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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 ‘ud (lute). His acquaintance with the poet Aḥmad Shawqī helped him socially, and his settings of Shawqī are classics of the genre. Chosen by Sayyid Darwīsh to perform in his operetta Al-barouka (or La mascotte), ‘Abd al-Wahhāb some years later completed Darwīsh's posthumous Cleopatra, though he composed no original music for the theatre. However, he played in many musical films, performing his own songs. Among the awards he received are the Order of Merit and the State Prize for the Arts....

Article

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 (1945–8), Don Byas (1946), Sam “the Man” Taylor (1954), and Randy Weston (1954–7) he worked with Thelonious Monk (1957–8), with whom he recorded in performance at the Five Spot in New York and appeared on television in the CBS series “The Seven Lively Arts,” as well as on “The Sound of Jazz” (both ...

Article

Abeti  

Gary Stewart

[Masikini, Abeti ]

(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 1973 and made her first recording shortly thereafter, an album called Abeti for the record label of Pierre Cardin. Abeti returned home to Congo to widespread acclaim. Her enormous popularity opened the door for other women to enter the region's male-dominated music business.

Abeti helped to pioneer le spectacle, the ‘show style’ of performance. Her stage presentations included an array of musicians (Les Redoutables) and dancers (Tigresses), lavishly costumed and precisely choreographed. She played Carnegie Hall in 1974 and the Olympia again in ...

Article

Val Wilmer

(Stanley )

(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 he joined the Coon Carnival stage show. He then spent seven years in Swaziland, where he played bop with the pianists Roy Peterson and Howard Belling and accompanied Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. In 1975 he traveled to England and worked in variety and dance bands before joining Dudu Pukwana’s group Zila. In 1981 he founded the trio District Six with Mervyn Afrika and the guitarist Russell Herman, both of whom grew up in the District Six area of Cape Town; with Abrahams as its leader, the trio expanded to a sextet (including Jim Dvorak from 1983 to 1993 and Claude Deppa at some point thereafter) and became an important focus for musicians who played both jazz and African rhythms. Abrahams also worked with Ronnie Scott, John Taylor, Johnny Dyani, and the Brotherhood of Breath. In ...

Article

Val Wilmer

[Emanuel Nii-Moi ]

(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 1947, settled in Yorkshire, undertook factory work, and purchased his first pair of bongos. He then moved to London and entered the entertainment business as a fire-eater, dancer, and drummer. Thereafter he became a firm fixture in modern-jazz groups, playing with Ronnie Scott, Phil Seamen, Sammy Walker, and the trombonist Ken Wray, and following other African percussionists into Kenny Graham’s Afro-Cubists. In 1955 he joined Cab Kaye. Having changed permanently from bongos to conga drums, he played with Shake Keane and Tubby Hayes. For more than six years his propulsive beat was a key element in the success of the singer and organist Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames. Acquaye worked with the Nightimers, led by the American soul singer Herbie Goines, and the jazz-tinged rock bands of Graham Bond and Ginger Baker, as well as with the Animals and the Rolling Stones. The first African to have a visible presence in postwar British popular music, he rejoined Fame intermittently but devoted his time increasingly to community teaching. The percussion workshops Adzido and Dade Krama enabled him to return to the pure drumming and chants of his youth....

Article

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 1956, before Ghana’s independence, Yacub organized the first staged performances of traditional music at the Accra Community Center. By 1968 he started a professional touring group, Oboade, with some of his brothers. This group, based in London from ...

Article

Gregory F. Barz

[Adeniyi, Sunday ]

(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 he formed his first jùjú group, the Green Spots. Referred to as ‘King’ by his audiences and ‘Chairman’ by his musicians, in 1974 he formed his own record label and has released over 40 albums since then. In the early 1980s Adé was promoted by Island Records as the ‘African Bob Marley’, with the release of Juju Music (1982) with his African Beats band, but he was eventually dropped by that label in 1984. His ensemble normally has up to six guitars and can include eight or more drummers, including talking drums. The lyrics of Adé's songs draw on traditional Yoruba praise-singing traditions, proverbs, as well as offering social and political commentary, and he sings with a beautifully flexible voice....

