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Music and cultural performances have always been an integral part of film and it is in recognition of this that local and international music has played a major role alongside other performing arts during the Festival of the Dhow Countries. All over the world music is a very popular medium for bringing people together and can act as a powerful means of communicating positive messages. Indeed, in terms of raising awareness of social issues of the day, musicians are more influential than politicians.
The music of Tanzania has been influenced both from within the African continent and also from outside via long-established trade routes.
The coastal areas were influenced by contact with Arabic and Indonesian cultures. It is thought, for instance, that box-resonating zithers and flat-bar xylophones could have been imported from Indonesia.
There is also a definite Islamic influence on styles of coastal singing and types of instrument, such as the Swahili udi, an unfretted plucked lute nearly identical to the Arabic ’ud. Taarab, which began as an entertainment genre among the elite, has become a prominent urban popular style, using ’udi, harmonium, accordion, and drums. More recently it has been electrified. The cultural intercourse between Tanzania and the Arab world was mutual, as evidenced by the exportation of the leiwah dance genre to Bahrain.
Another area of great cultural influence is in the northwest. This was an important region in the once lively ivory trade that was the economic basis for the powerful Ugandan kingdoms.