Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dr. Timothy K. Njoora, Composer, 'claiming Kenya’s place in the world of concert music'

Dr. Caleb Okumu Chrispo of the Department of Creative and Performing Arts at Kenya's Maseno University has informed us: “The most active Kenyan Composer at the moment is Dr. Timothy Njoora.”

Dr. Timothy K. Njoora is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Music and Dance, Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya. His faculty web page is:

Dr. Njoora gives this account of his Background and Music Training:

I am currently working at Kenyatta University in the Department of Music and Dance. I studied Music, Composition and Music Education at Barrington College, Rhode Island, BA (1980) in Music and in Mississippi College, Clinton, Mississippi for my M. Mus, 1983 (Music Education). I joined Kenyatta University as a Lecturer in 1983, and worked in various capacities, including Departmental Chair (1991 to 1994), teaching music composition, acoustics, music history, music aesthetics, and music education until 1996 when I went for further studies. In the year 2000, I graduated with a Doctor of Musical Arts (Music Education and Composition) degree from University of Oregon. Beyond the University activities, I participated as a national music adjudicator for the Kenya Music Festival for many years, assisted the Ministry of Education in Kenya in various capacities in matters dealing with the national music curriculum. For my professional growth I attended several locally organized seminars and workshops and also attended international composers workshops in Amsterdam, Holland and Legon, Ghana. My compositional output includes pieces for solo voice, choir, orchestra, gamelan, and you will probably gather from my scores most of my compositional inspirations draw from Kenyan folk songs which I believe to be rich in rhythmic and melodic vitality among many other aspects.”

Prof. Njoora closes his faculty page with this thoughtful remark about his purpose as a composer:

Beyond the obvious implications for regional and national identity I see my compositions as a tool for 'construction of a personal artistic and stylistic space' well suited for claiming Kenya’s place in the world of concert music, but more importantly a fitting contribution to knowledge and posterity.

The following are excerpts from Prof. Timothy Njoora's list of compositions, which include vocal works, a composition for brass quintet, and a work for solo violin with piano accompaniment:

Sherehekea Maisha (Celebrate Life)

In our lives we often are privileged to share a life with people or “life forces” that is so special,
powerful and personal that words sometimes fail to capture the essence of such persons.

Songs From Kenya

This 1994 arrangement for orchestra and piano got the inspiration from the rich Kenyan folk tradition.” “The work received its premiere performance by the Nairobi Orchestra in March 1994, conducted by Dr. Paul Basler, a visiting Fulbright Scholar from the University of Florida, and Prof. Emily Akuno as the pianist.”

Ruru Mwana Koma (Sleep Child)

This beautiful lullaby is taken from the Gikuyu people and its traditional role quite obvious.” “The piece received its premier performance on Wednesday May 5th 1999 during the “Composers' Forum” of the University of Oregon. It was conducted by Dr. Bernard Scherr, while the pianist was Hung-Yun Chu. The vocalists were Rachel Gross, Norman Hetzel, Valerie Meidinger, Lewis Pollard, Natasha Spikler, Ohj Tavallai, Melody Vogel, Gene Yu, and Missok Yun.”

Re-Union, For Solo Violin & Piano Accompaniment

The piece was conceptualized over a relatively short period, which does not in any way reduce its emotional, structural, and artistic perception. It was composed to celebrate a long-cherished family re-union, and its performance the ultimate climax of a rather lonely period. It was first performed on Tuesday February 16th 1999 at Beale Hall, a University of Oregon Performance center, on the occasion of “Composers’ Forum,” with Derick Colson, violin and Charles Badami, piano (both colleagues).”

"Mt. Kenya Passage" For Brass Quintet

Mount Kenya Passage” for brass quintet explores one of the most colorful traditional ceremonies among the "Embu" people who live near the legendary mount Kenya. The ceremony had various aspects including dance, ceremonial rituals marking passage into adulthood by the boys and girls (referred to as candidates) of specified ages. The music opens with solemn section to portray the sombre mood associated with the beginning of the ceremony.

This is followed by an "echo" effect played by the trumpets, suggesting early dawn wake-up calls for the candidates. After the flowing middle section the music breaks into the dance-like mood which normally followed the ritual ceremony. The melody is repeated several times partly to emphasize the "call and response" singing style characteristic of the "Embu" people and partly consistent with repetitive mode, a feature consistent with many other communities in Kenya, and the nature of some folksongs of the region.”

AfriClassical wishes to express its appreciation to Dr. Timothy K. Njoora for his insights into classical music composition in Kenya in general and, more specifically, his own creative process of presenting African and Kenyan musical heritage in classical music forms and, 'claiming Kenya's place in the world of concert music'.

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