Tanzanian Rumbalings

Salum Abdallah Yazide was Tanzania's first dance-music star of the 1950s and '60s. The 22 tracks on Ngoma Iko Huku (which translates to "this is where the action is") were originally released as singles on the Tanzanian Mzuri label. Together they constitute an important decade of the singer's career.

Although he was inspired by recordings of the Cuban groups Trio Matamoros and Sexteto Habenero, Abdallah's music introduced Islamic vocals, marimba (thumb-piano) melodies and evocative guitar stylings to the rumba style, as on "Wanipendeza" (RealAudio excerpt).

As his popularity grew, Abdallah began to include local dance melodies and rhythms, as well as such international musical fashions as the twist, cha-cha and kwela (heard on "Wabeberu" [RealAudio excerpt]). The coastal, almost island feeling of tracks such as "Ndiyo Hali Ya Dunia" (RealAudio excerpt) may display the influence of taraab, an Islamic musical style from the coastal towns of Tanzania and the island of Zanzibar.

As with most African records from the 1950s and 1960s, the songs on Ngoma Iko Huku display a balance between instruments and a natural ambience that puts to shame most recordings from subsequent decades. These tracks magically transport contemporary listeners into the hearts of the musicians and listeners of a time that is decades past.