Musicians of the African diaspora

Joshua Nemith blogs from Cincinnati ~ 'Via On an Overgrown Path - is a wonderful resource that presents information on classical composers and musicians of African heritage. It includes men and women from diverse populations around the globe, including Africans, African-Americans, Afro-Latin Americans, and Afro-Europeans. A broad historical range is covered from the 1700s up to the current day.

Many people do not realize the breadth of these contributions to the concert music tradition. It is true we often focus quite heavily on the “Dead White Guys” of the European art music tradition, such as Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Strauss, Mahler, etc. But all through this history non-whites have been composing, conducting, and performing music. Sometimes their art got noticed, many times it did not.

Today it is becoming increasingly important for the concert stage to present and embrace more diverse programming from outside the standardized canon. I’ve felt quite strongly about this since I decided to become a professional musician and am happy to see that performance institutions are evolving towards inclusion of quality musical products from lesser-known composers and musicians. AfriClassical serves as a great introduction to some of these musicians. There are biographies, audio samples, and links to other pertinent sites and information. As an example, check out an excerpt of the cool performance of Margaret Allison Bonds' "Troubled Water" by pianist William H. Chapman Nyaho (photo above).

Not least important is the fact that many of these composers wrote great piano music. Over the years I’ve played some terrific pieces by African-American composers George Walker, Duke Ellington, William Grant Still, Scott Joplin, and Hannibal. Even though some of these are household names (like Joplin and Ellington), their solo and ensemble concert music is often unfairly overlooked. It is great that AfriClassical is out there to help raise awareness about their repertoire as well as the music of more (unfortunately) obscure black musicians. Many audiences would appreciate more attention paid to it.'

Thanks Joshua, and there are lots more interesting paths to the musical diaspora from my John McLaughlin Williams tag.

Text credit Joshua Nemith. Image credit Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk


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