Siti Muharam, released her debut album, Siti of Unguja, in 2020 with her own rendition of her great-grandmother’s (Siti binti Saad) acclaimed taarab song, Kijiti.
Siti binti Saad was the first female singer of taarab and the performer who brought the music out of the Sultan’s court and to a mass audience by singing in Swahili and becoming the first musician from Zanzibar to make commercial recordings in 1929.
One of Siti binti Saad’s songs that is most treasured by taarab enthusiasts is Kijiti, a song composed to protest the injustices encountered by women. Kijiti was never recorded by Siti for commercial release, but was learned by other female taarab singers from Siti’s live performances and sustained by the oral tradition through women’s taarab groups.
Look you all, look at what Kijiti has done,
To take a guest and force her to run from his chase.
He went with her to the bush and brought her back as a corpse…
The Swahili poetess Mwana Kupona binti Mshamu composed Utendi wa Mwanakupona (“The Book of Mwana Kupona”) for her teenage daughter, Mwana Hashima binti Sheikh, around 1858. It’s apparent from the lyrics that Mwana Kupona was very ill at the time of writing these verses and the composition reads an ailing mother’s affectionate advice to her young daughter on how she should conduct herself during her own life.
Come close to me my daughter,
and listen to my advice…
A Kamba lullaby from Kenya for singing babies to sleep. The singer calls her child ‘Mama’ as a form of endearment by which a child is addressed as a parent.
Mama, child’s mother, don’t cry like a poor person.
You have come to me, you are crying more than I used to…
Many of the protest songs sung by the chiSena women of the Lower Zambesi region of Mozambique contain a short play, inserted into the song. A typical performance begins with the women standing in a circle, bending forward from the waist and clapping or clacking piece of wood or shaking tin machacha as accompaniment to the lead singer.
Ay — ay
Paiva’s the master…