This brass band music originated around the end the 19th century as a mockery of colonial style military bands. It was soon incorporated in the competitive song-and-dance exchanges so popular on the Swahili coast and spread from there all over east Africa. Beni (from English 'band') is a popular wedding entertainment with a strong focus on rhythm and dance, and audience participation.
Beni borrows choruses from the latest taarab hits and arranges them in extended medleys with the female wedding audience joining in for the chorus and as dancers. It is funny music, vivacious, raucous and lively. If you can imagine a deranged military marching band playing as loud as possible on half-broken trumpets, trombones, drums – only vaguely in tune with each other, but having a great time – then you will get the idea!
In Zanzibar, beni is performed both as a street parade and, stationary, for a wedding dance. The band Beni ya Kingi usually kicks off the opening parade for the Festival of the Dhow Countries, which winds its way slowly through the narrow streets of Stone Town before reaching Forodhani Gardens at the waterfront with a great crowd which then turns into a wild and lively party.