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Article

Anne Elise Thomas

Egyptian composer, musician, and film star, was born in the early 1900s, either in Cairo or in the village of Abu Kibir, Sharqiya Province. There is confusion regarding both the date and the place of his birth. Two official identification cards in his possession listed his birth in 1910 but in the two different locations named above. ʿAbd al-Wahhab’s contemporaries have suggested that he was born sometime between 1896 and 1907 their suggestions are supported by reported incidents of his early musical life and encounters with important historical figures of the 1910s His early years were spent in the Bab al Shaʿrani quarter of Cairo where his father Muhammad Abu ʿIsa ʿAbd al Wahhab was shaykh religious scholar and caretaker of the neighborhood mosque ʿAbd al Wahhab was one of five children born to his father and Fatima Higazi his mother Early on ʿAbd al Wahhab was enrolled by ...

Article

Mussie Tesfagiorgis

Eritrean Tigrinya singer and performer, songwriter, instrument player, and music composer, was born in the city of Asmara. During the Eritrean war of liberation (1961–1991), Abraham Afewerki and his family, like hundreds of thousands of other Eritreans, sought refuge in Sudan.

Abraham Afewerki became attracted by music and musical instruments at an early age. As a young child, he started playing famfam harmonica and singing at school events As a young boy with great artistic potential he joined the Qeyyahti Embaba Red Flowers of the Eritrean People s Liberation Front EPLF at the age of twelve The Red Flowers was a cultural troupe composed of young artists who performed cultural and revolutionary music and theater within Eritrea in areas controlled by the EPLF and Sudan A branch of the troupe of which Abraham Afewerki was a member was active in Khartoum By writing and composing his own ...

Article

Emily Callaci

Fela Anikulapo Kuti was a pioneer of the musical genre of Afrobeat and a choreographer of spectacular and irreverent acts of political protest. Growing up in the context of late colonial and postcolonial Nigeria, he saw a world in which many African people struggled to get by, while imperial nations, foreign corporations, and postcolonial political regimes grew wealthier and more powerful at their expense. In the politically and economically turbulent context of postcolonial urban Africa, Fela advocated the idea of African authenticity as a guiding principle of creative expression and political activism.

Fela was born in 1938 in Abeokuta, Nigeria, as Fela Ransome Kuti. His father was a minister, and his mother was a prominent feminist and anticolonial activist. In 1958, Fela’s parents sent him to London for medical training, but he instead registered at the Trinity School of Music. In 1961 he started his first jazz band ...

Article

Cynthia Tse Kimberlin

Ethiopian ethnomusicologist, composer, scholar, and teacher, was born in Addis Ababa. His paternal grandfather was Liqe Mekuwas Adinew Goshu, a renowned hero of the Battle of Adwa and a close confidant of Empress Taitu. His great grandfather, Dejazmach Goshu, served as a mentor and teacher to Emperor Tewodros. The most creative and artistic individual in his family was his mother, Fantaye Nekere, who composed verse and poetry. She taught Ashenafi about Ethiopian artistic forms, which he later drew upon for his work.

Ashenafi first showed an interest in music while attending Haile Selassie I Elementary School. After attending the Harar Teachers’ Training School, he taught music at Haile Sellassie I University and the Addis Ababa YMCA before obtaining his BA in Music (1962 from the University of Rochester s Eastman School of Music in the United States He returned to Addis Ababa to serve as the first official ...

Article

Joel Gordon

leading male vocalist of his generation in Egypt, composer and box- office sensation with a career spanning five decades, was born in Suwayda, a village in the Druze stronghold of Southern Syria. He was the eldest child of Fahd al-Atrash, an Ottoman official related to the leading Druze princely clan and Alia al-Mundhir, a Druze from Beirut. At the end of World War I, Fahd al-Atrash was posted in the Turkish district of Demirci. Fearing arrest, he fled with his family to Beirut; on the sea passage from Izmir, Alia gave birth to a daughter, Amal, whose fame as the musical artist Asmahan would equal, if not surpass, her older brother’s.

