Saturday, January 2, 2010

Meki Nzewi: 'I...register my appreciation of the committed service you are rendering'

[Prof. Meki Nzewi]

On Aug. 24, 2009 AfriClassical posted: “'The Dictionary of African Composers' Profiles Meki Nzewi and Many Others.” The Dictionary of African Composers is maintained by Alexander Johnson. We posted an excerpt from its entry on Meki Nzewi:

“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.]

Today we received an email from Prof. Meki Nzewi:
“Bill, I wish you the best of 2010, and hereby register my appreciation of the committed service you are rendering through promoting the advancement of the classical merits of African music through representing its literacy composers and performers globally. Highly appreciated. Prof. Meki Nzewi Professor of African Music - Theory and Practice Dept. of Music, University of Pretoria. Centre/Programme Director, Centre for Indigenous Instrumental Music and Dance Practices in SADC (CIIMDA)

Comments by email

Eileen Southern was always very careful about any endorsements, so I was enormously imporessed when she expressed to me her respect and devotion for Meki Nzewi. Accordingly, I am most appreciative that you, Bill, have once again established contact with someone I must write. In this case, my data on Meki are too scattered to pull together in a short time but I will certainly communicate with him as soon as I can submit this information for his review. Dominique-René de Lerma


I know very little about this talented man and am really glad to see this initiative. I am sure that getting data together (and circulated) will help to achieve deserved recognition. Regards, Mike S. Wright


Happy New Year, Friends! I find it interesting that the Africlassical post on Meki Nzewi and David Locke's recommendation of his book to someone seeking theoretical works for an ethnomusicology curriculum on SEM-L, the Society for Ethnomusicology list, appeared in my in-box at the same time. I am very glad that Meki Nzewi is receiving due recognition among his colleagues at last. Suzanne Flandreau, Head Librarian and Archivist, Center for Black Music Research, Columbia College Chicago.
From Society for Ethnomusicology List:

Dear List,
Among the many challenges in "doing theory" is to negotiate issues of ethnocentrism. For Africa, the writing of Meki Nzewi, especially his short (84 pages) yet dense book African Music: Theoretical Content and Creative Continuum, is a bracing contribution to the discourse on how to conceptualize the music, the act of making music, the process of representing it within an intercultural setting. Of course, Sound and Sentiment (Feld) and Soul of Mbira (Berliner) are classic texts that complicate the easy acceptance of musical theoretic categories drawn from European music-culture. Bravo to all who venture into this domain of the curriculum.Thanks, David Locke, Music Department, Tufts University, 20 Talbot Ave., Medford, MA 02155,

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