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Article

Jeremy Rich

His father, Benjamin, was an accountant and his mother Molly (née Ekere) was a teacher and a singer, and the family belonged to the Ibibio ethnic group, chiefly resident in Akwa Ibom state in southeastern Nigeria. Akpabot taught himself to play piano when he was young. After he graduated from primary school, he moved to Lagos, where he enrolled at King’s College secondary school, which was known for its classical musical education. Akpabot also sang treble in the choir of the Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ until 1949, and he worked under Thomas Ekundayo Phillip, a skilled educator who ran the choir and taught the singers about Western classical choral music. Once he graduated from King’s College, he worked as a sports reporter for the Lagos Daily Times. During his secondary school days, Akpabot had starred on the soccer field.

In 1949 he left the choir and ...

Article

Philip Herbert

Nigeriancomposer, organist, and ethnomusicologist born in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria, in 1932. In his early education at King's College, Lagos, and as a chorister at Christchurch Cathedral, in that city, he was exposed to European classical music, Mendelssohn being his favourite composer. His musical outlook was eclectic, and he was involved in dance bands such as the Chocolate Dandies and the Akpabot Players (his own band), formed in 1949, as well as being organist at St Saviour's Anglican Church in Lagos.

Akpabot studied the trumpet and organ in London at the Royal College of Music in 1954, with teachers such as John Addison, Osborn Pisgow, and Herbert Howells. Study at the University of Chicago yielded a Master's degree in Musicology, and he also received a Ph.D. from Michigan State University. He was a broadcaster for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (1959 ...

Article

Roanne Edwards

As a performer, composer, and scholar of ethnic music, Susana Baca has become a leading expert on Afro-Peruvian musical traditions. Since the 1960s she has explored the distinctive rhythms, tempos, and instruments of the small but influential Afro-Peruvian community that has lived in relative isolation for nearly 500 years along the Pacific Ocean coast of Peru. Her research led to the path-breaking 1995 album The Soul of Black Peru, which presented Afro-Peruvian music to an international audience for the first time.

Baca leads a generation of musicians who interpret the Afro-Peruvian traditions first explored in the 1950s by the renowned ethnomusicologist Nicomedes Santa Cruz. Her performances use Afro-Peruvian rhythms that date back to the seventeenth century, as well as native instruments such as the Andean panpipes and the cajon a wooden box which when rhythmically struck with the hand produces a variety of unusual timbres Baca ...

Article

Theodore Cohen

was born in the town of Hopelchén, Campeche, on 7 January 1892 to Francisco José Baqueiro and Teodosía Fóster. Probably of Mayan and not of African descent, he was a relative of the famous nineteenth-century Yucatecan musician Chan Chil (Cirilio Baqueiro Prevé). Baqueiro Fóster attended primary school in Hopelchén before moving to Mérida, Yucatán, to continue his education. He learned to play the guitar, mandolin, violin, oboe, and flute, his instrument of choice. In 1921 he moved to Mexico City, and the following year he enrolled at the National Conservatory, where he studied with the renowned musical theorist Julián Carrillo. He later married Eloisa Ruiz Carvalho (1925–1980), a music critic and educator.

Baqueiro Fóster began to make a name for himself during Mexico’s First National Congress of Music in 1926 With fellow Carrillo disciple Daniel Castañeda he argued that Mexican composers could study indigenous music more accurately ...

Article

Rebecca Dirksen

also commonly remembered as Lina Mathon-Fussman or, equally, as Lina Fussman-Mathon, was born in Port-au-Prince on 3 January 1903, one of five children of Charles Mathon, a medical doctor, and Cléante N. Marie Anne Carré Mathon. By all accounts captivated by the piano as a toddler, she was formally introduced to the instrument at the age of 4 by Haitian composer Justin Elie. She subsequently studied the classical music repertoire with the best teachers of the era, including completing advanced studies at the Ecole Notre-Dame de Sion in Paris between 1917 and 1921. Blanchet would eventually cofound the Lycée Musical de Port-au-Prince (a music school) and was later named the first director of the Conservatoire National by Haitian president Paul Eugène Magloire.

