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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

Dominique Achille

was born to Marguerite Raymonne Ferdinand and Philéas Gustave Louis Achille on 31 August 1909 in Fort-de-France, Martinique, then a French colony. His father was the first man of color who passed “agrégation” (the highest teaching diploma in France) in the English language in 1905. Achille’s family history can be traced back to slaves who were freed in 1794. He spent his childhood and teenage years in Martinique, in an upper-middle-class family.

In 1926 he began studying English at Louis-le-Grand High School and at the Sorbonne in Paris, where Georges Pompidou and Léopold Sedar Senghor were among his peers. In the 1930s he contributed to La Revue du Monde Noir The Review of the Black World issued in Paris by his cousins Paulette and Jane Nardal This publication addressed cultural links between colored writers poets and thinkers through the world because at that time no specific review ...

Article

Susan Leigh Foster

Senegalese dancer and choreographer was born in Benin the daughter of a Senegalese colonial civil servant and the granddaughter of a Yoruba priestess When she was ten years old her family moved to Dakar Senegal From an early age Acogny showed exceptional talent for and love of dancing After pursuing a degree in physical education she went to France in the early 1960s where she studied ballet and modern dance Upon returning to Senegal she began teaching dance classes in the courtyard of her home and in the lycée where she was hired to be in charge of physical education In these classes she began to develop a codification of what she calls African dance Establishing an inventory of positions and steps as well as a spatial stability to each position s appearance she developed a dance technique based on an aesthetic of groundedness a sense of dynamism moving up ...

Article

Lester Tomé

also known as Carlos Junior Acosta Quesada, was born on 2 June 1973 in Havana, Cuba. Acclaimed as one of the most brilliant ballet performers of his generation, Carlos Acosta has been a principal dancer of London’s Royal Ballet, the English National Ballet, and the Houston Ballet, as well as a guest star of the American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opera Ballet, and the Bolshoi Ballet, among other ensembles. He has also performed with his own country’s premier troupe, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba.

No other black ballet dancer has enjoyed a career marked by so many first-rate engagements and prestigious awards. His status as a glittering ballet celebrity, vastly popular with audiences, critics, and the media, is rare for an Afro-descendant, as blacks are underrepresented in this dance form. Through his success and public declarations, Acosta has contributed to eliminating prejudices about blacks’ abilities and suitability for ballet.

Acosta ...

Article

Claudius Fergus

was born in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas (now the US Virgin Islands) on 4 November 1889. He was the son of Jacob Henry Adams, a carpenter, and Petrina Dinzey, a tailor, and followed their career trajectory as part of the community’s black artisanal class. He served apprenticeships in the trades of carpentry and shoemaking.

With only a primary education and no formal school of music on the islands, Adams studied in the United States. He enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania as well as Carnegie Hall’s School of Music Theory in New York. Unable to sojourn long enough in the States, Adams completed his study of music by correspondence, a mark of distinction of the self-motivation that shaped his life. He attained a bachelor’s degree in music from the University Extension Conservatory of Chicago in 1931.

Adams organized his first musical band in 1904 and launched his ...

Article

Leticia Franqui-Rosario

was born Wilfred Robert Adams, in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana), the son of Robert Adams, a boat builder. He was educated in Georgetown at St. Stephen’s Scots School, and St. Joseph’s Intermediate. He studied engineering drafting, but then trained as a teacher at the leading British West Indian teachers’ training college, Mico College in Jamaica. After his marriage broke down, he left for England, arriving there in September 1930. Failing to study law because of a lack of the necessary qualifications, he did a number of menial jobs and even became a professional wrestler with the name “The Black Eagle” (there is a 1934 painting by William Roberts of one of his bouts).

Acting then took over. His stage debut, with Paul Robeson in Stevedore, received favorable reviews. A year later he played Jean-Jacques Dessalines to Robeson’s Toussaint Louverture in C. L. R. James’s Toussaint Louverture ...

