Fred Onovwerosuoke, October 1999. All rights reserved.

African and African American Composers: Organ Music
Lucius Weathersby


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 their inclusion
of elements that are considered African American, and are not alone in their love of this new product.

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

Sharon Katz Returns to St. Louis with
S. African Music

Music Breaking the Boundaries of Africa

As South Africa’s 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 Africa’s 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 Mandela’s 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; Mandela’s 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 continents.

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 continent’s 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.

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