Probably the most notable contemporary Malagasy group to achieve international exposure in the 1990s, Tarika Sammy update traditional and regional sounds of their country in invigorating ways. Dressed up in full-bodied arrangements without sounding slick, the group employ zithers and hand-drums in addition to more modern instruments. The songs also deal with contemporary concerns like drought, cattle rustlers with automatic weapons, and even Madagascar's national transportation system. For most listeners, the most appealing elements of the group's sound are the mellifluous vocals of the two sisters who sing much of Tarika Sammy's material.
Tarika Sammy was formed by Samoela Andriamalalaharijaona in 1983 in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. The group had a floating lineup (tracks by some versions appear on compilation albums) until 1991, when Tina Norosoa Raharimalala and her sister Hanitra joined as singers. This arrangement was recommended by Ian Anderson, a longtime figurehead of the British folk and roots music scene (as editor of Folk Roots and a BBC DJ) who married Hanitra. After some well-received recordings, Tarika Sammy changed into Tarika in the mid-'90s with the departure of Samoela Andriamalalaharijaona. ~ Richie Unterberger