In 1923 against her husband s will Alia took her children to Damascus and then to Cairo She fled the violence that had followed the bombardment of the Druze stronghold in response to an attack on French forces ...

Article

B.Léza  

Juliana Braz Dias

Cape Verdean musician and composer, was born on São Vicente Island (Cape Verde) on 3 December 1905 He was the son of João Vicente da Cruz and Rosa Antónia Lopes da Cruz a domestic servant Born on Saint Francis Xavier s day he was named Francisco Xavier da Cruz after the saint and many of his works as a composer are registered under this name However B Léza is the name he used throughout his life and the name that keeps him alive in the collective memory of the Cape Verdean nation B Léza grew up on the streets of Lombo a poor district whose population was largely composed of sailors fishermen domestic servants and workers of the coal companies established by the British in the City of Mindelo São Vicente Island during the times of steam navigation B Léza was the product of a port city an environment ...

Article

Olusola O. Isola

Nigerian musician and composer, was born on 17 May 1935 in Jos, Plateau State, in the northeast of Nigeria. He is of the Yoruba ethnic group and was born into a family of music teachers and composers. His father, Theophilus Abiodun Bankole, was a prominent organist and choirmaster at Saint Luke’s Anglican Church, Jos. His mother was a music tutor at Queen’s School, Ede (now in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria), one of the elite female secondary schools in Nigeria. She was also an active musician. Bankole’s maternal grandfather, Akinje George, was the organist and choirmaster at the First Baptist Church, Lagos.

In 1941 when Bankole was six years old his father noticed that he had music talent and sent him to live with his grandfather who gave him initial lessons in piano and harmonium As a boy soprano in the choir at Cathedral Church of Christ in Lagos Bankole showed ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

Since the 1960s Ayo Bankole has gained popularity in Nigeria as a composer who successfully fused West African traditional music with stylistic traits of European art music. According to music scholar Olabode F. Omojola, Bankole was “constantly aware of the sacred bonds between a musician and society in traditional Nigerian communities … [and his] works often highlight bold experiments characterized by a synthesis of opposing styles and techniques.” Nowhere is this more evident than in Bankole’s Festac cantata (1974), a work that applies a European harmonic language to Yoruba ceremonial music and employs both European and traditional African instruments.

Bankole grew up in Lagos, Nigeria where Anglican and Catholic missionaries had introduced European based musical education in the mid nineteenth century Nigerian musicians trained in missionary schools include Ekundayo Phillips and Dayo Dedeke both masters of indigenous hymnody as well as the stylistic paradigms on which ...

Article

David B. Coplan

South African musician, was born in the small Zulu Christian settlement of Siyamu, near Edendale, Natal, in 1895, the only child of Mordecai and Mejile Caluza. Caluza was the great-grandson of one of the original converts who arrived at Edendale with the Reverend Mr. Allison in the late 1840s. Multi-part vocal music had strong roots in Zulu indigenous culture and for the Christians of Edenvale served as an important expression and symbol of progress, self-improvement, and “civilization.” Caluza came from a family that was notably musical even by Edendale’s high standards, and his grandfather, John, was renowned for his ability to read staff notation and conduct a choir.

Reuben s family and in laws also included teachers preachers landowners writers and other members of the Zulu westernized elite of the period Between the time of Reuben s birth and the Great Depression this class of self employed Christian ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

a musician later known as Dewayon, was born on 26 June 1934 in the town of Bolobo, located on the Congo River in Bandundu Province, roughly halfway between the cities of Kinshasa and Mbandaka in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His home region near Lake Mai Ndombe had suffered greatly under Belgian king Leopold II's Independent State of the Congo in the early twentieth century, but Ebengo took pride in his home region's cultural heritage that had survived this dark period. His musical style was later strongly influenced by ekondo, a rhythm in 6/8 time that Ebengo merged with Latin American rumba in his guitar playing. Ebengo attended five years of primary school in the town of Mushie in Bandundu Province, but decided to move to Kinshasa in 1947 He worked briefly aboard steamers on the Congo River as well as for the Utexléo and Tissaco companies Ebengo ...

