African and African
American Composers: Organ Music
Can we say that Jazz, Spirituals, Blues and the works of the William Grant Still,
Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Earl Stewart are indigenous to America? This is the
source of a hot debate. I will let you decide.
Starting in the late 19th century to this present day, Western European and
American music have been influenced, if not changed forever, by the African
rhythms and harmonic language. From the Motherland, slave ships, plantations, churches,
and in places of higher learning, Blacks have played a major role in the development of
music. This contribution has been ignored, or downplayed, until recent years.
The rhythm of the African drums, as well as the native tunes which were brought to
America by captive Africans, lay the foundation for many genres around the world. This
driving rhythm can be heard in the complexity of Spirituals and Jazz.
In Africa, the drum provides many functions. Among those functions are ritualistic
steady beats, as those of the human heart, and complex patterns that can literally speak
to those who can understand.
Adding the rhythm of Africans with the modified tunes of Anglo Saxons, you get a
unique product. This product is called African American music. These two elements can be
heard in all of the music that we call African American music. It can also be heard in
works by composers of European descent. Dvorak, Ravel, Gershwin and Berstein are noted for
of elements that are considered African American, and are not alone in their love of this
Composers strive to include this fresh, exciting and unique musical language in
their works. From the symphony to chamber music, from opera to vocal solos - at one time
or another - every musical genre has employed African American and African musical
language. In the next three issues, I will discuss how Africans and African Americans have
used their musical language in composing for the pipe organ.
Dr. Lucius R. Weathersby is Music Department Chair at Dillard
University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Katz Returns to St. Louis with
S. African Music
Music Breaking the Boundaries of Africa
As South Africas Cultural Ambassadors to three continents, Sharon Katz & The
Peace Train band have been using their exhilarating rhythms and power voices to break
through the boundaries created by apartheid and decades of oppression in Africa, and to
entertain millions world-wide with their jubilant lyrics of Africas dynamic
renaissance and push for peace and unity.
From South Africa to Ghana, Harlem to New Orleans, London to Jerusalem, these
multi-talented musicians and dancers have been performing throughout the world, carrying
Mandelas message on the back of their unstoppable beat.
They have toured with giants like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and The Wailers: been
recorded with Tina Turner, Annie Lennox, Elton John and Luciano Pavarotti: and shared the
stage with Gladys Knight, Aaron Neville and Joni Mitchell.
Whether at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival; Mandelas pre-election
rallies; special events for Presidents, Kings & Ambassadors; community festivals in
cities, towns and villages; or concerts at stadiums, universities, and music halls, Sharon
Katz & The Peace Train band have thrilled audiences from 100 to 100,000 on three
Currently based at the International Center for African Music and Dance as part of
their All-Africa Peace Train Tour, Sharon Katz & The Peace Train are also developing
an African model of music Therapy for use in the continents war-torn and
underdeveloped areas. Working together with traditional healers, medical personnel,
psychologists, researchers and other musicians form throughout Africa and Diaspora, they
are bringing the healing powers of music to the continents renaissance. Sharon Katz
& The Peace Train will be in the United States and Middle East from October to
November of 1998, and then again from November 1999 until January 2000. See calendar on
page five for dates in St. Louis.