African-based Performers Next on UCLA Live's World Music Schedule

African-based Performers Next on UCLA Live

The Royal Drummers of Burundi

Nov. 11 show features the Mombasa Party and the Royal Drummers of Burundi. Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil will appear in March.

Date: October 31, 2006
Contact: Karen Nelson ( )
Phone: 310-794-4044

UCLA Live presents the Mombasa Party and The Royal Drummers of Burundi in an exuberant evening of music, showmanship and athletic prowess. Mombasa Party, opening the show, is a get-together of some of East Africa's best-known tiara artists performing a potent musical combination mixing traditional Swahili lyrics, Indian film songs and Arabic influences. The Royal Drummers of Burundi, widely considered one of the world's greatest percussion ensembles, continues in a spectacular array of rhythm and movement. The concert is scheduled for 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, 2006, in Royce Hall on the UCLA campus and will run approximately one hour and 40 minutes with one intermission. For tickets and more information visit, call (310) -825-2101 or contact Ticketmaster.

Mombasa Party is one of Kenya's most respected string and vocal ensembles featuring many of East Africa's major artists who have been working to revive the tiara's traditional acoustic sound. With awe-inspiring performances that have been mesmerizing audiences for decades, Mombasa Party's music is both multicultural and uniquely African, combining Arabic and Indian melodies. The songs range from backbiting and humorous commentary to a serenade for a beautiful young woman or a lullaby for a crying child. The featured performers for UCLA Live are Mohamed Adios Shako on harmonium, tashkota and chorus; Zuhura Swaleh on vocals, percussion and chorus; Khalfan Ali on bass guitar and chorus; and Anasi Sheebwana on percussion and chorus.

The taarab music of the predominantly Muslim, Swahili-speaking people of Tanzania and Kenya is linked to the trance state of dancers during religious or ceremonial rites. While contemporary taarab blends popular music from India and Lebanon with East African and Latin-influenced rhythms in performances that incorporate keyboards and drum machines, these established artists have come together to celebrate the sound of taarab that they grew up with.

Taarab on the Kenya Coast from the 1950s onwards showed a strong affinity for sounds associated with Indian film music including the harmonium and later the tabla. The tashkota was also added. Actually a Japanese toy-instrument called the taishokoto (small koto), it has been described as a kind of typewriter banjo, with strings stopped by an armature like a typewriter's, with a piano-like outline of black and white keys. The players first used it acoustically and later amplified it, developing a lead sound between that of a sitar and an electric mandolin.

Mohamed Adio Shigoo was a member of Zein Musical Party in the early 1970s but left with his friend and colleague Maulidi Juma, one of Mombasa's leading singers, to set up Maulidi Musical Party, the town's most prolific group in terms of recording output and wedding performances. They specialized in ingenious adaptations of Swahili lyrics to Indian film songs, as well as a repertoire of traditional ingoma melodies and rhythms, adapted also to the taarab format.

Zuhura Swaleh is one of the outstanding female voices in Mombasa taarab, as well as one of the music's main innovators. In the 1970s, Zuhara introduced elements of female wedding ingoma-dances and their sharp-tongued songs into the taarab repertoire, creating the basis for the chakacha-taarab, which developed into the most popular type of taarab for female wedding celebrations. She often uses the tashkota in her music.

The 20-member, multi-generational Royal Drummers of Burundi, one of the best percussion ensembles on stage today, uses traditional rhythms to celebrate the legacy of sacred drumbeats. Together, their vibrant power, heart-stopping rhythms and intricate choreography channel the soul of the Burundi nation. They perform on sacred drums in the same way they have played for centuries, traditionally taking part in ceremonies such as births, funerals and the coronation of African kings. Also a modern and popular worldwide attraction, their massed drum sound, which became known as the "Burundi beat," has influenced scores of musicians from Adam Ant to Joni Mitchell, who used them on her 1975 album, "The Hissing of Summer Lawns."

The Drummers of Burundi section of the program features a succession of rhythms representing various themes in Burundi life — beauty, peace, cheerfulness and the importance of traditional culture. The origin of their performance is shrouded in ancient legend, mystery and rituals, and the drums articulate the nation's spirit and creative energy. The drummers dress in colorful costumes and carry the large drums on their heads, playing all the while, dancing in choreographed steps, moving around and from side to side and improvising on a central drum.

In Burundi, drums are sacred and represent, along with the king, the powers of fertility and regeneration. Along with the large ingoma drums made of hollow tree trunks covered with skin, the amashako drums provide a continuous beat, and ibishikiso drums follow the rhythm of the central inkiranya drum. The thunderous percussion with the graceful yet athletic dance that accompanies this masterful performance represents an important part of Burundi's musical heritage.

Since the `60s, the Drummers have toured outside of their country, becoming a popular attraction at concert halls and festivals around the world. Their "Burundi beat" sound also caught the ear of Western musicians such as Mitchell and influenced British rock bands of the early `80s, including Bow Wow Wow. Thomas Brooman, who organized the first WOMAD festival in 1982 that helped spark the world music boom, was inspired to launch the event by seeing the drummers. The Drummers of Burundi were recorded at Real World Studios in 1993 and released a live album on the Real World Label. Other recordings followed including "The Master Drummers of Burundi" in 1994 and "The Drummers of Burundi" in 1999.

Tickets for Mombasa Party and The Royal Drummers of Burundi can be purchased for $38, $30 and $25 at the UCLA Central Ticket Office at the southwest corner of the James West Alumni Center, online at and at Ticketmaster outlets. For more information or to charge by phone, please call (310) 825-2101. UCLA students may purchase tickets in advance for $15. Student rush tickets, subject to availability, are offered at the same price to all students with a valid ID one hour prior to show time.

UCLA Live's 2006/07 Upcoming World Music Events

·        Friday-Sunday, Feb. 9-11: KODO, Japan's virtuoso traditional percussion ensemble.

·        Thursday, March 1: Lila Downs leads a new wave of cross-border Latino music.

·        Saturday, March 10: The Guyton Monks Tibetan Tantrum Choir.

·        Friday, March 16: Iranian musician Hossein Alizadeh with the Hamavayan Ensemble.

·        Saturday, March 17: Double bill with vocalist David Broza and guitarist Badi Assad.

·        Saturday, March 24: Brazil's superstar musician Gilberto Gil in a rare U.S. appearance.

UCLA Live is an internationally acclaimed producer and presenter of music, dance, theater and spoken word, bringing hundreds of outstanding and provocative artists to Los Angeles each year. From the ancient to the modern, the local to the global, and the underground to the world-renowned, UCLA Live is committed to supporting the development of new and existing work by both major and emerging artists. Lectures, residencies and extensive outreach programs expand the impact of its unparalleled performances.


Published: Wednesday, November 01, 2006