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We continue our week dedicated to women with a real African legend. Today we take you to Zanzibar to meet Bi Kidude, the grandmother of taarab music, a legendary genre that mixes Africa, Persia and Arabia.
Bi Kidude was born, with the name of Fatuma binti Baraka, in 1910 in Mfamgimarigo, Tanzania. The family is of very humble origins and fate seems to have already been written, but in the 1920s she will make a meeting that will change her life forever. She is noticed by a traditional music company that, impressed by her skills, decides to hire her immediately, Her talent is immediately evident throughout the country and her talents as a singer of kidumbaki and ngoma, two genres of the local tradition, will bring her to the eyes of Siti binti Saad, the founder of taraab.
At the time Zanzibar and Tanzania were part of the Sultanate of Oman and this pushed many Arabs to come to the African island to have fun. The demand for melodies that could also be appreciated by the sultans were stronger and stronger and it was thus that the taraab was born, a genre that connected multiple cultures. In the 1930s Bi Kidude became the favorite disciple of Siti binti Saad, establishing herself ever since as a true legend of the genre.
Opening up to the world
After a long retirement from the stage, in the 80s Bi Kidude returned to the stage, showing the whole world his talent. The 80s will mark an incredible rebirth for African music, his songs in Arabic and Swahili became a unique and appreciated treasure at every latitude. Thanks to his way of interpreting this art, he went on tour even in Japan, an even more incredible result that the artist recorded his first album only in 2004. Like Umm Kulthum, Bi Kidude wanted to recreate a new atmosphere every time. , adapting each time to the audience in front of him, which hardly fits with repetitive recordings. Legend also in this respect.
In his songs Bi Kidude recounts daily life in his country, managing each time to transport the listener to a universe as far away as it is familiar, enchanting body and hearing each time. His songs focus in particular on the poorest, most humble and marginalized people, with whom the artist always found a profound connection. “Bi Kidude” in fact stands for “granny” in Swahili and tells a lot about this incredible artist, active up to the age of 90 to tell about a country that is too often forgotten.
Tomorrow we will talk to you about Hoda Sha’arawi, a pioneer of Arab and Egyptian feminism.
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