Sounds of Africa: A Classical Beat

For some reason, I've had classical music on the mind a lot this week. This generally happenings about once or twice a year when I remember that I really like classical music and should listen to it more often.

To be honest, I'm a little intimidated by this genre of music. With zero musical training in my background, titles like "Cello Concerto No. 2 In D Major, H. 7b/2 (Op. 101): III. Allegro" may as well be written in Georgian for all I know and if I like it, chances of me remembering such titles are zero to none. When my Pandora comes up with a playlist, my ear can't tell the difference between a symphony composed by Mozart versus one by Haydn nor one in F major versus C minor. While I'm certainly not going to hit the grave lamenting about this, I would certainly buy a Bill Bryson type book on the subject!

So with my current lack of knowledge but "I like it" feelings about classical music cleared up, I did want to talk about Africans in this genre of music. Not surprisingly, Africans have been putting moves on the genre for over 200 years. John Blanke, known as the "blacke trumpeter," was blowing on the trumpet for Kind Henry VII and VIII way back in the 1500s; George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower an Afro-Polish violinist who played with Beethoven in 1803 and to whom Beethoven dedicated his Sonata per uno mulaticco lunattico (it was later renamed after a falling out between the two); and then there is Joseph de Bologne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, an Afro-French (via Guadelope) who was a violinist and composer (in addition to fencing and other middle-class pursuits) in the late 1700s.

In more recent years, composers such as Nigerians Samuel Ekpe Akpabot and Fela Sowande have been making amazing pieces along with South Africans James Stephen Mzilikazi Khumalo and Michael Mosoeu Moerane. There are many more talented African composers and musicians but for now, I'll leave you with a piece played by Zimbabwean-Japanese violist (and violinist) Nokuthula Ngwenyama. Like many hard-core classical musicians, she started at the tender age of 4 with the piano before switching to the violin family at the age of 6 (yeah - right around the time I would have been climbing trees and skidding on my bike) and has been playing ever since.

So tell me about you - do you like classical music? Do you play any instruments? If you are interested in more about Africans in classical music, definitely check out South African Orchestral Works, Africlassical.com and the Dictionary of African Composers.

Have a great weekend!

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