Sounds of Africa

Sounds of Africa

A celebration of the vibrant sounds and rhythms of Africa

Tunde Jegede‘s new commission, Tetregrammaton, embraces both Western and African musical traditions, whilst Orlando Gough‘s Malouf is inspired by melodies and rhythms of Tunisia, and Mbira by Charlie Barber draws on the unique qualities of the African ‘thumb piano’.

Also included is music by Nigeria’s most controversial Fela Ransome-Kuti, a virtuosic percussion solo by South African-born composer Kevin Volans, Simon Limbrick‘s treatment of a harp tune from Mali, and Simon Thorne‘s Mapfumo – a tribute to the distinctive sound of Zimbabwe.

Music direction: Charlie Barber

Musicians: Simon Stewart (clarinet, saxophones), Christian Forshaw (clarinet, saxophones), Alan MacDonald (trumpet), John Randall (trombone), David Appleton (piano), Simon Limbrick (percussion), Tim Wright (percussion), Jeff Moore (violin), Tim Davies (violin), Joel Hunter (viola), Sharon McKinley (cello), Paula Gardiner (double bass, bass guitar)

Stage managers: Emily Bennett, Lorna Parsons

Administration: David Sheppard


31.05.97CARDIFFThe Point, Cardiff Bay
02.06.97LONDONSouthbank Centre, Purcell Room
19.06.97MANCHESTERRoyal Northern College of Music

With the financial support of: Arts Council of Wales, North West Arts, Musicians’ Union


“The musical traditions of an entire continent were explored at The Point on Saturday night as Charlie Barber and Band presented their latest programme, Sounds of Africa. The cross-cultural basis of Barber’s own music has been evident for almost 20 years, notably drawing on Indonesian as well as African techniques. Although coming from the same roots as the American minimalists, Barber’s music is too theatrical, dramatic and gestural to be so easily pigeon-holed.

This was confirmed by two large-scale works – Mbira Music and Kitab al-Musiqi, encompassing both the melodic patterns of the Zimbabwean thumb piano and a tenth century Arabic musical treatise. All of this is translated into the sound world of a 12-piece ensemble of saxophones, brass, percussion, piano and strings. If the more delicate colours were occasionally obscured in such high-powered company, the performances still managed to bristle with rhythmic drive and energy.

A similar filtering of African ideas through European imagination was the order of the day in most of the other pieces offered. Works by percussionist Simon Limbrick, Simon Thorne, Fela Kuti and Orlando Gough all highlighted the physical movement at the heart of African music. Further highlights included Limbrick’s energetic solo performance in She Who Sleeps with a Small Blanket by South African Kevin Volans.

The ensemble played with assurance and commitment throughout this demanding programme.” Gareth Davies, The Western Mail, 2 June 1997




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