Equally noteworthy from East Africa is Malika's Tarabu (Shanachie), an
album frothing with lilting music from coastal Kenya. This is the music of
love written by poet Bakari Omari Abdi and sung in Kiswahili. This is also
the music whose dominance at Swahili wedding parties dates back many
decades. It is a traditional Arab roots music that is hewed for the modern
On Tarabu, Malika offers a brooding mix straight from the heart, a
potpourri rich in Arabic, Goan, Portuguese and Bantu languages. Twisting
this way and that way, she tantalises the listener with the tip of a tongue
that darts back and forth over the exotic beat of the tracks "Sibure Mambo"
and "Poleni", "Ndugu Wa Faza". Things get truly hopping on the tracks "Mti
Nillioupanda" and Nimeona Ishara". No wonder, with music like this we
can all say, "Hakuna matata", let's dance.
Finally, Lucky Dube, the South African reggae maestro, has returned to the
arena with Taxman (Shanachie). As never before, Dube's voice crackles with
positive vibes throughout the entire set. But, though still clinging close
to roots reggae as it was in the days of Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, Dube
has deliberately tamed the rough edges with deft piano openings, injecting
female chorus and slowing things down to a heartbeat. On the track "Kiss no
frog", Dube touches down in the township with fiery drums, heavy bass and a
jaunty beat. Meanwhile in "Taxman" and "Take it to the Jah", the rasta
man is mellow, slowly breathing meaning into the lyrics and, in the
process, taking fans to the promised land of reggae ecstasy. In all
likelihood, this is the best roots reggae anywhere in 1997.
- Opiyo Oloya