Highlights from the Collections
Late Fall 2012 to Spring 2013
Rich Kirby of WMMT-FM in Kentucky donated his sizable collection of recordings that had been acquired for the most part from a record store in Johannesburg, South Africa. The collection includes many rare or out of print LPs of popular music from southern Africa. One example is the first full-length album (though she had many hits with the Troubadour label on 78s in the 1950s) by vocalist Dorothy “Aunt Dorothy” Masuka, whose musical style is a fusion of swing jazz and Zulu melodies. The record was pressed in Zimbabwe and issued in 1981 on the Starplate label. Masuka is also a prolific songwriter and has had many songs covered by the more well-known South-African artist Miriam Makeba. Makeba’s recording of Masuka’s “Into Yam” appears in Lionel Rogosin’s 1959 film Come Back Africa. Troubadour’s producer was open to recording songs by Masuka that contain political commentary, which caused Masuka to flee both South Africa and her native Zimbabwe in the early 1960s.
The collection also contains a number of compilations of traditional music and South-African choral music, and releases by a variety of artists from or writing about Soweto, as well as music by popular ensembles and artists in a variety of genres, such as township jive, or mbaqanga (The Boyoyo Boys); mixes of Zulu folk music maskandi with rock (Juluka, Johnny Clegg); jazz (Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim); Zimbabwean Shona music and South African jive using mbira and electric guitars (Harare Mambos); and close-harmony vocal groups similar to doo-wop in the United States (Abafana Baseqhudeni). Another example is the 1987 Gallo comeback release by vocalist Simon “Mahlathini” Nkabinde and “girl group” Mahotella Queens, who often performed and recorded together. Their mbaqanga style is a mixture of other South-African styles, such as kwela and marabi, with jazz and swing; the style also incorporated local dance styles and Western instruments. Kirby also donated a small number of books on the subject to complement listening and study.
Jonathan Eubanks, brother of the late composer and educator Rachel Eubanks, recently donated ca. four linear feet of her compositions, including both published works and unpublished manuscripts, dated 1934–1999, as well as a small amount of writings and correspondence dated from 1966–2001 and undated. Other highlights are annotations and descriptions on the earliest of the works, as well as pieces arranged as part of her musical education (for those interested in pedagogy of music composition and theory, similar learning exercises are found in the Irene Britton Smith papers). Eubanks’ work complements the existing holdings of her concert music and arrangements of spirituals, and music of women composers in particular. Eubanks’ use of Asian instruments and musical styles is unique and will no doubt intrigue researchers, composers, and performers who come to study the music of black composers at the CBMR. For more information on the music school Eubanks founded in California, please visit its website.
Jazz scholar and aficionado Jean Stearns added another substantial set of recordings on CD, as well as books and video on jazz and jazz dance, to her already large collection of LPs, 78s, 45s, audiocassettes, books, and videotapes at the CBMR. The comprehensive set of Ellington titles complements the Gordon R. Ewing collection of materials on Duke Ellington and the Duke Ellington Society and enhances general materials for the study of jazz. Of particular interest are the limited edition Mosaic boxed set of the complete Ellington recordings on Capitol, the 24-disc set of the complete RCA-Victor recordings, the Ella Fitzgerald/Duke Ellington Cape Verde boxed set, and two rare releases of Andy Kirk and His 12 Clouds of Joy on the Chronogical [sic] Classics label.
During a recent residency at Chicago State University, composer Fred Onovwerosuoke visited the CBMR to deliver newly published compositions and recordings. Through a grant from the Center of Teaching and Research Excellence, CSU had commissioned a new work, titled Nubian Dances No. 1, for the MAVerick Ensemble, which premiered the work on April 16, 2013. The Department of Music’s Guest Artist Series concert featured his work along with other new music composers. The concert included three additional Onovwerosuoke compositions—two for voice and piano, with the composer at the piano, and 24 Studies in African Rhythms (VI-Iroro). In 1994, “Fred O,” as he is known by colleagues, founded African Musical Arts, Inc. (formerly African Chorus) in St. Louis to “foster a better understanding of Africa’s cultures through the musical arts.” The organization highlights both traditional and contemporary choral and other art music by composers of African descent, presenting concerts and artist residencies in schools and colleges, as well as producing the annual Intercultural Music Festival and Symposium. Please visit his website for more information on the composer, his works, and affiliated organizations.