Saturday, September 13, 2008

'Studies in African Rhythm' of Fred Onovwerosuoke on William Chapman Nyaho's CD 'ASA'

[ASA: Piano Music by Composers of African Descent; William Chapman Nyaho, piano; MSR Classics MS 1242 (2008); Fred Onovwerosuoke]

Eleven composers are represented on Dr. William Chapman Nyaho's expansive new CD, ASA: Piano Music by Composers of African Descent; MSR Classics MS 1242 (2008). The first six tracks of the recording are devoted to Studies in African Rhythm by Dr. Fred Onovwerosuoke. The liner notes read:

Fred Onovwerosuoke (b. 1960) was born in Ghana to Nigerian parents. Although he received his first degrees in Electrical and Electronic engineering, he was self-taught in piano and violin and would later become a professional musician. He turned to composition in 1984 when he was invited to conduct the Terra Choral Group & Chamber Orchestra at the University of Ife, Ife-Ife, Nigeria. Onovwerosuoke has traveled extensively in Africa, and much of his music is influenced by his research on traditional African instruments like kora, gonje, kontingu, kraar and others. He is a devoted student of Africa's many harmonic languages and rhythm traditions, especially the music of the Forest and Sand peoples of central and northern South African regions. As he writes, “I see hidden across Africa a gold-mine of unlimited musical scales and modes, melodic and harmonic traditions, and, yes, rhythms – abundant yet largely untapped.” He has composed several works for orchestra and chamber music, choral music as well as for solo piano. The six studies for piano on this compact disc are taken from Onovwerosuoke's Twenty-Four Studies in African Rhythms. Each study is individually named by the dance or patterns they subtly imitate. Udje is based on an Urhobo (Nigeria) dance. Jali was fashioned from his years hanging out with kora playing griot friends from West Africa and kraar playing friends from the Abyssinian sub region of northeastern Africa. Okoye fuses a commonality found in some Edo (Nigeria) and Baganda (Uganda) polyrhythms. Iroro draws from the “trancelike” dances of the “River goddess” cults Onovwerosuoke observed across the West African coast. Ayevwiomo Dance 1 (dedicated to William Chapman Nyaho) draws from rhythmic traditions in Nigeria, Ghana and their shared characteristics elsewhere across Africa. Agbazda draws from the royal and funeral dances of the Ewe people (Nyaho's father's ethnic group) in Ghana across the Togo and Benin regions of West Africa. Onovwerosuoke maintains “my compositions are informed by my travels around the world, and each piece is harnessed and nurtured by an African sensibility that is unmistakeable and genuine.”

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