African Swahili Music Lives On In Oman

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Prominent among them is the tanbura, a string instrument played by beating the strings with the end of a bull’s horn. Other African instruments are the misundu, a class of tall, cylindrical, single-headed drums characterized by a skin fitted by wooden wedges to the conical body. The misundu is beaten either with a stick or hands. Sur was a major port in the 17th and 18th centuries, when traders exported dried fish, dates, mats, carpets woven from sheep wool and frankincense to East Africa and India. “These people, from the color, their features, they have clearly an African ethnicity. But they tell you no, we are actually Arab,” said Majid al-Harthi, assistant professor of music and ethnomusicology at the Sultan Qaboos University. Ghelani and his band Shamail have managed to find a wider audience, and often travel to the neighboring United Arab Emirates to play at weddings.
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Rediscovery of Lost African Music

Ethnomusicologist Andrew Tracey (left) taking notes about one of his father’s, Hugh Tracey’s, tape recordings at the International Library of African Music

Andrew said Mwenda had fantastic technique and compositional ability and everyone loved his music. I got a guitar around about that time, at school, and I learnt to play the guitar by learning Boscos music. Ive been playing it ever since. Mwenda was a pioneer of Congolese finger-style acoustic guitar music. Hugh Tracey championed him, and he became popular across Africa, but mainly in east Africa. In the late 1950s and early 1960s Mwenda was based in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where he performed regularly on radio and, said Andrew, influenced a lot of Kenyan guitarists. In 1988, Andrew Tracey brought Mwenda to South Africa, where he gave a number of acclaimed performances.
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