SYMPHONIC TAARAB

2012 – 2013

Taarab is the music of Zanzibar. It is one of the very few music styles in Africa with an orchestral tradition. A taarab orchestra may consist of several violins, cellos, double bass, oud, qanun, dumbak drums and several other instruments, plus a choir and solo singers. Nedland Kultur has been initiating several projects of taarab music, culiminating in the merging of European symphonic and Zanzibari taarab orchestral tradition in this project with the Symphony Orcehstra of NRK (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) and three soloists from Zanzibar.

November 1st, 2012, at Kulturkirken Jacob, Oslo, during Oslo World Music Festival. Sigbjørn Nedland and Arne Berg introducing the Symphony Orchestra of the Norwegian Broadcastinc Corporation and soloists Matona, Rajab and Maryam from Zanaibar. The concert was broadcast live by NRK P2, the Cultural Channel of Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. 

The idea of a project with taarab music and a symphony orcestra came naturally from the fact that taarab already has an orchestral tradition. Some Zanzibari musicians han for a long time wanted to play their taraab music with a really big orchestra. But Zanzibar was never able to bring forth enough musicians at a high enough level of performance. Thus, the idea of creating a project with a full symphony orchestra came up, and Sigbjørn Nedland presented the idea to the Director of the NRK Symphony Orcehstra, Rolf Lennart Stensø, who responded positively. In February 2012 Nedland and Arne Berg, his NRK colleague and co-presenter/producer of the show “Jungeltelegrafen” went to Zanzibar together with Petter Winroth, musician and music arranger, with the aim of giving him the necessary background to be able to write full scores of taarab music for the NRK Symphony Orcehstra.

Two Zanzibari musicians, Rajab Suleiman and Mohammed Issa “Matona” Haji were Petter’s guides into the structures, moods and modalities of taarab music. All three of them worked together, exploring taarab music and laying the foundations for the symphonic scores for traditional taarab songs, as well as new compositions. They put together a good collection of taarab classics and new compositions, creating a well balanced and varied concert program for the taarab symphony concert. 

The impressions and the knowledge about taarab music gathered in Zanzibar, went into the scores written by Petter Winroth for the symphony orchestra. The two Zanzibari musicians, together with singer Maryam Saidi Hamdun, came to Norway to rehearse and perform with the NRK Symphony  Orchestra.


The concert at Kulturkirken Jacob in Oslo drew a full house, and it was  broadcast live nationwide, as well as recorded in multi track by NRK.


The recordings of the concert were painstakingly editied and mixed, and a full CD of the music was released in October 2013 by Nedland Kultur together with the well reputed German record company Jaro Medien. The CD is available on iTunes and from Jaro Medien (http://www.jaro.de/).