Zanzibar, 10 musicians

Zanzibari qanun player Rajab Suleiman is probably best known as a member and featured soloist of the Culture Musical Club, which together with Ikhwani Safaa established the legacy of the Islands’ large taarab orchestras and social clubs. A natural musician and untiring in his quest for musical knowledge Rajab has moved beyond the frontiers of the taarab of old, becoming a virtuoso on this difficult instrument by studying the instrument’s classical Arabic and Ottoman roots, taking part in workshops in Egypt and playing with Palestinian virtuoso oud-player Habib Shehadeh. More recently he has branched out to study Western classical music and jazz, adapting compositions from Bach to Monk to the qanun, all molded by his own Zanzibari and taarab music experience. Kithara was formed in 2012 by Rajab Suleiman and some younger members of the Culture Musical Club. “ Feeling that their creativity was held up by the traditional club structure they branched out on their own. Besides composing and playing more conventional taarab songs and instrumentals that feature the group’s singers and instrumentalists Kithara are generating a new repertoire by turning to the inspiration of Zanzibar’s many traditional ngoma dances, trying to marry the infectious rhythms and melodies to the group’s regular taarab instruments that besides qanun, include oud, accordion, double bass and various percussion instruments. Just recently up-and-coming new star Saada Nassor joined the group and in a short while has become the Islands’ most talked about new singer. Saada grew up singing qasida in school and later become a member of her school’s choir. Prior to joining Kithara she has sung with a variety of Zanzibar’s modern taarab groups but the acoustic taarab and its instruments allow her to express heryself and to use her y voice in a much more intricate manner.”