and response, ululation, hand-clapping, foot-stomping, dance, audience-participation, high
energy, etc., Live at the Sheldon captured it all... Its like being
The album is a testament to the labor of love by a group of St.
Louisans who have bonded since September of 1994 to dedicate themselves to choral music in
African languages. Beginning with a concert of plain chants at a benefit for Habitat
for Humanity in December 2, 1994, the members - for whom this art form was new - have
gained confidence with each performance. (With over 1600 languages from which to draw
songs, their repertoire seems to enlarge by the day!) Gradually, they incorporated dance
and other disciplines that are integral to African choral performance.
Primarily, this organization has developed a program which focuses on
transcribing African choral music and training amateurs to perform it. And with the
support of first-class professionals and groups frequently invited from Africa to
complement their efforts, the St. Louis African Chorus has quickly occupied a unique
position in the St. Louis arts community.
1998 was particularly outstanding. The historic tour to Ghana in June
immediately positioned the Chorus as the first foreign group to travel Africa with a
fully-developed repertoire of music in African languages! Then the African Music
Conference & Festival was founded, and on October 16-20, brought a gathering of
musicians and educators for discussions, seminars, workshops and concerts.
The tracks in this album were recorded live 1997 and 1998 at the
"acoustically perfect" Sheldon Concert Hall. The first six tracks are a
collection of traditional Zulu and Xhosa play songs first made popular by South African
playwright, Mbongeni Ngema. The next three tracks are from the central Africa region. Aya
E (Bambuda), a call song, draws the communitys attention to an important
event. Blima Yo (Ekonda/Mongo) is a lullaby, "the spirits watch over
you." Walolo (Lunda) is a celebration song for special occasions, like
the coronation of a chief, naming ceremonies, etc. Yo Yoma O
(Ijaw) is a
funeral chant to celebrate life. Another chant, Jowo Bamise, appeals
to Osun (the Yoruba river goddess) for a special favor. Then you will hear
something unique: the AMC98 Finale Concert matched a young Mandinka griot
with a symphony harpist and a guitarist (tracks 12 to 14); and even went on to showcase a djembe
master and a seasoned symphony percussionist (tracks 16 and 17) - the result was electric!
In Track 15, Emeritus Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia, a music legend of our time, shares
sentiments about the increasing appreciation of African music around the world. Ise
Oluwa (Yoruba) affirms the perpetuity of the Creators work. In Bra
Mae Nia Gro (Akan), "a little bird perched on a nearby tree beckons on
us to come and play."
Many thanks to our guest artists: Thami Zungu who 1996 coached us in
southern African languages. Dr. Anicet Mundundu, Bokulaka, Leon and Eli (Tracks 7,8 &
9); griot Sankung Susso, Sharon Katz, and Maria Pinckney (Tracks 12, 13, & 14);
drum legend, Mor Thiam and percussionist, John Kasica (in Tracks 16 & 17). We
gratefully acknowledge the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission, the Missouri Arts Council,
Africa Exchange (NY), and all other foundations and corporations for their continued
support of our programs. We are indebted to Hoobellatoo
(beautiful people) duo of Chris King and Adam Long. To Dale Benz, Notes from Home
Concert Series staff, and the entire management of the Sheldon Concert Hall, Thank
you! Our profound gratitude to all our patrons and fans: your support has enabled us to
take this important step. - Fred Onovwerosuoke, February 1999.