TAARAB: Songs of the Swahili Coast


21 tracks from the 78 rpm era of this beautiful and hypnotic East African music.

The first in a new series of compilations of vintage music called ShellacHead Archives.

“Poetry and languid charm,” is how legendary recording pioneer Hugh Tracey once described the city of Mombasa, and the phrase applies just as nicely to the music known as Taarab. Taarab consists of sung poetry with Arabic-influenced melodies and a laid back groove that gives the music a pleasing, hypnotic sound. Taarab was born in Zanzibar in the 19th Century and eventually spread throughout the Swahili coast of East Africa, especially to cities such as Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, due in no small part to the popularity of phonograph records. This compilation focuses on that early phonograph era, the late 1920s to the 1950s, the “golden age” of taarab.