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TOKYO SUMMER FESTIVAL

Soundtrack of the summer: Bi Kidude

by Joseph Badtke-Berkow

The rich cultural history of Africa’s spice islands comes to life in the gravelly, deep-throated singing of Bi Kidude. Now in her 90s (her exact age is unknown), Kidude is considered the embodiment of Zanzibari Tarab singing, a genre drawing on African, Middle Eastern and Indian sources with distinct driving rhythms and melodies played using stringed instruments from the Middle East (oud) and Japan (taisho- koto). Heralded as a living legend in Swahili-speaking East Africa, in recent decades Kidude has gained a sizable audience in Europe, the United States and Japan. This summer she arrives in Tokyo with a 15-piece orchestra for a performance on July 19 at Shibuya’s C.C. Lemon Hall as part of the Arion-Edo Foundation’s Tokyo Summer Festival. Given her age, this may well be the last time Japanese concertgoers will have the opportunity to see Kidude.

Also check out: This year’s festival focuses on island music from around the globe, including Johann Johannsson from Iceland (July 10), Cuba’s Vincent Feliu (July 24) and a number of programs devoted to the varied musical traditions of Japan’s outlying islands.

The setting: The festival is spread across a number of different venues throughout Tokyo in July and August, attracting markedly different audiences to each event.