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Samha El-Kholy

(b Cairo, 1910; d Cairo, May 3, 1991). Egyptian composer and singer. As a child he had a remarkable musical memory, and at the age of seven he joined a drama troupe to sing during intervals. In 1920 he began studies of traditional Arab music at the Arabic Music Club (now the Institute of Arabic Music), and he also studied Western music for a time at the Bergrün School in Cairo. He then embarked on a dual career as a singer-composer; possessing a fine baritone voice, he achieved great popularity, and he also won fame for his improvisations on the ‘...

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John Curry

(bNew York, Jan 30, 1927; dNew York, Oct 2, 1993). Double bass and ‘ūd player. His early influences included the music played and sung by his father, who was Sudanese, and the Middle Eastern and East European music he heard growing up in Brooklyn’s multiracial community. He began learning violin at the age of seven and later studied double bass, piano, and tuba and attended the High School of the Performing Arts in New York. At this time he played Greek, Syrian, and Gypsy music professionally at weddings and other occasions. After playing double bass with Art Blakey (...

Article

Abeti  

Gary Stewart

(b Stanleyville [Kisangani], Belgian Congo [Democratic Republic of the Congo], Nov 9, 1951; d Paris, Sept 29, 1994). Congolese singer and songwriter. Abeti first reached prominence in West Africa in the early 1970s under the tutelage of Togolese impresario Gérard Akueson who later became her husband. On the strength of her West African following, Abeti performed at the Paris Olympia concert hall in ...

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Val Wilmer

(b Cape Town, June 26, 1947). South African drummer, percussionist, singer, and leader. Known first for his singing, he developed as a drummer by accompanying other singers in Cape Town and playing with the quartet led by the pianist Cecil May. In 1962...

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Val Wilmer

(b Jamestown, Accra, Gold Coast [now Ghana], June 7, 1931; d London, Sept 15, 1993). Ghanaian conga and bongo player. He was educated at the Royal School in Accra and began playing drums as a child. Following a brief spell in the army he traveled to Britain in ...

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Vera H. Flaig

(b Accra, Ghana, 1931). American master drummer of the Ga ethnic group, West Africa. Born in Accra, Ghana, Yacub is the eldest living member of the revered Addy family of drummers. His father, Jacob Kpani Addy, was a powerful jinni whose medicine name was Okonfo Akoto. Yacub has explained that he and his brothers began drumming out of necessity: “One day when they [his father’s drummers] were very late, my father lost patience with them, and told his senior sons to start the drumming.” While the brothers had never played the drums before, they were familiar with the complex rhythms that accompanied their father’s medicine. When the drummers finally arrived, they were shocked by how well the brothers could play. In ...

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Gregory F. Barz

(b Oshogbo, Nigeria, 1946). Nigerian performer. ‘King’ of Jùjú music and born into a royal Yoruba family, Adé first performed as a guitarist with Moses Olaiya and his Rhythm Dandies. In 1964 he shifted from the Highlife style to jùjú, and in 1966...

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Val Wilmer

(b Cape Town, Oct 18, 1950). South African pianist, composer, and arranger. He grew up in the District Six area of Cape Town with the guitarist Russell Herman, studied music at the University of Cape Town, and played in various groups with Herman, including Oswietie, with which they toured South Africa and Angola. After joining Sipho Gumede in the funk-jazz group Spirits Rejoice he traveled along Africa’s west coast as far as Gabon, then in ...

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(bIsmâ’ ilîya, Egypt, June 8, 1931). Frenchsinger and pianist. He studied music in Paris and played piano with Don Byas (1955) and Stephane Grappelli (1957). He was a singer with the Blue Stars (1955–6), toured and recorded with the Double Six (...

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Daniel Avorgbedor

(b Adiemmra, Ghana, March 31, 1945). Ghanaian popular guitarist, singer and master of guitar-band. Highlife and concert parties. He formed the African Brothers International Dance Band in 1963, a band that produced important musicians such as the late Eddie Donkor. Ampadu acquired rudimentary guitar skills with the help of P.K. Yamoah and worked briefly at the Ministry of Agriculture in his home district area. He performed briefly with the T.O. Jazz band led by T.O. Ampoma in ...

