Dar es Salaam's Young Stars Modern Taarab almost single-handedly created a new style when they released their song "Segere" in 2001. Besides its uncommon mixture of lyrics in both Zaramo and Swahili language the song was especially noteworthy for its fast rhythm directly descending from Zaramo cultural traditions! Akin to a similar synthesis of the same in mchiriku--another modern-style take on Zaramo musical traditions from Dar es Salaam.
Both Segere and mchiriku extend the heritage of the coastal chakacha rhythm and dance which extends all along the coastal rim from the Lamu Archipelago in the north to the Dar es Salaam area in the south, mixing it with even faster Zaramo rhythms and songs. Where mchiriku uses a mix of actual Zaramo ngoma drums (like dumbaki and misondo)--with a small Casio keyboard amplified via megaphones as the sole lead instrument--the Segere style is more like modern taarab and dance band music in its instrumentation: Solo and bass guitar, keyboard. While modern taarab indulges in the ever same drum machine patterns, the main attraction of the Segere style is its live drum set, especially as played by Abdalla "Ng’onda".
Together with bass player Tony Karama and solo guitarist Mjusi Shemboza, Ng’onda propels Segere's songs to ever new hights and speed records. Sadly Segere’s original lead singer Fatuma Rajab died in 2014 after a long illness. Yet she is ably replaced now by powerhouse singer and dancer Neema Maganga and Mwanaidi Ramadhani. Vocal chores are also handled by "Madobe", comparable to a rapper or toaster improvising ever new lines of commentary on the songs or persons in the audience. Segere's performance is more like a theatrical play, acting out the songs or other Zaramo oral stories. A good sense of this drama is provided by some of their locally produced video clips.
Young Stars Modern Taarab is a heir to Kariakoo's Al-Watan and Egyptian Music Clubs both originally founded in the 1930s. However, the classical style acoustic taarab was slowly on the wane in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was supplanted by an ever more energetic style, represented first by Dar es Salaam groups like JKT Taarab, Magereza, etc, before being eclipsed by the new order and the concurrent rise of Modern Taarab or Mipasho.
Young Stars Modern Taarab was founded in the mid-1990s by a group of young people, who grew up in Dar es Salaam's Kariakoo area (one of the oldest Swahili style living areas and now also a major commercial district), and who had been members of the old-style taarab ensembles like Egyptian Music Club in their youth. Many of the members of YSMT are of Zaramo ethnic origin, so it was only natural for them to be inspired by their own traditions and the other styles flourishing in their neighbourhood, the Dar es Salaam chakacha and its successor mchiriku rising to fame in the 1990s. Tony Karama had also been a big fan of dance band legends Mlimani Park "Sikinde", and he honed his bass skills there being taught the ngoma-inclined bass style by its inventors—the legendary Suleiman Mwanyiro and Mustapha (Charles John) Ngosha. Solo guitarist Mjusi Shemboza is also an old Sikinde hand, well-versed in many styles. A number of keyboarders went through the group over the years, but most were lured away by the financially highly successful modern taarab groups. The group has thus reverted to the sounds of their style's origin.
Like in taarab the keyboard solos used to be played in a way as to imitate the sound and style of a trumpet; trumpet being the lead instrument in chackacha and in beni brass band music, which is played as part of coastal wedding celebrations, just like chakacha, taarab and mchiriku. Another sound often imitated by the keyboard is the marimba, the local Zaramo xylophone. In search of new songs and sounds Segere now sports the trumpet of old star Boniface Kachale and Hamisi Nyamula’s marimba, and has delved into older Zaramo music styles like mdundiko and tokomile. In terms of its composition and ever evolving style the group is becoming more like a Zaramo All Stars formation.
In Dar es Salaam Segere Original performs regularly at wedding ceremonies as well as different clubs and venues around town. Expect nothing short of an orgy or a riot on the dance floor!
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