Most of the traditional music coming of out the Comoros Islands and Mayotte is heavily influenced by the music of Madagascar, the Middle East and eastern Africa. One style that is popular and probably the most influential to other musical styles in Comoros is called twarab, a Comorian version of the taarab genre of Zanzibar (part of Tanzania).
Musical instruments that are commonly used in traditional music are the oud (a type of pear-shaped lute), the violin (often used in twarab music), and the gabusi (another type of fretless lute with 12 strings).
One of the larger celebrations in Comoros is on the island of Mohéli called Grand Mariage (meaning the “great wedding”). It usually takes place in July or August. Comorians like to have a lot of food when they are celebrating, and they also like a lot of music and dance. This festival is known for dancing, and there are a few traditional dances that are performed. Some of the more common types of dances are the wadaha (a type of women’s dance), the chigoma (danced by men), and the diridji (a dance where the men dance around a table).
I have found several musicians from Comoros on Spotify and iTunes. One that I like is Abou and Baba Chihaby. Abou is the composer of the Comorian national anthem. Outside of that, their style is an African-influenced reggae-tinged style. I like it a lot. I listened to the album Islands on Fire over and over again. In a cynical way, I like the song “Mrs. Smith.” Maybe because I’ve known several Mrs. Smiths in my life. But I’m also a huge fan of this style.
I also discovered Maalesh who I’ve come to like a lot as well. I’ve listened to the album Yelela (Afrique de soleil lavant) many times, and I like it. The accompaniment is mostly acoustic guitar and simplistic melody lines, but it’s done very well. It’s also available on iTunes. He, like many other musicians are influenced by other pan-African and Caribbean styles such as reggae, zouk, and soukous. This particular video shows a lot of scenes from in and around Comoros.
A couple of other musicians I discovered are Salim Ali Amir whose music has little tinges of jazz/blues in it, overlaid with other pan-African styles. Although I have to say, there are times when his music sounds a little bit like grocery store music. But it’s all good. I once heard They Might Be Giants in a grocery store, so it’s not all bad. In fact, that’s pretty awesome. This song is good, I like this one.
Another musician I came across is Nawal. Her music definitely has far more of an Arabic or even an Indian influence on it. The songs utilize instruments that would be native of those regions from I can hear. She’s internationally known, and sings in Comorian, French, Arabic, and English.
Up next: the food!