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Jacques Aboucaya

(b Oran, Algeria, Oct 25, 1961). French pianist and composer. After taking lessons in classical piano he went to the USA to study at the Berklee College of Music (1981–3) and then at the Manhattan School of Music (MM composition). He appeared in the BMI Jazz Composition Workshop under the direction of Bob Brookmeyer (...

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Watson Forbes

(b King William’s Town, South Africa, March 4, 1916; d Ipswich, Sept 7, 1978). British viola player of Russian-Lithuanian parentage. He studied the violin with Achille Rivarde at the RCM, London, and played in the major London orchestras until the war, after which he changed to the viola. He became principal viola with the Goldsbrough Orchestra (later the English Chamber Orchestra) in ...

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Saadalla Agha Al-Kalaa

(b during a voyage from Turkey to Syria, 1917; d Egypt, July 14, 1944). Syrian singer. Born to a well-known Syrian family, she moved to Cairo with her family in 1924 and made some commercial recordings while still a teenager. In 1932 she married her cousin Prince Ḥasan al-Aṭrash and returned to Syria. After giving birth to a daughter she was pronounced unable to produce any more children (and not therefore a son and heir). She left her husband to give him the chance of having an heir, and thereafter deep sadness marked her life and the romantic meanings in her songs....

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Saadalla Agha Al-Kalaa

(b al-Qrayya, Syria, Oct 18, 1915; d Beirut, Dec 26, 1974). Syrian singer, composer, ‘ūd player and film actor and producer. In 1924 political circumstances forced his family to move to Egypt. His mother, the noted singer ‘Aliyya al-Munther, taught him singing in the Syrian style. He studied the ...

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Daniel Avorgbedor

(b Gonder, Ethiopia, 1961). Ethiopian singer. Ashter began her singing career in the early 1970s in Addis Ababa, and performed with the band Roha (formerly Shebele Band). Her formative musical years were also shaped by the music of Bezunesh Bekele and the philanthropy of Ali Tango, which provided motivation for the singer. Ashter emigrated to the USA in ...

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Charles de Ledesma

(b Johannesburg, March 13, 1938). South African percussionist. He was a popular drummer in Philip Tabane’s band Malombo, one of the foremost groups playing kwela (a style of urban popular music in South Africa). In 1973 he moved to London and formed the group Jabula, which played an amalgam of African music and rock; in ...

Article

Andrew Porter

(b Birmingham, March 23, 1933). English baritone. He studied at Rhodes University, South Africa, and at the Vienna Music Academy, making his début with the Vienna Chamber Opera as Tobias Mill in Rossini’s La cambiale di matrimonio in 1959. He sang at Linz (...

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Oliver Brockway

(b Algiers, April 1, 1924; d Paris, Sept 30, 2006). French horn player. He studied with his father in Algeria and with Jean Devémy at the Paris Conservatoire. In 1948 he joined the Orchestre National, and in 1951 won first prize in the international competition in Geneva. He was principal horn for the Concerts Lamoureux and in ...

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Gregory F. Barz

(b Democratic Republic of the Congo). Congolese singer and performer. Formerly a singer with Tabu Ley Rochereau’s band Afrisa International during the 1980s, Bel began her career as a dancer for Abeti Masekini, an important early singer in the Zaïrean popular tradition. While Bel’s earlier performances and recordings, especially those made with Rochereau, are firmly rooted in the heavily guitar-driven Zaïrean ...

Article

Gary W. Kennedy

(b Cape Town, South Africa, Oct 17, 1936). South African singer. The name Sathima, which means “person with a kind heart,” was given to her by Johnny Dyani and was originally spelled Satima. She sang standards and show tunes in local groups as a teenager and was performing professionally by the late 1950s. From ...