Article

Val Wilmer

(Peter )

(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 1979 he settled in London. There he worked with Julian Bahula’s Jazz Africa and with Dudu Pukwana, and in 1981 he founded the trio (later, sextet) District Six with Herman and Brian Abrahams, the latter serving as the group’s leader. In 1984 Afrika performed in the USA as a member of Hugh Masekela’s group, and in 1986 he recorded with Pukwana. He led his own quartets and quintets and accompanied the singer Carmel, and during the same period he collaborated with Masekela, Courtney Pine, and the reed player David Jean-Baptiste and performed frequently as an unaccompanied soloist. In ...

Article

(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 (1959–65), and took part in a session with Jon Hendricks and others (1965). Aldebert was married to the singer Monique Dozo (b Monaco, 5 May 1931; later known as Monique Aldebert-Guérin), who had sung with Bernard Peiffer (1947) and performed in Paris clubs with Byas, Django Reinhardt, Bobby Jasper, the Double Six (with which she recorded in 1959 and 1964), and Bill Coleman (1966). After moving to the USA (1967) the couple settled first in Las Vegas, where they appeared in revues, and then in Los Angeles (...

Article

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 1962, but it was not until 1966 that he landed his first major recording contract with Philips West Africa Limited in Accra with the song, Agyanka Dabere. His most popular highlife single release was Ebi Tie Ye (1967), a song that illustrates his skills as musician, storyteller, moralist, satirist and social commentator. As a master of the concert party genre and a musician rooted in Akan verbal lore, the songs of Ampadu address a wide range of personal, political and social issues in very humorous and satirical ways. His music has won several national awards, including the ...

Article

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 (1984) and wrote for Mel Lewis’s orchestra. Based in New York from 1985, he worked in clubs with such musicians as Joshua Redman, Bobby Watson, Ernie Watts, and Sonny Fortune and toured Brazil with Gerry Mulligan’s quartet. In 1987 he formed a quartet with the saxophonist Tim Ries for a tour of Europe, and then in 1990 recorded his first album as a leader, with Gary Peacock and Bill Stewart as his sidemen. He composed for a Belgian chamber orchestra and for the Orchestre National de Jazz in Paris. Amsallem has continued to play with Ries, and in the course of working in both the USA and Europe he recorded with the saxophonist in a trio with Leon Parker (...

Article

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 1949 and with the London Mozart Players from 1952 to 1964. In the English Opera Group orchestra he played in the early performances of Britten’s church parables. However, it was chiefly in chamber music that he achieved distinction; he was a founder-member of Musica da Camera (1946), the Melos Ensemble (1950) and the Pro Arte Piano Quartet (1965). He had a particularly polished technique and an easy manner of integration, qualities very evident when he played as extra viola with the Amadeus String Quartet in quintets, blending with those players to produce performances of outstanding merit. He married the pianist Nicola Grunberg, with whom he formed a duo ensemble. He was professor of the viola and chamber music at the RCM from ...

Article

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.

Staying in Cairo with her mother, she made singing her profession. She sang compositions by her brother, Farīd al- Aṭrash, and later co-starred in his film Intiṣār al-shabāb (‘Triumph of youth’). The greatest composers wrote for her: Midhat Assem, Zakariyyā Aḥmad, Muḥammad al-Qasabjī and Riyāḍ al-Sunbaṭī. She sang in Muḥammed ‘Abd al-Wahhāb's film ...

Article

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 ‘ūd (lute) at the Cairo Institute for Arab Music. His professional work began as an ‘ūd player and singer at the national radio station and in Badī ‘a Maṣabnī's variety show saloon.

In 1941, through his sister Asmahān , he entered the cinema industry, and for the rest of his life was involved in films as a composer, singer actor, and producer. His singing of Syrian mawwāl (popular songs), tangos and rumbas achieved great popularity, and his work laid the foundations for Arab variety show films, cinematic operetta, orchestral musical overtures and comic and sad songs. His 31 films are mostly autobiographical and provide valuable insight into the role of the musician in society....