Article

James Clyde Sellman

was born in Tunapuna, Trinidad and Tobago, to Malcolm and Elitha Addison. Her father was an electrician, and her mother was a schoolteacher and housewife. She later recalled that “my father used to play the guitar, and my brothers were also involved in music, so music was always around me” (Blood, 2013). Her first stage appearance came in 1959 or 1960. Her brother Winston was performing at a community show in Tunapuna and called her out of the audience. She later appeared on television and on Radio Trinidad’s Sunday Serenade. While still a teenager, she made her first recording—a single for Arawak Records, featuring Paul McCartney’s “My Love” backed by her own song, “Tricked and Trapped,” on the B-side.

Her first full-length album, Born to Shine (1976 was released on the Trinidadian label KH Records It featured American style gospel inflected soul music and ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Nigerian pioneer of juju and world music star, was born Sunday Adeniyi Adé in the southwestern Nigerian city of Ondo on 22 September 1946. His father was a Methodist pastor and the organist for his church, while his mother engaged in various trading enterprises. Through his maternal grandfather, who lived in the town of Akoure, near Ondo, Ade was of royal lineage. By the time he reached his adolescent years, Adé had moved with his family to the town of Oshobo. Although he completed primary school, Adé ended up dropping out of secondary school before completing his studies. His lack of financial resources cut short his formal education. He already had developed eclectic tastes in music through his childhood and adolescent experiences. Traditional Yoruba music featuring drums fascinated the young boy, as did the occasional use of drums at church. Adé remembered in a 2005 interview that when ...

Article

Norman Weinstein

Sunday Anthony Ishola Adeniyi Adegeye, known internationally to African music fans as King Sunny Ade, was raised in a home where Christian and Yoruba religious and cultural perspectives were thoroughly intermingled. Ade's father was a church organist. Ade attended missionary schools, then dropped out of college in the 1960s to pursue a career as a drummer in Juju bands. Juju, a form of Nigerian pop music first developed by Yoruba musicians in the 1920s, was just beginning to gain an international audience. Ade's chief musical inspiration was I. K. Dairo, though Ade's later song lyrics drew more inspiration from his Christian education.

The early 1970s marked the birth of Ade s reputation as an African superstar with an international audience Ade deviated from the Dairo legacy through a series of innovations He expanded the juju band lineup from a single electric guitarist to as many as six played with at ...

Article

Ethan R. Sanders

intellectual, pan-African thinker, educator, and Christian preacher, was born in Anomabo, Gold Coast (now Ghana) on 18 October 1875. His father was Kodwo Kwegyir (1816–1896) of the Fante people who was the Omankyiame or hereditary spokesman for the paramount chief of Anomabo, and his mother was Abna Andua, scion of a chiefly family. At the age of eight, Aggrey left his home to attend the Methodist school in Cape Coast. In 1890 he started teaching in a rural village school and the following year returned to Cape Coast to become an assistant teacher at the Wesleyan Centenary Memorial School where he soon advanced to a senior position At this early stage in his life Aggrey became interested in Christian ministry He began preaching at sixteen and later assisted in the translation of a Fante language New Testament During this time Aggrey also became involved with the ...

Article

Jonathan Morley

Africaneducationist, variously called the Father of African education, the Booker T. Washington of Africa, and, in the title of Edwin W. Smith's1929 biography, Aggrey of Africa. Born in Anomabo in the Gold Coast, the son of the chief linguist in the court of King Amona V, Aggrey was an able pupil and in 1898 travelled to America, where he joined Livingstone College in North Carolina. In 1903 he was ordained an elder of the African Methodist Episcopalian Zionist Church.

A compulsive learner, aside from his Master's degree (awarded in 1912), Aggrey also gained through correspondence courses a doctorate of Divinity from Hood Theological College and a doctorate of Osteopathy from the International College of Osteopathy, Illinois, before going to Columbia to undertake a Ph.D.

In 1920 the Phelps Stokes Fund sent Aggrey to Africa the only black member of the Commission to investigate the ...

