of Abdel Aziz El Mubarak and urban style of Abdel Gadir Salim, a style he invented in the Seventies which can be compared to the music of crooner Mahmoud Ahmed in Ethiopia.

In Uganda, Geoffrey Oryema replaced the traditional harp by the guitar. It settled down in France in 1977, and ten years later he joined Peter Gabriel on Womad festival and became a key artist of Peter Gabriel’s music label «Real World».

With an unique music style, Burundi is the fatherland of «Master Drums of Burundi», scrupulous interpreters of traditional music which still persistent as we speak today, symbolized by its crowned drums and scope by a troop where percussionists and dancers perform side by side.

The coast of the Indian Ocean, with its Arab traders’ settlements, has its own musical instruments. The main instrument is the Arabic zither «qânûn», intermediary between the Egyptian harp and the European zither. Instrument of trapezoid shape, generally put on the knees of the musician hitting the cords with two ends of horn fixed on the two index fingers.

In Tanzania, the «Musical Club of Zanzibar» is an institution, which is at the same time a centre dedicated to rehearsals, musical gatherings and concert hall. Founded in 1958, the house band which emerged from this institution, is a true historical monument. An orchestra which performs regularly in Europe since the middle of the 90s.  Two music styles with violins and songs coexist in their repertoire:

  • «TAARAB» style, made of  popular, ritual or marriage songs accompanied with one «qânûn»,  one «oud», two accordions, one double bass,  one «dumbak», «bongos» and one «rika».
  • «KIDUMBAK» style, which is a more intimistic style accompanied with «sanduku», two drums, « maracas» and claves.  Chantings with whirling rhythms…..that is an astonishing hypnotic music.

“My music comes from my heart.  I refuse being confined in a musical ghetto. I am a universal artist.”  Geoffrey Oryema