Dhow Countries Music Academy

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Zanzibar

By David Kattenburg

On a flight from the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa down to the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam, while walking from Addis Ababa’s airline terminal, actually — out onto the tarmac towards a bus that would take us to our plane — I met a guy carrying over his shoulder about three or four of these little zither-type instruments, with pickups. In his hand he had an oud – a traditional Arabic lute – and under his harm a fiddle. Listen here:

 

We struck up a chat. This was Mohamed Issa Haji “Matona” — son of a legendary Zanzibarian musician and founder of an innovative music academy on the luscious island of Zanzibar, off Tanzania’s Indian Ocean coast.

The Dhow Countries Music Academy, it’s called. The Academy’s mission: to promote traditional music from the Indian Ocean countries where the traditional dhow boat is so popular – from East Africa, up around the Persian Gulf and down to the Goa region of west India. Mohamed Issa and I chatted for a bit on the bus to the airplane. I marveled at the number of instruments Tanzanian Airlines was letting him carry into the cabin.

Days later, after a bunch of  bustling days in Tanzania’s capital city, I hopped on a boat to Zanzibar to visit Mohamed and his Academy. Here’s a fragment of sound from that trip.

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