Related News

Home » Feature

Melding long-lost African rhythms and Western choir

THE beat of African drums, long-lost tribal chants and voices of a Western choir will fill Shanghai Grand Theater in an awe-inspiring performance on Saturday. Sam Riley lends an ear

Rare recordings of African music captured 40 years ago by a young British composer hitchhiking down the Nile will form the background to a spectacular choral performance in Shanghai on Saturday.

The Shanghai International Festival Chorus will lift their voices in celebration of the amazing vitality and energy of African music when they perform David Fanshawe's "African Sanctus."

It is the first time that the work - which melds spectacular percussion, the recordings of a lost era of African music and the full power of a Western choir - will be performed on the Chinese mainland.

Speaking via phone from his home in Marlborough in Wiltshire, England, Fanshawe says he will be attending the concert at the Shanghai Grand Theater. He will introduce the work and also man a sound engineering desk where he will mix the recordings and the live performance into one seamless multi-media experience.

Fanshawe first conceived of his most famous work, "African Sanctus," in 1966 on the hill of the citadel of Cairo overlooking the Nile River as he dreamed of a Western choir accompanying the Islamic call to prayer. His romantic vision was first realized in October 1972.

A former sound recordist for film and television, he made many of the recordings for "African Sanctus" during an epic three-year journey hitch-hiking down the Nile. He recorded the traditional music of over 50 tribes in the Arabian Peninsula and in North and East Africa from 1969 to 1972.

"'African Sanctus' expresses my love of adventure and exploration because these were very difficult recordings to make," Fanshawe says.

"Many of the musicians I recorded are no longer alive so they are rare recordings indeed."

Travel runs in the blood for Fanshawe. Fanshawe describes his life of exploration, including journeys through Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific Islands, as driven by "a compulsive need to travel."

"I spent years traveling in Europe and the Middle East, first with just a camera and notebook and then finally with a tape recorder," he says.

"I heard sounds in the markets and bazaars of the Middle East that absolutely captivated my imagination and these sounds led me to Africa."

As he followed the sounds of the human voice down the Nile, he captured the recordings for "African Sanctus" in Egypt, Sudan, Kenya and Uganda.

After Africa, Fanshawe "migrated" to the Pacific Islands where he spent a decade recording sounds across the region, in places like Fiji, Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. These recordings will form part of the latest composition "Pacific Odyssey."

Saturday's performance of "African Sanctus" opens IFC's 2009 season.

The choir is comprised of an international group of singers from at least 20 countries and regions, including the Australia, China, France, Hungary, Indonesia, Morocco, Russia and the UK.

The work will be conducted by Nick Smith, IFC's artistic director who founded the choir.

Smith says the rich tapestry of different music cultures that makes up "African Sanctus" made it the ideal work for the choir.

"'African Sanctus' is a work that takes its strength from the connections between different cultures, and so in many ways, it is a work peculiarly suited to the IFC," says Smith.

Much as the IFC expresses Western culture in a Chinese context, Fanshawe's "African Sanctus" is structured in a Western classical music format, but based on African song and drumming, Smith says.

"It's a great work to do: it involves many different elements - vocal, percussion, pre-recorded tape. There is something here for everyone."

Date: April 25, 7:30pm

Address: 300 People's Ave

Tickets: 220 yuan, 280 yuan


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend