When I lived in Zanzibar, Bi Kidude was a living legend whom I had the privilege of meeting on a number of occasions. No one appeared to know her age and upon her death in 2013, she was reputed to be over a hundred years old. She is one of the most famous Zanzibari Taraab singers, a genre of music popular in Tanzania. Well known for her teachings of the unyago rituals practiced to celebrates the coming of age of girls, she was highly sought after to perform music and dance – one part of these rituals – at weddings, having passed on her wisdom and knowledge of the other rituals associated with unyago to her younger ‘disciples’.
During a wedding the women are invited to the unyago and the drumming, music and dancing build up throughout the evening as the rituals of ‘cleansing and preparing’ the bride are carried out in private. Eventually the bride is covered and carried out to join with the dancers as the drumming crescendos. The stamina required for this incredible woman to drum, dance and sing for hours was phenomenal.