A tireless promoter of Haitian folkloric music throughout her life, Blanchet is cited as the first artist to mount stylized Vodou-influenced spektak performances on a ...

Article

Jaime O. Bofill Calero

was born in Puerta de Tierra, a poor urban area of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 8 July 1908. He was the son of Leonor Atiles, a laundry woman, and Modesto Cepeda Robles, a field laborer. Rafael Cepeda is known as “El patriarca de la bomba y la plena” (the patriarch of bomba and plena), two of Puerto Rico’s most traditional forms of African-derived music and dance. This title was bestowed on him for his lifelong contributions to the preservation of these musical forms, as well as for successively passing on these traditions to his sons and daughters, whom he incorporated as an integral part of his folk- and community-based groups.

Among Cepeda’s ensembles, Ballet Folklórico de la Familia Cepeda (1975) stands out as the most important, due the influence this group had in shaping traditional bomba performance The Cepeda family is generally considered as ...

Article

Jaime O. Bofill Calero

was born on 27 March 1960, in the coastal town of Loíza, Puerto Rico. Over the course of his professional career, Cepeda has developed innovative musical concepts such as “Afrorican Jazz” and “bomba sinfónica,” which have maintained him at the forefront of both the Latin jazz and classical music scenes in Puerto Rico and abroad. His eclectic style of performance and composition reflects a fusion of the musical realms of jazz, classical, world, and traditional Afro–Puerto Rican music styles, primarily bomba and plena. As a performer he has collaborated and toured with a wide array of artists, among them Lester Bowie, David Murray, Celia Cruz, Batacumbele, Zaperoko, and Tito Puente. William Cepeda has also dedicated himself to the preservation of Puerto Rico’s traditional folk culture through his independent record label, Casabe Records, and various educational projects.

Cepeda grew up in Loíza a town known for its ...

Article

Curtis Jacobs

was born Geraldine Roxanne Connor in the Paddington area of London, on 22 March 1952, the first of two children born to the black actor, singer, and folklorist Edric Connor and Pearl Nunez, Trinidadian-born immigrants who arrived there in 1944 and 1948 respectively. Her mother was of Portuguese and African ancestry. Connor was born into an artistic, creative household that received many famous visitors. She went to live in Trinidad at age eight, attending Tranquility Primary, the alma mater of Eric Williams, a family friend. Following her success at the Common Entrance Examinations, she attended Diego Martin Secondary from 1963 to 1968, the period during which her parents divorced. She returned to London in 1968.

Connor followed in her father’s footsteps, as she began her academic career in music. She entered the London School of Music in 1974 after which she returned to Trinidad to ...

Article

David B. McCarthy

musician, educator, and prominent Presbyterian, was born Melva Ruby Wilson in Due West, South Carolina, one of five children of Azzie Lee Ellis Wilson and John Theodore Wilson Sr., both of whom were college graduates and teachers. Because the local black public schools were unaccredited, her parents sent her to a black boarding school, Harbison Junior College in Irmo, South Carolina, at the age of fourteen. Two years later, at the age of sixteen, she entered Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. There she met fellow student James Hutten Costen. She graduated with a BA in Education in 1952 and married Jim Costen the day before he graduated in 1953. They eventually had two sons and one daughter, James Jr., Craig, and Cheryl.

Costen taught elementary school in the Mecklenburg County school system from 1952 to 1955 the year her husband ...

Article

Nelson Santana

known as the “Father of Dominican Rock,” was born on 21 June 1952 in the town of Maimón, Monseñor Nouel Province, Dominican Republic, to a working-class family. As a youngster, he demonstrated a passion for music. His mother was a spiritual singer and his father played the tres, a six-string guitar divided into three sets of two strings each. Días studied music in Bonao under the tutelage of Juan Zorrilla and Tatán Jiménez. At age 16 he formed his first musical group, Los Chonnys, blending the social, political, and historical culture of rural and urban life. In the early 1970s he left Bonao to study psychology at Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) in the capital city, thus developing a sense of social conscience.

