2009 – 2010

It had been a long time ambition for Nedland Kultur to bring Mari Boine Band to Zanzibar. Having done several earlier collaboration projects with Mari Boine and her musicians, producer Sigbjørn Nedland was eager to introduce them to Zanzibari music, and not least to introduce Zanzibar to Mari Boines arctic music, which, strangely, seemed to relate very well to the music of this island in the Indian Ocean. So well that two Zanzibari musicians joined her for the concert, and were then invited to play with her in Norway.

Nedland Kultur did not bring Mari Boine and her band to Zanzibar to just do another performance at a festival. The idea  was to do a workshop, to involve DCMA, the Dhow Countries Music Academy, and to create a meeting place where Mari Boine Band and Zanzibari musicians could exchange music, play together and inspire one another. Rehearsal and workshop space was provided by DCMA, Nedland Kultur facilitated an exhcange of music recordings before the musicians met in Zanzibar, and preparations were made to exchange musical ideas and play together.

At DCMA, the rehearsal room was alive with music from day one. The aim of producer Sigbjørn Nedland had been to try to integrate a couple of Zanzibare musicians and have them perform one or two songs with Mari  Boine Band during their performance at the Sauti Za Busara festival. It soon became clear that the music collaboration had much more of a potential that that. The musicians started playing together very quickly, and communicated so well that we ended up with the two Zanzibari musicians Mohamed Issa “Matona” Haji and Rajab Suleiman joining Mari Boine Band on stage for the whole festival concert.

The Norwegian Embassy in Tanzania was a very important partner in bringing Mari Boine band to Zanzibar. In fact, the Norwegian Ambassador to Tanzania, Jon Lomøy, was an ardent Mari Boine fan. Sigbjørn Nedland recalls him saying, back in 2007,  that “if you could get Mari Boine to come to Tanzania, I would do everything to support it” – and he really did! He even decided to stage an exclusive concert for an invited audience with Mari Boine and the band at his residence in Dar Es Salaam.

Mari Boine and the band were so happy with the collaboration with the Zanzibari musicians that they asked Nedland Kultur to arrange for Rajab and Matona to come to Norway in July 2010 to play with the band at a selection of Norwegian summer festivals. A project was organised, and the two Zanzibari musicians re-joined the Mari Boine Band in Norway, where they played at festivals from Manndalen in the far North of Norway, to Arendal in the South. The two Zanzibari musicians also took part in a workshop at the Riddu Riððu festival, an international indigenous festival taking place in Northern Norway, hosted by the Sami indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia.

At the workshop, together with musicians from Guatemala, they were music instructors for youth participants who came from various parts of Russia, Mongolia, Greenland and Northern Scandinavia. Together they worked for a week to get to know each other’s music, dance and traditions. Traditional taarab melodies from Zanzibar blended with Sami joiks, throat singing from Tuva, rhythms and melodies of Guatemalan indigenous tribes – all performed in very different singing styles and voices, and played on formely unkonown combinations of instruments, from oud and qanun to jugs, flutes, deep sea conches, frame drums made with reindeer skin and various shakers. Then dances from all the different areas, traditional dresses, body painting, headbands and  braids, necklaces and charms added other flavours to the artistic expression.  The different groups and nationalities were teaching each other, learning from each other, and worked together with the aim of putting it all together in a colourful performance at the main stage of the festival.