Leaving in Magomeni mapipa with my Swahili family could easily make me become a taarab artist or a bongo fleva rapper,the daily sounds of radio Tanzania playing songs like "Njiwa" or "Kimasomaso" Msumeno by the late Mohamed Issa Matona was already an influence,being a kid i always thought it was a torture till one day my step sister introduced me to Bi kidude's tracks.
I used to admire the enticing voice from my step sister,i used most of my time starring at her washing dishes while she sings.back then it was a crime for a teenage to switch his fathers radio,one could do that and everyone would conclude "abomination".
Visiting Zanzibar for the first time when my dad had to visit "aunty Subira" who in our family we call her "kibopa" meaning the rich of them all ,this was the same time i got to hear Bi.Kidude's songs,i really admired them not knowing the singer was an old granny .
Leaving the past ,last year it was my first time to see Bi.Kidude performing live on stage,as she stepped on the Busara decorated stage everyone cheered with joy,i was holding a Zanzibar pizza with me that i had to throw because of the ecstasy i had ,as she hold the microphone and started singing my favorite hit "Alalminadura" i got surprised asking my self if the voice i was hearing was the most exquisite of them all,not that she has a voice like that of beyonce or Alicia keys,that's not it...there is something about this old lady that we wouldn't care much rather than enjoying her beautiful way of singing.
And we all don't know the exact date of birth of Bi kidude,'I cannot say that I know myself, but my birth was at the time of the rupee.',(rupee a currency used by Indians in the first world war)but its also believed sometimes before 1915 that's when she was born,She would sing for the Arabs for hours and they would get happy back then,as she says she all started singing at the age of 10. Back then she was a vagabond dressing like a sailor boy many would say hooligan..nobody ever knew that the daughter of a coconut seller would one day become the most famous celebrity of Tanzania becoming the undisputed queen of Taarab and Unyago music.
Bi kidude likes walking barefoot she much believes she was not born with shoes and one gets weak when wearing shoes that's how much she has love for her culture,this has left many people with surprise seeing this old lady walking and singing barefoot, but why not appreciate also the work she does preparing young Swahili women for their transition through puberty also teaching women to pleasure their husbands, while lecturing against the dangers of sexual abuse and oppression.
The fact that Bi.Kidude not having children of her own does not at all affect her she says "i wished to have one of my own but God didn't grant it but i have many "watoto" including you ( meaning Msongo) ,Bi.Kidude is almost always holding a lighter since she likes drinking and smoking .Bi kidude during her interview with the mambo magazine it was said she had decided to ‘clean up her act’. Instead of smoking Sportsman, the local cigarette brand that are undoubtedly some of the strongest you will find around, she decided to switch to Embassy (a slightly lighter smoke), and instead of drinking Konyagi, the strong local gin, she said she would switch to beer instead – ‘but at least six’. When asked about it in interview, she looks stern for a minute and says that she only drinks and smokes a little “but most of the time it is for fun”.
At the same interview ‘Fatma Binti Baraka’,known as Bi.kidude she explained where her nick name came from, she was a little scrap of a baby, and was wrapped in a bundle of clothes on a bed when her uncle came to visit. He nearly sat down on top of her, when her mother exclaimed no, there was a baby there. Her uncle commented that it was hardly a baby, it was just a ‘tiny bit of stuff’ – in Kiswahili ‘Kidude’.
You might be raising up questions on how Bi got influenced to singing,"she says she learned singing all her songs from "Siti Binti Saad" first women singer in Zanzibar,Siti was well known of her powerful voice and how flamboyant she could get back then,after Siti Binti Saad's death this is when Kidude realized she could cover her footsteps getting advice from different people it helped her to dare.
Bi owns small clay house in Zanzibar Town and settled down to a life grounded in the traditional cultural roots of the society, becoming part of 'Unyago', the initiation process of young Swahili women. Preparations for marriage include the application of elaborate henna designs to the arms and legs of the intended bride. Bi excelled at this art, not only applying the 'wanja' but manufacturing it herself from age old recipes to “make the rainbow shine”. Bi also drew on her vast knowledge of herbs and remedies to establish a reputation as a healer.
RetroAfrica stated that,'Zanzibar', her first solo album, demonstrates Bi Kidude at the peak of her performing power. The first two tracks, recorded in Zanzibar, typify classic small-band taarab. Tracks 4, 5 and 6 were recorded during a tour of Finland with a similar line-up. Tracks 3 and 6 exemplify the Unyago drumming style, and are Bi Kidude's first commercial recordings of this important social music. The latter track, however, is 'culturally incorrect' as she is accompanied by men in what is an exclusive women's format. Track 7 was recorded with an 'All Star' band during a tour of Germany.
During the mid-1990s Bi Kidude joined forces with the Dar es Salaam band Shikamoo Jazz, whose musicians of Zanzibar origin - Ali Rashid, sax and Madar Mselem, trumpet - provided a solid base for her exploration of taarab/jazz fusion. Track 8, an experimental recording which combines two orchestras, is followed by two tracks recorded at Womad in 1995, during the 'East African Legends' tour of Britain.
Bi kidude as she says she is old as her tongue,she is now not very well doing ,her health is below par...we pray she get much better....
Her contribute to Sauti za Busara festival.
Bi kidude has been a big strike on the busara festivals,she has always made it happen,may it be citizens or foreigners we would all wait for that time when they call upon "Malkia wa Taarab na Unyango" we would all stand and cheer up.this years event we were all fooled an announcement had been made before the event’s opening day to inform festival-goers that Bi Kidude would not be able to perform this year due to illness.The announcement caught us with fear since Bi kidude is always on the fixture,she has been embracing us on that Busara stage since the first festival of 2004.
A singer of her taarab orchestra announced a “special surprise” during their show, a buzz of excitement went through the crowd and we all stood in our feet,others looking for their cameras all running towards the stage to have a clear view,and this explained how Bi is so loved by the people.
May you live long Bi..