Upcoming DatesTuesday, October 30, 2018 - 8:00pm
Boston Conservatory Contemporary Classical Music Ensemble: contraBAND presents African Voices in Contemporary Music.
AYO OGUNRANTI: “African Rhythms”
JOSHUA UZOIGWE: “Talking Drums: Ukom”
KEVIN VOLANS: “Walking Song”
UZOIGWE: “Talking Drums: Illulu”
VIMBAYI KAZIBONI: “Two Folk Songs from Zimbabwe”
UZOIGWE: “Talking Drums: Egwu Amala”
HAMZA EL DIN: “Escalay”
Vimbayi Kaziboni, conductor
This performance has been selected as part of Boston Conservatory at Berklee's 2018–2019 Center Stage collection. Learn more about Center Stage and view all Center Stage performances.
LISTEN: In this Sounds of Berklee podcast, Vimbayi Kaziboni discusses bringing his identity as an African composer and conductor into the African Voices in Contemporary Music program.
About the Works: Program Notes by Vimbayi Kaziboni
AYO OGUNRANTI: African Rhythms
We begin the program with African Rhythms, a work by Nigerian composer Ayo Oluranti (b. 1972). Oluranti’s compositional approach employs African musical processes and resources with the goal of composing modern art works that are a direct progression of—and departure from—African traditional and Western art musical genres. In this intercultural approach to music composition, he experiments with fusing signature elements of Western art music with those of the Yorùbá and Igbo musics of Nigeria.
JOSHUA UZOIGWE: Talking Drums: Ukom; Talking Drums: Illulu; and Talking Drums: Egwu Amala
Second on the program and interspersed throughout the concert is Joshua Uzoigwe's Talking Drums, a work for solo piano. Uzoigwe (1946–2005), considered one of Nigeria's most important composers, was among the pioneers of African pianism, a style of piano music that employs techniques and styles used in the performance of sub-Saharan African traditional and popular instrumental music. The percussive and melodic capabilities of the piano make it an ideal medium for expressing the rhythmic and percussive features of African music. Uzoigwe's Talking Drums is a quintessential work demonstrating the principles of African pianism. The work, which is comprised of three movements, is influenced by the rhythmic and melodic characteristics found in African master drumming on the Ukom, Iyala, and small slit-drums.
KEVIN VOLANS: Walking Song
The third work on the program, Walking Song is by Kevin Volans (b. 1949), a South African-born composer of European descent. Volans, who was a student of Karlheinz Stockhausen and Mauricio Kagel in Cologne, was described by the Village Voice as “one of the most original and unpredictable voices on the planet.” Volans’ music combines accessibility and complexity. It draws inspiration from a number of African musical traditions, particularly South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia. Before finding inspiration in African music, Volans was attracted to African textiles that visually showed him the possibilities that were outside the remit of serial composition à la Stockhausen.
VIMBAYI KAZIBONI: Two Folk Songs from Zimbabwe
The next work on the program is my own musical offering, Two Folk Songs from Zimbabwe. In this work I unravel my earliest musical memory and my first music lesson. Both experiences speak to my personal identity and my musical DNA. The piece begins with a matrix of the folk tune Karigamombe, the first piece I learned on the mbira (Zimbabwean thumb-piano) as a young boy. The mbira tradition, not unlike the Western European keyboard tradition during the 17th and 18th centuries, uses different tuning (or comma) systems, dependent on the region of the country. Growing up, I had multiple mbiras from different mbira-makers and from different comma systems, as I moved a lot between my parents home and my two grandmothers’ homes. As a result, I would hear different intonations of the same piece on the different mbiras. I allude to these modulations in Two Folk Songs.
The second part of the work is a thematic variation of a folk song that constitutes my earliest musical memory. As a toddler, my paternal grandmother would sing to me “Shiri Yakanaka” (lovely bird) while she swung me in her arms to and fro in the air. This happens to also be my earliest memory of experiencing joy.
Shiri yakanaka unoendepi?
Lovely bird where are you going?
Uya, uya, uya titambe.
Come, come, come and play.
I am flying to the sky
Kuti ndifanane nemakore.
So that I can be like the clouds.
I would find out from my grandmother years later that my traditional African totem is the bird.
HAMZA EL DIN: Escalay: The Water Wheel
The last work of the evening, Escalay: The Water Wheel, is by Hamza El Din (1929–2006), a Nubian Egyptian-Sudanese composer, oud player, tar player, and vocalist. Born in the village of Toshka in Southern Egypt near Wadi Halfa in Northern Sudan, el Din studied music in Egypt and in Italy before studying at the King Fouad Institute for Middle Eastern Music. After his studies, el Din traveled throughout North Africa on an Egyptian government grant, collecting traditional folk songs. His performances of these collected folk songs and his own compositions attracted the attention of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and the Grateful Dead in the 1960s, which led to a recording contract and to his eventual emigration to the United States. In 1971, he recorded Escalay: The Water Wheel (published by Nonesuch Records), which became one of the first world music recordings released widely in the West. It was also credited as an influence by some American minimalist composers, including Steve Reich and Terry Riley. In 1992, he made an arrangement of Escalay for the Kronos Quartet, which is the version you will hear this evening.
About the Conductor
Vimbayi Kaziboni, conductor