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Country Zanzibar Genres taarab traditional Website /mohamedilyas Festival Sauti za Busara: 2009, 2011, 2015, 2018 Recordings
Mohamed Ilyas with Nyota Zameremeta: Taarab (2009)
Mohamed Ilyas embodies the culture and history of the Zanzibar islands like no other. He comes from a great tradition of taarab singers who took the Arabic origin of the art form and transformed it to a uniquely Zanzibar experience. He is firmly grounded in this tradition, with a special affinity for garnishing his songs with tinges of European-influenced melodies.
Referring to Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Mohamed Abdul Wahab, Oum Kalthoum and Julio Iglesias as influential singers, he croons like the best of them. Mohamed Ilyas began his musical career with the nai (Arabic bamboo flute) and was a lead singer for many years with Zanzibar's oldest taarab club Nadi Ikhwan Safaa. He composed his first song at the age of 14 and at the age of 18 he began learning accordion and keyboard. When his beloved teacher and mentor Seif Salim died in 2000 he took up playing the violin. Mohamed Ilyas' voice conjures up a multitude of images: a sunset on the glittering Indian Ocean; betrayed secrets; the knife in the heart of the lover; love and passion seeking, wandering and finding; fading memories, the smell of cloves and frangipani. Mohamed Ilyas is ‘The Voice of Zanzibar’.
In 1988 he recorded for GlobeStyle Records (UK) as singer and violinist with Nadi Ikhwan Safaa. His big breakthrough came with his own band Nyota Zameremeta (Twinkling Stars) after a two-year stay in Cologne, Germany where he received coaching in voice and much encouragement to pursue his independent career. Twinkling Stars went through ups and downs but achieved great recognition, travelling and performing internationally. The band remains a fixture of Zanzibar's cultural scene up to today. More recent success came their way after the international release of the album Taarab (2009), selling thousands of CDs worldwide.