Songs of Africa sample CD:
16 exciting tracks from live concerts and workshops across the US and beyond
Songs of Africa, the CD, is a testament to cross-cultural interaction, appreciation, and understanding. As Oxford University Press put the finishing touches on the choral collection entitled Songs of Africa®, we at the African Chorus wrestled with what format this companion CD would take. One thought was to record the songs exclusively with African choirs. The other was to showcase live recordings by the various groups that have participated in our African Choral Music Workshops®. We opted for the latter, for, among other reasons, it best correlated with the founding ideas of the St. Louis African Chorus organization: that African music can be taught and performed universally, regardless of one’s racial, ethnic or cultural background, and that by so doing we help expand existing African-derived musical arts repertoire in the United States and around the world. Certainly, like any other art form, the music demands dedication and repeated practice. For over fifteen years now our instructors and performers have repeatedly proven this philosophy of artistic expression, as will be evident from the choirs presented on this CD. We ought to also proffer that active engagement in intercultural arts activity offers a unique perspective, leading to a better appreciation of the peoples for whom those art forms are indigenous. As my good friend, Renee King, choral director at the North Branch High School up in Minnesota once shared during our first trip to China: “the world shrinks everyday and America is its best microcosm. Reaching out to perform music beyond the usual traditional palette equips our kids to embrace the larger society that awaits them.” The opening track, Abanije, was a live concert by the Kirkwood Community College Choir (KCCC) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Ray Salucka, Director of Choral Activities, is a versatile musician known to challenge and excite his singers with diverse styles of music – from Renaissance through Vocal Jazz, and everything in-between. Of late he has expanded his horizons to include Asian, Caribbean, Latin and other World musics, including African. That is how his path intersected with our African Choral Music Workshops®. Salucka also has proven that accessibility and active participation not only demystifies a non-indigenous art form, but eventually leads to a better understanding of distant cultures beyond our own. Tracks 4 (Anigye Aba), 10 (Om’Oba Ni) and 12 (Pata-Pata) are from the same live concert by the KCCC. For the Winneba Youth Choir of Ghana, the songs in tracks 2 (Abanije), 7 (Je Wajua, Yesu Anipenda) and 8 (Kayra Sillo) were also an exciting experience in intercultural sharing. For though from the African country of Ghana, the songs, languages and cultural nuances were from Nigeria and Gambia, respectively, and thus equally foreign to them. They had to learn and master them, just as any other choir would in, say, America, Europe, or any non-indigenous singers. This was the case with the Boys Choir of Kenya in track 9 (Om’Oba ni) and the Namibia National Youth Choir in track 13 (Safari). And for comparison, we present in track 14 the Muungano National Choir of Kenya’s own rendition of the same song, Safari. Track 15 (Tuli-Tuli) was recorded at a dress rehearsal for a concert with the Village Harmony Youth Camp in New England. The other selections are from various concerts and open rehearsals by singers of the St. Louis African Chorus. And as is now widely known, singers who participate in African Chorus events are Americans of all racial and ethnic hues who share the common vision to foster a better understanding of African cultures through its musical arts. So there you have it: for most of the choirs presented on this CD, the songs were foreign. This means that you and your choir can also enjoy and master these songs. Now, we assume you purchased a copy of the book with this CD, because the book provides a user-friendly pronunciation guide and some notes on performance practice and cultural contexts pertinent to the songs. The book also provides percussion charts for songs that need them. If you have the book then you already noticed that this CD features only 13 of the 22 songs in the book. Renditions of the remaining songs will be offered in subsequent recordings. So, we would like to extend our invitation to your choir to participate in the next CD project. Our instructors are always available by phone to 314-652-6800 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Oh, one more thing: we also offer on demand audio renditions of the percussion charts and, as in Barka, accompaniment parts for choirs who have no access to musicians to fill these roles. Please contact us with your inquiries or to schedule one of our choral workshops and short-term artist residencies.
- Fred Onovwerosuoke, New Orleans, 2008