The nueva canción chilena New Chilean Song of the 1960s and the Cuban Revolution were movements that resonated throughout Latin America and Spain including ...

Article

Rebecca M. Bodenheimer

was born Gregorio Hernández Ríos on 17 November 1936 in the westernmost Cuban province of Pinar del Río. His family moved to Havana when he was a small boy, to a shantytown on the outskirts of the capital called Las Yaguas. Hernández’s father, Isidro, made his living as a bottle collector, buying empty bottles from residents to resell at bottle collection companies. Like many ambulant vendors at the time, Isidro used the folkloric tradition of the pregón, or street vendor’s call, which entailed going door to door using catchy song phrases to hawk one’s wares (one of Cuba’s most famous songs, “El Manicero” (The Peanut Vendor), is based on a pregón). Thus, Hernández was introduced early in his life to a popular sung folkloric tradition, and it was not long before the seven-year-old was creating and singing his own pregones He also began attending rumba parties at ...

Article

Rebecca M. Bodenheimer

was born on 7 May 1918 in Havana. He began his musical studies at the age of 8 at the Municipal Conservatory of Havana. León studied at various national and international institutions and earned several degrees, including a degree in music pedagogy from the University of Havana in 1943, and one in composition from the Municipal Conservatory in 1945, where he studied with such celebrated composers as José Ardévol. He received a grant to study folklore at the University of Chile in 1951, and in 1957 he completed his musical education in Paris with famed composer Nadia Boulanger.

Along with other prominent art music composers such as Ardévol and Harold Gramatges, León formed part of the influential Grupo Renovación Musical, whose goal was to advance and promote contemporary Cuban classical music. He incorporated many elements of folkloric music into his compositions—in his piano composition Akorín for ...

Article

Together with sociologist Fernando Ortiz and anthropologist Lydia Cabrera, Argeliers León is regarded as one of the most influential scholars of Afro-Cuban culture. From 1961 to 1971 he directed the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore of the Cuban Academy of Sciences and taught African art and Afro Cuban ...

Article

John Wriggle

composer, trombonist, writer, and educator, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of George Thomas Lewis, originally from North Carolina, and Cornelia Griffith of Georgia. George attended public elementary school before enrolling at the University of Chicago Laboratory School at age nine, at which time his parents bought him a trombone to assist with what he called “social development.” By age twelve George was listening to the music of Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and John Coltrane, learning solos from jazz recordings such as Lester Young with the Oscar Peterson Trio, and studying improvisation with the trombonist Dean Hey.

At Yale University, from which he earned a BA in Philosophy in 1974, Lewis found company in the sextet of the pianist and fellow student Anthony Davis After becoming dissatisfied with the artistic boundaries imposed by the music department at ...

Article

Paul Schauert

Ghanaian ethnomusicologist, linguist, composer, and poet, was born on 22 June 1921 in Ashanti Mampong in central Ghana. His full given name was Joseph Hanson Kwabena Nketia. His father, Akwasi Yeboa, and mother, Akua Adoma, were traders in a nearby village called Effiduase. After his father passed away when Kwabena was an infant, he was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents. With the help of his grandfather, Opanyin Kisi Amoa, and grandmother, Yaa Amankwaa, Nketia attended Mampong Asante Presbyterian Junior and Senior Schools. After completing his secondary education, in 1937 Nketia enrolled in the Presbyterian Training College at Akropong-Akwapim, where he focused on music and the Twi (Akan) language. In 1941 he received his teaching certificate and was subsequently appointed to teach music and Twi at the Training College After three years at the Training College Nketia received a two year scholarship to study linguistics at the University ...

