Music lovers everywhere are mourning the loss of legendary musician Makame Faki Makame, who died in Zanzibar, on January 18, 2020, at the age of 77.
Makame Faki needs no introduction, being one of Culture Musical Club's most revered singer-songwriters of Zanzibari taarab music. With his own Sinachuki Kidumbak group however, Faki has also spent decades at the forefront of the islands' most popular roots-based music.
The kidumbak style is like a stripped down version of orchestral taarab, featuring vocals, violin, sanduku (tea-chest bass), small clay drums (ki-dumbak) and other percussion instruments, such as cherewa, a kind of maracas made from coconut shells filled with seeds, or mkwasa; short wooden sticks, played like claves.
Contemporary kidumbak music often makes use of the latest taarab hit songs. Unlike the poetic subtlety of taarab songs, however, kidumbak is more rhythmic and the lyrics more hard-hitting, e.g. in criticising peoples' social behaviour.
At Zanzibar weddings, birthdays and other performances the singer has to be able to string together a well-timed medley of ngoma songs, and she or he must also have the ability to compose lyrics on the spot. One kidumbak set can last anything between one and six hours! As one song leads into the next, the intensity heats up further, with a main attraction being the interplay between the players and the raunchy dancing and chorus responses of the guests. Fronted by the charismatic singer and legend Makame Faki aka 'sauti ya zege' (gravelly voice), Sinachuki Kidumbak is the best of its kind.