The suburb of Ng'ambo – the 'other side' of Zanzibar Town, where the lower-class living areas spread out and where poorer families and more recent arrivals to the city live – is the home of kidumbak
. This music style, which is less refined and more upbeat than taarab, could be located musically somewhere between Stonetown big-orchestra taarab and the rural ngoma
music. It is most often performed at weddings and other celebrations and is closely related to taarab. In fact, contemporary kidumbak often makes use of the latest taarab hit songs and is sometimes called 'kitaarab
', which means 'a diminutive type of taarab' or 'derived from taarab'. Historical evidence suggests that Swahili taarab was originally performed in a very similar way to kidumbak and only later changed to resemble court orchestra music.
The kidumbak ensemble consists of a single melodic instrument, customarily a violin (played in frantic fiddle-style), a sanduku
, or tea-chest-bass, two small clay drums (ki-dumbakv
), which form the rhythmic core of every such ensemble, and other rhythm instruments, such as cherewa
, a kind of maracas manufactured from coconut shells filled with seeds, or mkwasa
, short wooden sticks played like claves. In contrast to taarab, kidumbak is much more rhythmic and the lyrics more drastic than the poetic settings of the taarab songs, often criticising other people's social behaviour. At wedding performances, the singer has to be able to string together a well-timed medley of ngoma songs, and she or he must have the ability to compose lyrics on the spot. At a Zanzibar wedding, one kidumbak set usually lasts for an hour; as one song joins the next, the intensity heats up, with the main attraction being the interplay between the music and song of the players and the dancing and chorus response of the wedding guests.