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Zanzibara 6 : Mtendeni Maulid Ensemble


Founded in the 1960s, the Mtendeni Maulid Ensemble performs a visually and acoustically striking style of Sufi religious devotion called Maulidi ya Homu. The form has roots in the ancient Arab world, but today survives only in Zanzibar. Each performance is divided into sections, called dahalas. In each dahala, qasidas (praise poems) are sung in a medley-like fashion, one merging into the next. These qasidas are either in Arabic or Swahili and praise God or Muhammad, describe the duties of Muslims, relate knowledge of heaven and hell, and celebrate life. Maulidi ya Homu songs are not fixed and unified entities but more closely resemble medleys or mosaics. The group starts with a slow warm-up dahala, with only the two ruwasi-type drums. The full range of percussion can be hear in the following, faster-paced two dahalas. The drums beat faster and louder until the climax at the end. In the local context, every performance and rehearsal is closed with a communal recitation of shorter suras from the Qur’an and dua (supplications) that are believed to bestow baraka (blessings) on all those present. This ending also provides the groups with a way of calming down after the excitement and energized focus that drumming, singing, and dancing require.