Review of Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora, Vol. 2

This 53-page second volume of Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora is definitely more challenging than the first volume! It is labeled Intermediate, but I struggled a good bit with some of the complicated rhythms and dissonant harmonies myself. The layout is the same as the first volume, with the first several pages devoted to short biographical sketches of the composers and performance notes for each of the pieces.

Here are my notes for each piece:

1. Lament in Tremolo Form – This has a beautiful, almost Chopin-like quality to it. A great piece for melodic voicing with the right hand carrying the melody, the bass note supplying a pedal tone and the rest of the left hand providing the harmonic “undercurrent.”

2. Invention No. 2
– Obviously a polyphonic structure, based on the title, though set in the unusual time signature 5/8. A very interesting non-harmonic “blend” of lines. (I don’t know that Bach would approve… 🙂 )

3. Honey – A variety of moods make their appearance in this piece – from a pianissimo lullaby-like feel to an abrupt interrupting theme.

4. Nigerian Dance No. 1 – A gradual suspense builds throughout this very dissonant piece.

5. Prelude No. 1 ‘Joshua fit the Battle of Jericho’ – The barely perceptible tune of the well-known gospel song is well-hidden beneath the non-traditional harmonies of this piece.

6. Prelude No. 2 ‘Poor Mourner’s Got A Home’ – I never could place this familiar tune, but the piece is full of emotion.

7. Oga – This was one of those killer rhythm pieces! Just try playing an eighth note followed by quarter note triplet in the right hand against dotted sixteenths followed by 32nd notes in the left hand.

8. Preludio Cubano – A somewhat playful, happy sound emanates from this piece.

9. Silk Hat and Walking Cane – A Ragtime feel with a fun little melody made this a fun piece to play.

10. At a Certain Church – Opening with a bell call, this piece quickly reveals itself to be a hymn tune and variations on “Promised Land.”

11. Volta Fantasy – Strict counting is required to achieve the fantasy-effect of this piece.

12. Igba Kerin – Awon Abami Eye (Supernatural Birds) – Although this piece starts somewhat heavy, it gives way to a more flighty sound as the hands fly all across the keyboard.

13. Igba Kinni – Akeregbe Baba Emu (The Gourd Master of the Palm Wine)
– This piece opens with a shabang on Major 7th chords and remains loud and exciting with constantly changing time signatures throughout.

14. Pomme Cannelle
– A sauntering sort of melody with a few playful touches scattered throughout.

15. Basseet – This piece is constantly moving, with 16th notes throughout. Requires close attention to articulation.

16. Nim Nawakht – The right and left hand sport different key signatures in this piece – 6 flats (B, E, A, D, G, C) in the right and 4 (B, E, A, C) in the left. Overall, a very loud piece written with both hands primarily playing in the bass clef.

17. If the Silver Bird Could Speak – Bright and quick, flitting about. Another one with constantly changing time signatures – from 2/8 to 5/16 to 2/4 to 3/4 to 4/4, etc.

This volume is definitely not as accessible to the average intermediate student as volume one, but if you like to try things out of the mainstream, you should give it a try and see what you think.

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