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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 ...

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Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

pioneer Sudanese woman singer and activist during the struggle for Sudanese independence and the first woman to perform on the radio in Sudan. Born in 1905 in Kassala City in the eastern region of Sudan, Ahmad was the eldest among her seven siblings, including three brothers and four sisters. Among them was a sister Jidawiyya who played a crucial role with Ahmad in their journey as female musicians. Ahmad’s family was originally from Nigeria and migrated to Sudan in the late nineteenth century as pilgrims on their way to the holy places in Saudi Arabia. Her father, Musa Ahmad Yahiyya, was from the Fulani-Sokoto ethnic group, while her mother, Hujra, was from Hausa. Ahmad’s nickname is Aisha al-Falatiyyia, a reference to her father’s ethnic group, the Fulani, or Fallata, as they are known in Sudan.

The documented history indicates that Sudan served as a crossroads to the holy places in ...

Article

Christine Matzke

Eritrean comedian, theater artist, musician, and sports teacher, was born on 1 February 1925 during the Italian colonial period in Eritrea in Abba Shawl, the poor segregated Eritrean quarters of the capital Asmara. His father was Kahsay Woldegebr, and his mother, Ghebriela Fitwi.

At the age of ten he attended an Orthodox Church school and then received four years of Italian schooling, the maximum period of formal education for Eritreans under Italian rule. Thereafter Alemayo worked as a messenger for an Italian lawyer and, at the age of seventeen, found employment as a stagehand in Cinema Asmara, then Teatro Asmara, an imposing Italian theater and center for Italian social and cultural life. Here Alemayo was exposed to European variety shows, operas, and cinema that fascinated him greatly, particularly the genre of comedy, such as the works of Charlie Chaplin and the Neapolitan comedian Totò.

Italian colonization was characterized by strict ...

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Evan Mwangi

Algerian writer and singer who brought Kabyle folk music of the rural Berber community to international audiences and one of the earliest modern Algerian female novelists, was born Marie-Louise Amrouche in Tunisia to a family of Roman Catholic converts who had fled Algeria to escape persecution. Her mother, Fadhma Amrouche, also a writer and musician, was an early influence. Amrouche adopted the nom de plume Marguerite Taos to underscore the influence of her mother; Marguerite was her mother’s Christian name, which the latter was not allowed to use by the Catholic Church, ostensibly because she had not been baptized properly.

Despite her exile, the family returned to Algeria on prolonged visits, from which Amrouche and her brother Jean Amrouche, a poet, got acquainted with the oral literature of their native Kabyle Berber people. Amrouche obtained her brevet supérieur in Tunis in 1934 and went to France the following year ...

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Maxwell Akansina Aziabah

Ghanaian musicologist, teacher, and preacher, was born on 13 September 1899 in Peki Avetile in the Volta region of Ghana. He was one of the six children of Stephen Amuyao (popularly known as Papa Stefano in his community) and Sarah Akoram Amma. He was named Koku (Kwaku in Akan) because he was born on a Wednesday. Amu was baptized Ephraim by the Reverend Father Rudolf Mallet of the Bremen Mission, now the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, in Peki.

His father was a farmer and woodcarver, who made musical instruments, among other artifacts. Native music, drumming, and dancing were thus an integral part of Amu’s daily life in his formative years and would greatly influence his future career. He began his basic education in the Bremen Mission School in 1906 at the age of six Initially reluctant to attend he was placed under the care of an older schoolgirl so he ...

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Emad Abdul-Latif

playwright, was born to a well-off family in the city of Meet Ghamr in Al Dakahlia governorate in Egypt. His father, S’ad al-Deen Ashour, was passionate about literature and the arts, especially the theater. His mother belonged to a wealthy family from the countryside. For primary and secondary education, Ashour moved between different schools in Dakahlia, Alexandria, and Cairo. His admiration for the Egyptian writer Taha Hussein and his desire for a career in literature led him to study in the Department of English at Cairo University in 1938. However, upon graduating he worked as a bank employee for ten years. In 1952, he quit this position and joined the Ministry of Social Affairs as a supervisor of some of the government's cultural activities. This job afforded him close ties with artists, especially dramatists. When the Ministry of Culture was established in 1958 he served as ...

