Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"Landscapes of Africa: Music for Orchestra" by Fred Onovwerosuoke

Landscapes of Africa: Music for Orchestra by Fred Onovwerosuoke (52:18), AGCD 2071 (2007) is a vibrant new CD of musical compositions largely salvaged from the rubble left by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The composer was born in Ghana to Nigerian parents and is Founder and Director of the St. Louis African Chorus. For me, the African tone was set before I opened the disc, by the well-traveled composer's back cover photo of the exotic lavender-tinted Temple des Pythons at Ouidah, Benin Republic. Two of the ten instrumental works were commissioned, including Rhapsody on Nketia's Republic Suite (5:04), commissioned by Prof. Emeritus J. H. Kwabena Nketia of Ghana for last month's Ghana Jubilee Celebrations. The recording has received a very favorable review by James Manheim at It is excerpted here:

Music written by Africans for Western symphonic ensembles is not common on recordings or Euro-American concert programs, but several African countries have conservatories with music-making that would seem worthy of further investigation. Fred Onovwerosuoke was born Fred Okorefe Kwaku Onovwerosuoke in Ghana in 1960. His family was Nigerian, and his education in African idioms encompassed the music of many different ethnic groups. At the University of Ife in Nigeria he conducted a choral group, and he studied with Ghana's most famous musical scholar, J.H. Kwabena Nketia. Onovwerosuoke now lives in New Orleans, where many of his manuscripts were nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina; admirers recopied them off the soaked pages. The orchestral works heard here are strongly recommended to anyone interested in fusions between the European and African musical languages, for Onovwerosuoke's thinking is subtle and original. His music strikes the listener as characteristically West African, but at first it's hard to tell why this should be -- the traditions out of which his music grew are all heavily dependent upon percussion instruments, but he uses them only sparingly.

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