Bi Kidude; The queen of Taarab who defied it all

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Bi Kidude, Picture courtesy Trans-African

Bi Kidude was a force to reckon, her petite and gentle appearance might have fooled many until the point she took on the stage, and she became a force of nature, as she is described in her feature film “As Old as My tongue”

The stage would reverberate from the beats of the drum as she played on them with intense energy. She would flung herself in different dancing styles across the stage as she entertained revellers with her music.

Taarabu, a Swahili Arab influenced music that got the attention of the islanders and visitors on the Island of Zanzibar. The tropical paradise that she called home.

By her time of death in 2013, Bi Kidude had made a mark in the music scene, marked by the prize she won for her contribution to the world music at Womex, an annual gathering of the world music industry. A cherry on top of her long music career that is said to have begun in 1920s.

Bi Kidude was born Fatma binti Baraka at a time that no one really knows but she is estimated to have been the age of 102 at her passing. A story is told of how Bi Kidude, ran away from a Koranic school at the age of ten, defied the norm when she sang without a veil when all taarab musicians sang beneath a veil shifting the patterns. She answered to know one but lived her life to the fullest.

“She followed her own spirit. She ran away from two husbands, she was childless, she drank, she smoked, she really broke their rules but at the same time she embodied all the great cultural aspects of that island.” Said DJ Rita Ray to BBC

Bi Kidude was a rebel; she defied age and social conventions. She was seen to smoke and drink in public.

Bi Kidude recorded her first solo album in 1994 in her mid-eighties. Her second album, Machozi ya Huba, which introduced her use of the traditional drums influenced the Zenji Flava local hip hop music.

Bi Kidude’s playlist on YouTube

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