Article

Azeddine Chergui and Hassan Bourara

Moroccan singer, composer, and musician, was born Ahmed Chahboun in Casablanca in 1918 to a modest father from Agadir in the Souss region of Morocco. El Bidaoui grew up in an old medina neighborhood well known for its many stores that sold and rented musical instruments. At an early age, he developed a taste for classical Arabic music and traditional religious songs (such as “Nashid” and “Madih”). According to his son, musical instruments were so expensive that his family had to rent him one. He debuted at a very young age with the first Moroccan “Takht,” a traditional Arab musical ensemble he set up with Moroccan Jewish musicians. The first songs he composed in the 1940s drew the attention of King Mohammed V who, in 1946 asked him to set up a Moroccan music orchestra This he did along with Abbas Al Khiyati Al Ghali Al Khiyati and ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

Akin Euba of Nigeria composes classical works that combine elements of European music with the musical traditions of the country’s Yoruba people. Throughout his career Euba has worked to create African classical music that is accessible to Africans and non-Africans alike. In his opinion, “the contemporary African composer … must create music for his own people and for all people at large and must act as an interpreter between the two.”

Born in Lagos, Euba received an extensive musical education at Trinity College of Music in London, at the University of California at Los Angeles, and at the University of Ghana at Legon, where he received his Ph.D. degree in 1974 He has taught at Trinity College in England at the University of Nigeria at Ife and the University of Pittsburgh where he is currently Mellon Professor of African Music Euba is not only a composer but also a scholar who ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

Cesaria Evora was one of seven children in a musical family in Mindelo, a town in the island nation of Cape Verde off the West African coast. Musicians in the family included her violinist father, who died when she was a child, and her uncle Francisco Xavier da Cruz, a songwriter whose songs Evora has recorded. Evora was singing in bars in Mindelo by the age of sixteen.

Evora sings in Criuolo, a Creole derived from Portuguese and African languages. She is most famous for singing morna which roughly translates to songs of mourning As with many other kinds of folk music morna songs are handed down from generation to generation tracing dominant themes in a people s history Many morna songs for example lament Cape Verdean losses to the Transatlantic Slave Trade and to and emigration Often accompanied by acoustic guitars violins accordions and cavaquinho a four string ...

Article

Isabel Morais

Mozambican film director, actor, screenwriter, writer, and lyricist, was born on 22 August 1931 and grew up in Lourenço Marques (present-day Maputo) in the former Portuguese-speaking colony of Mozambique in eastern Africa. Rui (also spelled Ruy) Guerra’s parents were Portuguese immigrants. As a teenager he wrote film reviews, shot films, and became involved in anticolonial and proindependent circles.

At the age of nineteen Guerra left Mozambique for further education in France, where from 1952 to 1954 he studied cinematography at the Institute of High Cinematographic Studies in Paris. Between 1956 and 1957 he became assistant cameraman and director on various French films. In 1958 he emigrated to Brazil, where he directed his first feature film, Os Cafajestes (The Hustlers, 1962), which was selected for the twelfth Berlin International Film Festival. The high point of Guerra’s career came when he directed the political and antimilitarist film Os Fuzis ...

Article

Kathryn Barrett-Gaines

Ugandan musician known as Prince Paulo Kafeero, was a celebrated composer and singer in the tradition of kadongo kamu, the only music indigenous to Uganda. Upon his death in Mulago Hospital in Kampala, just before his thirty-seventh birthday, the outpouring of grief across Uganda, and among Ugandans around the world, confirmed the esteem in which he was held. Kafeero celebrated twenty years in music and a catalog of eighty-three songs compiled in twenty-one albums. His 1994 hit “Walumbe Zaaya,” a fifteen-minute lament on death, had sent him into the Ugandan musical stratosphere. International recognition of that song earned Kafeero the nickname “Golden Boy of Africa,” as a result of an award he received in 1994 in Cairo. His hit “Dippo Naziggala,” which chides Ugandan drinking habits, won a 2003 Pearl of Africa Music (PAM) award for Best Kadongo Kamu Single. In both 2003 and 2004 he won the ...

Article

Heather A. Maxwell

internationally acclaimed Malian vocalist and composer, was born on 25 August 1949 in Djoliba a village located along the Niger River in the Mande heartland of Mali Known as the Golden Voice of Africa Keïta has won critical acclaim from audiences around the world and is considered one of the most important figures of world music He lives in Mali and is married with several children The Keïtas are an ancient royal lineage who practice the professions of farming and hunting according to the dictates of nobility in Mande tradition Praise singing like many other music and artisan related activities was not an acceptable profession for royals Keïta was also born an albino and consequently endured severe social and emotional trauma as a child as well as physical disabilities that limited his ability to read in school and participate in regular activities with his peers Despite his noble heritage ...

Article

Sola Olorunyomi

Nigerian musician and political activist, was born Fela Ransome-Kuti on 15 October 1938 in Abeokuta Nigeria to the Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome Kuti a clergyman and Funmilayo Ransome Kuti née Thomas a women s activist Fela along with his mother would later drop the Ransome from his name as a rejection of British colonialism and adopt the Yoruba middle name Anikulapo which means one who has death in his pocket Fela was the fourth of five children born into the Ransome Kuti family which belonged to the Ègbá Yorùbá community One of his older brothers Olikoye Ransome Kuti was a noted medical doctor and Nigerian minister of health Another brother Beko Ransome Kuti was a leading human rights activist The Nigerian writer and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka was a cousin Though he was deprived of interacting with the vital and deep rooted Ègbá cultural tradition as a youth his ...

Article

Kate Tuttle

One of Africa’s best-known and most outspoken cultural figures for nearly thirty years was born Fela Ransome-Kuti, the son of a minister and his wife. After studying jazz and classical music in Great Britain, Fela—as he was popularly known—worked briefly for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. In the late 1960s, while living in Ghana, Fela visited the United States, where he sampled various musical and political movements. He was particularly influenced by seeing James Brown concert and meeting members of the Black Panther Party.

Returning to Nigeria in 1973 Fela who had formed his band Nigeria 70 later renamed Egypt 80 three years earlier began writing more overtly political songs He attacked government corruption and took on wider social issues as well One of his first hit songs Shakara African Woman criticized the use of white western standards of feminine beauty in Africa His signature sound a blend of ...

Article

Sola Olorunyomi

Nigerian performer, dramatist, composer, and arguably the nation’s foremost cultural ambassador from the early 1960s to the late 1970s, was born to the Reverend Joseph Oni Ladipo, a missionary in the Anglican Church, and Madam Dorcas Towobola Ajike Ladipo. Duro, as he was known, displayed an early interest in folk songs, traditional music, and moonlight tales. Duro’s immediate sister was Victoria Adeola (who later married Mr. Kolapo); next came Mosunmola (who married Mr. Olagunju); and Emmanuel Olugboyega Ladipo (the provost of St. Paul’s African Church, Gbongan). A set of twins, both girls—Taiwo and Kehinde Ladipo—were the last-born of Madam Towobola, who had almost given up hope of having any surviving child in spite of her strong Christian faith. (Duro himself would be a polygamist.)

As a precocious child who could imitate human actions and compose delightful songs at the briefest prompt Duro Ladipo would later use the dual advantage of ...

Article

singer and composer, was born in the town of Bagata in Bandundu Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then the Belgian Congo) on 13 November 1940. His father, Joseph Tabu, was a coffee farmer and his mother, Ida Colette Gokuni, was a teacher. When Ley was only two months of age, his family left Bagata for the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. His father worked for the Société des Chemins de Fer du Congo (later OTRACO), one of the biggest transport companies in the Congo. While attending primary and secondary school in Kinshasa, he became friends with Dominique Sakombi Inongo, the future Minister of Information under dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. He attended the St. Pierre primary school in 1950 and then moved on to a secondary school run by the Scheut Fathers Catholic order of St Anne Although Ley briefly believed he had a vocation for ...