Taarab is a music genre popular in Tanzania and Kenya. It is influenced by the musical traditions of the African Great Lakes, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. Taarab rose to prominence in 1928 with the advent of the genre's first star, Siti binti Saad.
According to local legend, taarab was started by Sultan Seyyid Barghash bin Said (1870-1888). He enjoyed luxury and the pleasures of life. It was this ruler who initiated taarab in Zanzibar and later it spread all over the African Great Lakes region. The sultan imported a taarab ensemble from Egypt to play in his Beit el-Ajab palace. He subsequently decided to send to Egypt Mohamed Ibrahim to learn music and he also learned to play the Kanun. Upon his return, he formed the Zanzibar Taarab Orchestra. In 1905, Zanzibar's second music society, Ikwhani Safaa Musical Club, was established and continues to thrive today.
Ikwhani Safaa and Culture Musical Club (founded in 1958) remain the leading Zanzibar taarab orchestras.
The word Taarab is a loanword from Arabic. The Arabic word means "having joy with music".