- Caroline Rae
(b Casablanca, June 12, 1913; d Paris, Nov 13, 1992). French composer of Spanish descent. One of the leading independent figures in French music during the second half of the 20th century.
Throughout his life Ohana claimed to have been born in 1914. By his own declaration he was plagued by superstitions, particularly concerning the number 13: there is a certain irony, therefore, in the date of his death.
Ohana was described by Gide as a French Joseph Conrad. The intriguing parallel highlights the unusual complexity of Ohana’s cultural origins which, like those of the Ukrainian-born Pole, were different from his bureaucratic national identity. Both Ohana and Conrad were British citizens. (Ohana took French nationality in 1976.) Born in French, colonial Morocco into a family of Spanish origins (Gibraltarian-Andalusian on his father’s side and Andalusian-Castilian on his mother’s), Ohana inherited his British citizenship from his father. The southern culture from which he stemmed reaches beyond the political boundaries of any one country; hence in later life he spoke more of cultural roots and geographical influence than of nationality. As in many Gibraltarian families, English was spoken in the Ohana household, as well as Spanish, while French was, by necessity, Ohana’s language of education and training. He remained trilingual, publishing writings and conducting interviews in all three languages. Describing himself as Spanish by birth and upbringing but French by training and adoption, he had much in common with the stream of Spanish musicians, artists and writers who migrated north to Paris to exploit their cultural heritage. His cultural complexity contributed to the relative neglect of his music in the Anglo-Saxon world. In France, where fascination with the exotic and acceptance of the eclectic are long established, his music has enjoyed a position of eminence since his emergence as a composer in the 1950s. He received numerous prizes and distinctions throughout his lifetime....