MOMBASA MUSICAL PARTY | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader


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Here's an improbable second chance in as many months to hear African taraab music performed live. At the World Music Festival in September the sprawling Culture Musical Club made its U.S. debut, showcasing Zanzibar taraab, a thrilling Arabic-sounding strain dominated by majestic strings. Taraab from Mombasa, a large Kenyan island city on the Indian Ocean, has a different sound--more stripped-down and finely detailed--and the four members of Mombasa Musical Party playing here are all revered veterans of the style. Singer Zuhura Swaleh gained great prominence in the 70s, when she helped introduce the wedding-dance form ngoma into the taraab mix. Her voice is limited in range but remarkably agile, combining rich melodic ornamentation and nonchalant soul. The band is led by Mohamed Adio Shigoo, who doubles on harmonium (Indian music is a strong regional influence) and taishokoto, essentially an electrified banjo-autoharp hybrid. He headed a group in the 70s called the Zein Musical Party--heard this spring on the excellent comp Zanzibara 2: Golden Years of Mombasa Taraab (Buda)--and was later a key member of the Maulidi Musical Party, which backed Swaleh on the gorgeous Jino La Pembe (Globestyle, 1992). A recent track by tonight's players on The Rough Guide to the Music of Kenya (World Music Network) proves they're still on top of their game. The Royal Drummers of Burundi, who play that distinctive traditional beat once ripped off by Bow Wow Wow, coheadline and perform second. a 3 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $20-$60.

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