I was thrilled when I received the announcement that this third volume of Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora is now available! I quickly made the arrangements to get a review copy and didn’t even care if I disliked every other song in the book, because I knew it had the one I’ve been waiting for – Jamaican Dance No. 2. This is the one I heard performed live by William Nyaho at a concert and I fell in love with it. I bought the CD (Senku) the night of the concert, but had to wait until Volume 3 for the printed music. It’s just beautiful and as soon as the book arrived, I had to sit down at my piano and play it. Now I’ve worked my way through the rest of the pieces and the 56-page book is packed full of great music. Here are my notes on each of the pieces:
Take Me Back – a fun, lively piece with a constant rhythmic motif that is easy to get the hang of. The catchy melody makes you want to hum along!
Deep River – a gorgeous, rich sound wafts from the pages of this Negro Spiritual. The arrangement employs a thick texture, including a section with a counter melody. A range of emotions makes this piece very moving.
La Dangereuse (Meringue Haitienne) – this piece also boasts a beautiful, rich sound. The time signature is marked 2/4 (and then 3+3+2 over a 16), so I didn’t even try to count and just made up a rhythm that felt right. 🙂
Juba Dance – lots of parallel 4ths give this piece a definite Asian flair. Very fun and playful!
Jamaican Dance No. 2 – Here’s my piece! Here’s my piece! 🙂 The sweet, delicate sound just grabs your heart. A passionate climax in the middle evokes even deeper emotion before returning to the simple sweet sound with which it began.
Didn’t It Rain – clusters in the low register of the bass clef set the mood for this very dissonant piece. Even the middle section, marked “tranquillo”, couldn’t convince me to like the piece (I’m not a fan of excessive dissonance…).
The Cuckoo – The LH plays a little “cuckoo” figure throughout the whole piece while the RH flits all over the keys like a little bird out for a morning excursion.
Scenes from Traditional Life No. 1 – another primarily dissonant piece with lots of contrasts in dynamic and register changes. Probably one of those that you’d have to play several times to grasp the structure and sound.
Scherzino – fun, with a mischievous touch! The piece is written in 2/8, but uses a 16th note triplet figure throughout that gives it a dance-like quality. A brilliant section in the middle and at the end are attention-getting and a fun contrast.
Nimble Feet – a lively, clear-cut dance (I didn’t feel like I needed to be a mathematician to count out each measure!). The structure is very chordal and little melodic ideas are woven into both hands throughout.
Papillons – just like you would expect a butterfly piece to sound – quick and delicate. Some changing of registers, with a section in the middle that uses three staffs to facilitate the reading of the quick movements between hands and registers.
Variations on an Egyptian Folksong – I could definitely picture myself crossing the desert on a camel’s back as I played this piece. Each variation is quite different, ranging from a gentle flowing style to a lively Egyptian dance. Well, the indication given is “in the style and rhythm of an Egyptian dance.” Since I really don’t know anything about Egyptian dances, I’m just assuming that it’s lively. If there are any Egyptian dance experts out there, please feel free to enlighten me. 🙂
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I like almost all the pieces in this third volume. Even if it didn’t have “my piece”, I would definitely recommend it!