Photo : Jahazi Média
Transat en ville in partnership with les Tombées de la Nuit present
Transat en ville : Rajab Suleiman & Kithara
Discovering the enlightening and captivating beauty of Zanzibar taarab, an extraordinary tradition that sways between Africa, the Middle East, India and Europe, presented here by a group that gives the melodic art form a well-defined modern flair.

1996. An album under the German label Network Medien appears with the enigmatic title, Mila na Utamaduni. Under it, a cheap catchphrase adds a touch of exoticism (Spices of Zanzibar), along with a photo of a Dhow (traditional sailboat) sailing on the Indian Ocean against a sunset background. It has all the makings of a dreaded old tourist trap souvenir for those who fall for clichés. Except, if you give it a listen, then another, and then another with your whole heart, all your aversions melt away. Its gawky appearance hides a real treasure in the swaying music of the Culture Musical Club (CMC), a 20-piece orchestra and the historical gem of Zanzibar taarab music. This wonderful syncretic tradition combines the oscillating sounds of violins that palpitate like a love-struck heart, the delicate modal drifting of the kanun (box zither), the accordion or the oud, the obsessive rhythm of the percussion, and the waves of a women’s choir singing in Swahili. Kanun virtuoso Rajab Suleiman drew his inspiration from CMC where he began his career, and recruited some of its musicians to form Kithara, an updated version of taarab. They give the island splendour of this art form a modern crystalline touch without perverting its African, Middle Eastern, Indian and European roots that sway between thoughtful poetry and improvisation. An innate science of fusion trickles out. It has nothing to do with calculations or tricks of the trade. It is the fruit of the poetic alchemy of passing time, of beauty that travels and is passed on from country to country, from people to people and century to century. In its languid dizziness that seems to assume the existence of a melancholy swing, like a gentle dreamlike euphoria, Kithara magically creates smooth sound mirages. When the kanun and its cimbalom-like tones blend with the accordion to envelop the voice of singer Saada Nassor, listeners are transported to a reinvented gypsy cabaret. The music carries just the right amount of exhilarating and intoxicating flavour that should be tasted like a full-bodied wine that has been slowly and wonderfully decanted.


Although kanun player Rajab Suleiman is mainly known as a taarab specialist, he has also learned the repertoires and techniques of Turkish, Arab classical, jazz and even European baroque music. As the founder of Kithara, which counts among its members Makame Fiki, one of the patriarchs of Zanzibar music, he is the creator of Chungu, an album released in 2013 and the eighth volume of the wonderful Zanzibara series produced under the Buda Musique label.


Qanun : Rajab Suleiman / bongos, dumbak, ngoma : Foum Faki / oud, chant : Makame Faki / accordéon : Mohamed Hassan / contrebasse : Mahmoud Juma / chant : Saada Nassor / chant, choeurs, rika : Hilda Mohamed / choeurs : Malitina Hassan, Rukia Juma.

Place de la mairie, Rennes


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The association is supported by the City of Rennes, the Brittany Region, the Ille-et-Vilaine Department & the ministry of culture.

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