Africa is perhaps the most diverse continent in the world.
The countless number of ethnic communities creates a broad rainbow of art and culture that have spread rays of light to every corner of the Earth. On Thursday 21 May, in the Durban City Hall at 19:30, as part of the Africa Month festivities, the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic celebrates diversity and honours Africa as it opens the Winter Season of the World Symphony Series with a concert that features locally sourced music combined with works that embody shared ideas and cultures.
The concert, conducted by Cape Town based maestro Bernhard Gueller, opens with the first four of Antonín Dvoøák’s Slavonic Dances. Dvoøák was a composer who often paid homage to the traditional art that surrounded him. While living in America, he was influenced heavily by African-American spiritual music, and wrote numerous chamber and symphonic works using these themes as a form of homage. His Slavonic Dances, although not based on actual Slavonic themes, were created as completely original works that evoke his Czech homeland through the use of rhythmic and melodic features of traditional music.
The KZN Philharmonic is then joined by the Bernard Woma Ensemble, which consists of Ghanaians, Bernard Woma and Kofi Ameyaw, and American, Mark Stone. The group performs on the traditional Ghanaian instrument the Gyil – a pentatonic-tuned xylophone with resonator gourds underneath the keys. These instruments are used in traditional ceremonies and have slowly begun to be implemented in modern, cross-over music. The Bernard Woma Ensemble frequently tours America and Europe as they have delighted audiences across the globe with the unique and rich music of West African country. The ensemble will perform two concerti written by Bernard Woma and orchestrated by David Rogers: the Gyil Jumbie Concerto and the Gyil Yeru Concerto.
Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, Bongani Tembe explains: “this concert launches the exciting Winter Symphony Season that lauds diversity and explores the richness of African culture, which also merges seamlessly with Western culture.”
The evening that celebrates Africa and multiculturalism closes with Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. This suite of dances from the musical comprises all of the elements of music that Bernstein was exposed to living in New York City. From African American jazz to Latin sambas to Rock and Roll, this work represents the combination of musical cultures from around the world.
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