Monday, August 24, 2009

'The Dictionary of African Composers' Profiles Meki Nzewi and Many Others

[Prof. Meki Nzewi, University of Pretoria]
“The Dictionary of African Composers by Alexander Johnson
The music life of the African Continent is as rich as it is diverse. Innumerable traditions of indigenous music co-exist with musics imported both from the West and the East, from Europe and Asia. The impact of African music on that of the West is equally undeniable. Filtered through the United States, the music of Black Africa entered indelibly into the western musical consciousness, spawning such diverse progeny as the music of Tin Pan Alley, the jazz and ragtime-influenced works of Gershwin, Ravel and Stravinsky, and the whole of today’s popular music scene.

“And yet: the music of Africa itself remains poorly documented, with only a small number of its composers finding their way into the reference works that most commonly found in the libraries of the world. The present ‘Dictionary of African composers’ aims to fill that gap. The Dictionary will, of course, be continually updated and expanded. Additions, corrections and suggestions are always welcome, and should be sent to Alexander Johnson.”

Sample Entry:
Nzewi, Meki
“Professor Meki Nzewi lectures in African Music at the University of Pretoria. As a cultural scientist, he has undertaken an interactive study of the creative theory and performance practice underlying African traditional musical arts for over 36 years. He has written copiously on all musico-philosophical aspects of African music, and has published four books and 34 articles and philosophical essays on African music, dance and drama.

“He has written, composed and produced 5 music-theatre works, 7 musicals, 3 operas and 3 poetic-dance theatre works. His other compositions include works for orchestra, choir, solo voice, drums and other ensembles. In 2001, the English Chamber Orchestra gave the world premiere of his newest orchestral work during a tour of South Africa. Prof. Nzewi has also published literary works, including three plays, a novel and poems, and has written and produced works for TV and radio.

“As master drummer, he has performed and given workshops throughout Europe and Africa. He is the founder and co-director of the Ama Dialog Foundation for African traditional arts in Nigeria. His creative philosophy and practice aim at continuing the traditional multi-disciplinary approach to creativity, performance and presentation.” [A list of books and articles published by Prof. Meki Nzewi follows the above entry in The Dictionary of African Composers.]

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