I grew up in Kenya and used to visit the coast on school vacations with my family. My parents always took us to the ruins of ancient cities along the coast, like Gedi, and to Fort Jesus, in Mombasa. A t the time, I found them boring, too hot and fly-infest and wanted only to jump into the delicious Indian Ocean. But now I've become fascinated with the history and on a visit to Kenya, in 2007, right after my mother died, I took myself off to the coast to mourn her, and found myself making this film instead.

THE SWAHILI BEAT is an upbeat look at the remarkable history of the Swahili people of Kenya and Tanzania’s East African coast. Packed with the music and dance of the Swahili and other indigenous coastal peoples, the film takes viewers from the fabled island of Lamu off the northern coast of Kenya to Zanzibar, Mombasa, Kilwa, Bagamoyo and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The film traces the development of the Swahili culture through the intermarriage of Arab settlers, arriving from Oman in the 8th century, with local Africans. The resulting Afro-Arab Islamic hybrid culture cemented economic and social stability and fueled the emergence of the Swahili as prosperous merchant brokers in the Indian Ocean basin and in the growing East African slave trade. This made them a lucrative target for successive waves of settlers, invaders and colonizers, including the Persians, Portuguese, Arabs, Germans and British. THE SWAHILI BEAT examines the impact of these invaders, and asks whether the Swahili, who have successfully absorbed a variety of cultural influences, can maintain their traditional culture in the face of globalization and the Internet.

Purchase this film from Documentary Educational Resources, at Distributed by Tubemogul.

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