At the ANNEX
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African Chamber Music: Zimbabwean and Ghanaian Traditions Reimagined with Strings co-presented by Time Will Tell Arts Society and Caravan World Rhythms
African music is well-known for its exciting drumming, dances and energy; its quieter and more contemplative characteristics are not as well known. This project aims to change that by presenting said repertoire in a “chamber” setting, utilizing a string quartet as accompanying instruments, and highlighting the voice to expand the notion of African music and how it can be perceived. At the same time, there is an urge to decolonize the string quartet and Western classical music. What its history and performance context has historically represented in relation to non-Western musical traditions is intertwined with the colonial enterprise and mindset. This needs to be addressed and acknowledged.
The repertoire features the mbira songs of the Shona of Zimbabwe and the enchanting vocal music of the Ewe of Ghana, performed by Vancouver based masters of those traditions, Kurai Mubaiwa (mbira, voice, percussion/Zimbabwe) and Kofi Gbolonyo (voice, percussion/Ghana). These tradition bearers have led extensive careers on local and international stages through numerous concerts, collaborations and recordings. This music is arranged for percussion, voice and string quartet by Curtis Andrews (percussion, voice), a long-time friend of Mubaiwa and Gbolonyo who has been studying and playing these musics for over 20 years and a well-known fixture in Vancouver’s intercultural music circles. The concert also features Meredith Bates (violin), Peggy Lee (cello), Joshua Zubot (violin) and Sarah Kwok (viola).
Mbira is the Shona name for one of the most fascinating musical instruments developed indigenously on the African continent, a type of instrument known as a lamellophone (and often erroneously labelled a “thumb piano”). The instrument has been in documented use in Zimbabwe for over 700 years but is likely much older. Its traditional context and use are in ceremonies designed to communicate with ancestral spirits via spirit possession, for which the mbira is essential. Due to colonialism, the mbira and its music were seen as evil by the church and colonial minds, their efforts nearly wiped it out. A resurgence of mbira traditions has been ongoing, with the instrument now used in many contexts, from the ceremonial to the concert stage.
The music of Ghana presented in this concert is derived from the Ewe ethnic group, a culture well-known for their complex polyrhythmic drumming and dance traditions. However, in this project, the artists aim to present the unique melodic, harmonic and lyrical aspects of the vast repertoire of Ewe vocal music, which contains profound indigenous history, philosophy, and insights into its culture.
This event is presented with support from the Vancouver Civic Theatres.
Let us celebrate life with beautiful music, powerful dance and symbolic traditions. A rich and rewarding experience in the intimate ANNEX.OCT 28