Article

Daniel Avorgbedor

[Aster]

(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 1981 after a few cassette releases (such as Munaya) in Ethiopia and has since produced important albums for Sony: Kabu remained among the top ten of Billboard's world music charts for ten weeks and Aster Aweke Alive was recorded at a sold-out concert in London in 1996. Her popularity spread further with the inclusion of her songs on compilation releases involving multiple artists, such as Afrika, Under African Skies (BBC Videos, vol.2, 1989) and Fruits of Freedom. Ashter possesses a unique musical style that fuses indigenous musical and linguistic traditions with influences from singers such as Donna Summer and Aretha Franklin. Along with Angélique Kidjo and Oumou Sangare, Ashter Aweke represents an important African female voice in the popular music industry. She returned to Ethiopia in ...

Article

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 1977 this joined forces with a band led by Dudu Pukwana to form Jabula/Spear, which recorded the album Thunder in our Hearts (1977, Car. 2009). Later Bahula worked to promote African music in London, though he also played occasionally with the group Jazz Afrika and with a new group under the name Jabula. In the late 1980s he worked with Dick Heckstall-Smith in the band Electric Dream.

R. Cotterrell, ed.: Jazz Now: the Jazz Centre Society Guide (London, 1976) C. de Ledesma: “Afro Jazz: Evolution and Revolution,” The Wire, no.12 (1985), 26, esp. 38...

Article

Andrew Porter

(Stanley)

(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 (1960–63) and in Germany (1963–7), where his roles included Rigoletto, Boccanegra, Nabucco and Renato. He joined the Sadler’s Wells Opera (later the ENO) in 1967, making his British début in Manchester as Mozart’s Count Almaviva; he celebrated his 25th anniversary with the company in 1992 as Sharpless. His London début, as Hans Sachs under Goodall (1968), established him as a Wagnerian of more than local importance, and he later undertook the role at Covent Garden, in Hamburg, Brussels and Munich, and at Bayreuth. He was an equally impressive Wotan (in a new production of the Ring at the London Coliseum, ...

Article

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 1969 became principal of the Orchestre de Paris. Barboteu was the leading French player of his generation, setting a new standard of technical accomplishment and steering the country’s school of horn playing away from the continuous vibrato that had dogged it for decades. In this he was influenced by his teacher Devémy, who saw a minimal vibrato as a permissable result of the temperament and sensitivity of the player, but did not deliberately teach it, in contrast to the school headed by Lucien Thévet. Barboteu himself was appointed to the Conservatoire as successor to Devémy in ...

Article

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 Soukous and other popular dance traditions, her most recent efforts have embraced more popular African and Western cross-influences and have propelled her high on the international scene. Yet, Bel and her collaborators, such as guitarist Rigo Star and singer Vivick Matou, still draw on the roots, both rhythmic and melodic, of earlier Zaïrean popular musics.

M. Bel Rochereau & Mbilia Bel, Gaeto 01 (1985) Beyanga, Sonodisc GENCD1020 (1986) Phénomène, Mélodie CD 35001 (1989) Ba gerants ya malaba, Sonodisc CD GENCD1010 (1991) Boya yé, Sonodisc GENCD1016 (1991)...

Article

Gary W. Kennedy

[Benjamin, Beatrice Bertha; Beatty; Satima]

(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 1959 she worked with Hugh Masekela and Dollar Brand, with whom she moved to Zurich in 1962 to escape the politics of apartheid in South Africa. In Paris in 1963 she made her first recording as a leader, accompanied by a small group under the direction of Duke Ellington that included Svend Asmussen, the double bass player Johnny Gertze, and Makaya Ntshoko, with either Brand, Billy Strayhorn, or Ellington on piano; the results were not issued until 34 years later. In 1965 Benjamin performed with Ellington’s orchestra at the Newport Jazz Festival, and in the same year she married Brand, after which she often sang in his groups; Brand took the Muslim name Abdullah Ibrahim in ...