African Arts Music - Composers under the Tree of the Gods

Contemporary Art Music in Ghana

When we were filming with the Mexican composer Conlon Nancarrow in 1993, we discovered a huge number of old shellac records in his archive with recordings of African music, which had decisively influenced his ideas of musical polyphony and polytempi. At some point, however, I asked myself the question: if composers of Western European provenance like Nancarrow or Ligeti are inspired by African music, how does it work the other way round? Are African composers influenced by European music? Do we hear our contemporary compositions there? So I asked Ligeti who I could possibly approach, who had an idea which African musicians listen to his music and what they would know what to do with it. He referred me to Gerhard Kubik, Simha Arom, Wolfgang Bender, who explained to me on my phone calls that there was no such thing as contemporary art music in Africa. Music in Africa has a completely different social embedding than in our culture. And if at all, I learned more or less in an aside, there might be one or two composers in the environment of the few orchestras that exist in Africa, in South Africa, in Egypt or in Ghana. Ghana, I asked, there is an orchestra in Ghana? I had never heard of it. There are actually two orchestras, I found out. The National Symphony Orchestra and the Panafrican Orchestra. And in the IWALEWA-Haus, the Africa Centre of the University of Bayreuth, they even had recordings of it, which the Nigerian composer Akin Euba was in charge of.
After further research, I decided to buy a plane ticket and fly to Accra - first for four weeks. What I discovered there on the spot, which people and music I got to know, is told in several variations in the radio broadcasts that can be heard here.

Version for Bayerischer Rundfunk 113:45 mins.
Version for Saarländischer Rundfunk: 59:30 mins.
Version for Deutschlandfunk: 44:30 mins.
Version for Deutschlandradio Berlin: 85:05 (part 01) / 82:35 (part 02)
Version for MDR: 89:30 mins.

Cast & Crew

Uli Aumüller
Editorial Jounalist
Wolfgang Korb