Article

Daniel Nuñez

was born on 10 October 1955 in the town of Cata, on the coast of the state of Aragua, in Venezuela. Born José Francisco Pacheco Croquer, he was one of nine siblings in the home of his father, Pastor Pacheco, a farmer, and his mother, Paula Elvira Croquer, a folklorist and community leader. Early in his childhood, Pacheco learned many of the local Afro-Venezuelan musical and religious traditions from his mother and other cultural leaders in Cata. Growing up, Pacheco participated in the Diablos de Corpus Christi ceremonies, and attended other local religious celebrations, such as the Fiestas de San Juan, the multiple days of celebration in honor of Saint John, the patron saint of Afro-Venezuelans in the Central Coast region. It was during festivals like the Fiestas de San Juan and the Christmas parrandas that Pacheco learned the broad repertoire of local traditional Afro Venezuelan songs and percussion ...

Article

Joan F. McCarty

musician, social activist, songtalker, and scholar, was born Bernice Johnson in Albany, Georgia, the daughter of a Baptist minister, the Reverend Jessie Johnson, and a homemaker, Beatrice Johnson. Johnson was steeped in the traditions and culture of the southwestern Georgia community surrounding Mt. Early Baptist Church. Her home church did not have a piano for many years, so she honed her a cappella vocal skills in the school and church choir.

After graduating from high school, she auditioned for the music program at Albany State College and was accepted, enrolling in 1959 as music major. While in college, she served as the secretary of the youth division of the NAACP and became more deeply drawn into the civil rights struggle. Reagon began to attend meetings of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the city and eventually formed a bond with Cordell Reagon ...

Article

Sowande' Mustakeem

Undoubtedly one of the few professors of history to have a second career as a singer-songwriter, Bernice Johnson Reagon continues to focus her work on sharing the historical legacy of the African American experience amid the relentless quest for freedom and justice within America.

Reagon was born in Albany, Georgia, one of eight children of Jessie Johnson, a carpenter, and Beatrice Johnson, a housekeeper. On days off from her housekeeping job, Beatrice Johnson picked cotton. Jessie Johnson served onSundays as minister at four different rural Baptist churches. Reagon’s musical foundation was largely shaped by the influence of the southwestern Georgia choral tradition in her father’s church, which was part of a tradition dating back to the nineteenth century. Reagon entered Albany State College in 1959 where she studied Italian arias and German lieder as a contralto soloist During this time she became active in the civil ...

Article

Kimberly L. Malinowski

musicologist and professor, was born in Guthrie, Oklahoma, to William (Bud) Reese and Lenora Smallwood. Reece later changed the spelling of his last name for unknown reasons. During the winter months, while his mother was teaching and completing medical school, Reece lived with his grandparents. His mother later became a practicing physician. His grandfather was a Baptist minister, and Reece described his home as “very correct but not depressingly so.” He credited Guthrie as having an “excellent school system, an equally excellent public library, and a good cultural environment” and these resources helped prepare him for his studies (Bluefieldian, Nov. 1973, 7). In 1921 Reece was baptized and joined a local Baptist church, and in 1925 he graduated from high school.

Reece credited his decision to attend Fisk University to the inspirational Jubilee Singers and to his mother who attended both Fisk University and Meharry ...

Article

David H. Anthony

percussionist, pianist, and composer, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and nurtured in the care of foster parents. He first became interested in jazz on hearing Fate Marable on a riverboat. He was also impressed by Jimmy Mundy, an arranger for the Benny Goodman Orchestra. At age fifteen Russell was earning a living playing drums. By seventeen he was a member of the Wilberforce University band, where he shared the stage with Ernie Wilkins, the saxophonist who was later Count Basie's arranger.

Three years later, after recovering from tuberculosis, Russell took a step toward maturity as a musician when he became part of Benny Carter's orchestra, where he contributed “Big World,” his first composition. After serving a period of apprenticeship in Chicago in the employ of the pianist Earl “Fatha” Hines along with some cabarets Russell decided he needed to be in New ...