Article

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

David Simonelli

was born Oliver Anthony Stephens on 22 April 1927 in Santiago, Cuba, to a Jamaican father and a Cuban mother. One of six brothers, he spent his early childhood in Cuba, speaking Spanish; over the years, he learned Italian and French as well, and his multilingual singing abilities would contribute to his international marketability as a pop singer. His father moved the family back to Kingston, Jamaica, in 1938, where Stephens absorbed many different styles of music over the radio and in the streets—American rhythm and blues heard over New Orleans radio stations broadcast across the Caribbean, the hits of jazz crooners from the United States and Britain, and mento, the local guitar and horn version of calypso in Jamaica. In 1942, at age 15, he sang in a major local talent show Vere John’s Opportunity Hour, winning and collecting 2 pounds; he entered Opportunity Hour ...

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

Elizabeth Heath

Mousstapha Alassane, one of Niger's first filmmakers, excels in animation, a genre of film typically ignored in Africa. His work aims to preserve and revalue his African cultural heritage and to provide biting social commentary on Niger's postcolonial bourgeoisie.

Alassane was born in N’Jougou, Benin. He moved with his family to Niger in 1953. While in primary school, he began to develop the film style he would later polish as an adult. Alassane entertained his relatives and friends with shadow shows and makeshift cartoons drawn on translucent wrappings and shown through a projector he built. Throughout his teenage years, he refined his animation technique and at the age of twenty, he produced two short animated films—Le Piroguier (The Canoe-Paddler) and La Pileuse de mil Woman Pounding Millet While working at the Institut Fondamental d Afrique Noire Alassane had the opportunity to show these films to French ...

Article

Sada Niang

Nigerois filmmaker, was born in Ndougou (Niger). A mechanic by trade, he revealed himself to be an inventive young man at an early age. When no film theater existed in his village, indeed at a time when most of his fellow villagers had never seen a film, Alassane drew characters on cardboard, cut them out, and offered his fellow villagers their first cinematic experience by animating a rudimentary set of puppets.

In 1960 Alassane met Jean René Debrix and with his support obtained employment at the Institut d Afrique Noire Ifan in Niamey Later on two major figures exerted profound influence on the art and filmmaking career of Moustapha Alassane Jean Rouch a French engineer turned Africanist and advocate of direct anthropology and Norman McLaren a Scottish Canadian who made his first film at age twenty and later became the animation guru at the studios of National Film Board ...

Article

Christine Gangelhoff

was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on 30 September 1949. Her mother, Doris Monica Mills Alberga, was an academic who founded a high school in Jamaica. Her father, Christopher Gerald Alberga, managed a factory. Both parents enjoyed musical activities non professionally: her mother played the piano and violin and sang; her father played clarinet.

Alberga grew up in an intellectual and creative environment. Her family lived on the campus of her mother’s high school, where she was exposed to the classics and the sound of piano lessons from an early age. She took up the piano herself at the age of 5 and had the early dream of becoming a concert pianist. While still young, she began composing music and taught herself to play guitar. She performed both with the Jamaican Folk Singers and with Fontomfrom, an African-dance troupe. In 1970 Alberga won the Biennial West Indian Associated Board ...

Article

Halbert Barton

was born on 18 June 1937 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, and raised in the neighborhood of Bélgica, the hotbed of the southern tradition of traditional Puerto Rican bomba, la bomba sureña. The life of “Doña Isa” connected the few thriving family-based bomba communities of the 1940s–1960s to the municipal bombazos of the 2000s. As a girl she used to accompany her mother, Teresa Dávila, and father, Domingo Albizu, to the regional bomba competitions between the communities of Felix Alduén in Mayaguez and William Archevald in Ponce, from the early 1940s to the early 1970s (Lasalle, 2014). These friendly rivalries had an enormous ripple effect on the development of bomba outside the San Juan metro area in the latter half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.

While Afro Puerto Rican bomba music and dance has suffered marginalization since its inception in early colonial times ...