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

Jeremy Rich

musician, was born in the city of Mbandaka, located on the Congo River in the what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). His mother, Jeanne Bontone, was a member of the Ingende Mongo ethnic community of the DRC's Equateur Province. Bowane's father, Titi Raoul, came from the Congo-Brazzaville town of Sibiti. As a young man Bowane became captivated by rumba and big band music coming from the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. He later recalled a concert put on by Antoine Kolosoy Wendo in Mbandaka, and how impressed he was by Wendo's voice and fine dress. In 1946 Bowane decided to leave his home city and took a steamer down the Congo River to Kinshasa He became a regular patron of Kinshasa s lively bars and dance clubs such as the Kongo Bar and Congo Moderne Bowane was so impressed by the singing of Wendo and ...

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

Lucilda Hunter

poet, dramatist, musician, artist, was born prematurely on 11 May 1904 in Axim in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). Her father was Joseph Ephraim Casely-Hayford, a journalist, educator, and Pan-African activist of Fante origin, and her mother was his second wife, Adelaide Smith Casely-Hayford, a Sierra Leonean–born feminist, writer, and educator.

Gladys Casely-Hayford spent the first five years of her life between the Gold Coast and England. Her mother first took her there in 1906 to consult a specialist about a congenital hip defect that had made her left leg weak and misaligned, creating mobility problems. A second visit to England was for her mother’s own health and family reasons. Both visits lasted for months and might have contributed to the failure of her parents’ marriage, which ended with a legal separation agreement in 1914 Gladys went to Freetown when her mother returned to Sierra Leone and attended the ...

Article

Evan Mwangi

Moroccan novelist, dramatist, and radio commentator and producer, was born on 15 July 1926 in the French Moroccan town of Mazagan (present-day el-Jadida), near Casablanca. His father was a fairly liberal tea merchant who regarded European education as a vestibule to a better Moroccan society. As a young boy Chraïbi received his early education in a local qurʾanic school, but when the family moved to Casablanca a little later, he joined a French school. In 1946 he left for Paris to study chemical engineering, graduating in 1950. However, he abandoned his graduate studies in neuropsychiatry just before receiving his doctorate. He traveled across Europe and to Israel, settling in France with his first wife, Catherine Chraïbi (née Birckel), and their children.

From 1952 Chraïbi devoted himself to literature and journalism, and in 1954 he began writing for the National Radio and Television Broadcasting System Ranging from epics to comedy ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

musician and intellectual, was born in the town of Impfondo in the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) on 18 August 1914. He excelled in his primary and secondary studies, and was in the first class of students to enroll at the Poto-Poto neighborhood school in 1925. His intelligence was evident by the fact that he became an assistant teacher in 1929 at the age of fifteen In his youth Dadet was one of the best football players in Brazzaville during the 1930s and 1940s and helped to form the Native Sports Federation which organized competition between African soccer teams in Brazzaville Besides being a player himself Dadet also took the role as a referee in games Upon graduation from secondary school Dadet became a teacher at the respected École Urbaine of Brazzaville Besides teaching and playing sports Dadet also cultivated another passion music Dadet became a renowned ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Malian musician, was born around 1925 in the town of Kela, a village located on the Niger River about 62 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of the Malian capital of Bamako. Her family was legendary for their reputation as griot bards, whose knowledge was passed down in Mande-speaking families from generation to generation. Her grandfather Kelabalaba was said to be the first member of the Diabaté extended family to be the official reciter of the founding Sundiata epic of the ancient kingdom of Mali and its founder, Sunjata Keita (Mari Djata I). Her father, Bintu’amma, had a tremendous reputation as a musician as well, particularly of the ngoni flute.

Diabaté developed a regional reputation for her voice by the early 1940s Her song Sara one of her first hits described the struggles of a woman seeking to choose a husband It was said by some that Diabaté once had a ...

