African suite : for jazz orchestra
by Nadia Burgess (2010)
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I would like to thank the Sirens Big Band for performing my African Suite for Jazz Orchestra for the first time tonight. I congratulate band leaders Jessica Dunn and Harriet Harding on their successful debut year and applaud them for giving a platform to female musicians and composers for performance and improvisation.
I was born in the Cape Province of South Africa in the late 1950's and lived in a country town for the first 7 and ½ years of my life. I was exposed to the vocal music of our Xhosa household staff and the traditional music of the tribal workers on my grandparents' farm, near the border of the Transkei, birthplace of Nelson Mandela. I moved further north with my family, later graduated with a B.Mus. majoring in piano, and moved to Australia in 1983.
It was not until I met the American arranger, composer, conductor and teacher Bill Motzing in 2001, whilst studying jazz at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, that I realised I had a rich and unique African background from which to draw inspiration for composition. After much research, I sketched out African Suite and workshopped and performed it with Jazz Septet in 2002. I subsequently composed an M.Mus. Portfolio and beyond, of which many compositions feature an African thread, and I have been represented as composer by the Australian Music Centre since 2005.
This year, I re-worked, re-arranged and properly scored African Suite for Jazz Orchestra, to be played by the Sirens Big Band, due to their interest in world music. It tells the story of a day in the life of an African worker and is influenced by the music of Abdullah Ibrahim, Juluka, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Mango Groove, and the kwela township jazz of Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. African techniques used are: vocal style harmonies in parallel thirds and penny whistle style patterns for saxes, trumpets, and trombones; thumb piano and xylophone style ostinato patterns for guitar, piano, bass and baritone sax; call and response passages; 1-4-1-5 chord progressions; pentatonic scales; modes; African rhythms and large scale ostinato sections for the whole ensemble.
The 1st movement, Dawn: Wild Sabie, has a bass ostinato, vocal style melody and a solo for Loretta Palmeiro on alto sax. The 2nd movement, The Morning: Goonjani, has a rhythmic melody over a bass ostinato, a modal middle section, and solos for Lisa Gori on trumpet, Jess Dunn on bass and Harriet Harding on sopranino sax. The 3rd movement, The Work Day: Mali Mali, has lively ostinato patterns and a drum solo for Lauren Benson. The 4th movement, Home Time: Tjaila Time, is based on "Mannenberg", a famous kwela tune, and has a guitar solo for Milan Ring. The 5th movement, Sunset: Tula Tula, features an intermingling of several ostinato patterns and call and response solos for Jenna Cave on alto sax, and Ellen Kirkwood on trumpet. Featured prominently throughout is Monique Lysiak on piano and Sam Paver on baritone sax. May God Bless Africa = Nkosi Sekele Afrika!
Instrumentation: 2 alto saxophones, 2 tenor saxophones, baritone saxophone, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, guitar, piano, bass, drums.
Duration: 11 min.
Contents note: Dawn -- Good morning -- Work day -- Home time -- Sunset.
Dedication note: Dedicated to William Motzing
Commission note: Commissioned by Sirens Big Band.
Fusion of African music, jazz and contemporary art music
Performances of this work
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