Article

Eileen Julien

Senegalese poet and storyteller, stands out in the constellation of African writers as a unique and gifted raconteur of traditional tales. In Les contes d’Amadou Koumba (1947), Les nouveaux contes d’Amadou Koumba (1958), and Contes et lavanes (1963), Diop recounts, in a style evocative of oral performance, narratives heard in his youth and during his travels as a colonial veterinarian in then French West Africa.

Diop’s initial literary passion was poetry, and it was in this genre that he began writing as a high school student. Some of his first poems, modeled on classical and romantic French poetry that he was studying in school, were to appear in his collection Leurres et lueurs (1960 Despite what Léopold Sédar Senghor called the nonblack character of these poems this youthful apprenticeship in poetry was an important step in Diop s becoming a sophisticated author ...

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 ...

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During the twentieth century, a new form of theater emerged in the eastern African nation of Ethiopia. Fusing local expressive practices with Western performance traditions, Ethiopian theater has been shaped by the shifting political culture of the country. Political authorities have sometimes censored theater and sometimes used it as propaganda, while Ethiopian dramatists have pursued their own goals and sought self-expression.

Theater, as understood in the West, is a fairly new phenomenon in Ethiopia. The first recorded Ethiopian play, a satirical adaptation and translation of the French fables of La Fontaine, was performed before members of the royal court sometime beween 1912 and 1916. Written by Tekle-Hawaryat Tekle-Mariam, it was titled Yawrewoch Komediya (Comedy of the Animals). Political censorship, however, banned all dramatic activity following Yawrewoch Komediya. Not until Haile Selassie I became emperor in 1930 did theater revive During the next five years theater studies ...

Article

Werner Graebner

taarab singer, drummer, and healer, was born in urban Zanzibar. Her parents had migrated to the islands from the Kilwa area of Tanzania on the East African mainland. She is better known as Bi Kidude. Some controversy surrounds Kidude’s birthdate; considering all evidence, the latest she could have been born is around 1920. Growing up in suburban Zanzibar’s Ng’ambo area, she showed interest from a young age in taarab song, a genre of poetry sung to musical accompaniment developed in nineteeth- century Zanzibar. One of her uncles, Buda Suwedi, was a member of Siti Bint Saadi’s group, then the most popular singer in Zanzibar. Kidude attended night rehearsals at Saadi’s place, pretending to sleep in a corner or on the outside baraza bench, soaking up the songs, which still form her main repertoire today.

When Kidude was in her teens, dhows traditional Arab sailboats from all over the ...

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Terza Silva Lima-Neves

traditional singer of finaçon and Cape Verdean cultural icon, was born Maria Inácia Gomes Correia on Santiago Island, Cape Verde, on 18 July 1925. Nácia Gomes, also known as “Nha Nácia Gomi” (Mrs. Nacia Gomes), was one of twelve children. Gomes and her siblings were raised as strict followers of the Catholic Church. Gomes never received a formal education as a child and did not know how to read and write. Between the ages of ten and twelve years, she began singing a genre of Cape Verdean music based on African traditions, common to the island of Santiago. The singers of finaçon, generally women, known as finaderas, improvised verses about village events; celebrated farming festivals, births, marriages, saints’ days, and christenings; and commemorated deaths. Finaçon is often performed as a competitive song duel which is highly rhythmic and entertaining It also features one person who performs ...

Article

Isabelle de Rezende

Belgian Africanist anthropologist and filmmaker, was a member of the first postwar cohort of Belgian anthropologists who were given “modern” professional training in the field as it began to emancipate itself from the concerns of the Belgian colonial administration in the Congo. Others in this cohort included historian Jan Vansina, who became one of the most illustrious Africanists of his generation, as well as the anthropologists Daniel Biebuyck and Jacques Maquet. Heusch was the only one among them to remain in Belgium, leading, from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Free University of Brussels), Belgian (francophone) academic anthropology and training subsequent generations of anthropologists in the 1970s and 1980s.

Heusch was born in Brussels in 1927 to a well to do family From his own telling his formative years were spent as a lonely and studious teenager whose mother had passed away when he was 11 inside his father ...