While teaching at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette from 1991 to 2002, Ghanaian American pianist William Chapman Nyaho was struck by the utter lack of available piano scores by composers of African descent. To the extent that he could find any at all, they were mostly out of print or in manuscript form.
Shortly thereafter Nyaho found himself wandering the exhibition hall at an MTNA conference. He asked publisher after publisher for music by Florence Price. Publisher after publisher responded, “Who’s that?” Nyaho told them that she was an African-American composer and was told time and time again, “We only have Scott Joplin,” with the excuse being that there didn’t seem to be any demand for Price’s music. Nyaho replied, “The chicken or the egg: which comes first?”
By this point, though, Nyaho had already found himself part of a circle of musicians, composers and musicologists focusing on music by composers of African descent, including the late Akin Euba, whose 1999 conference at the University of Pittsburgh, “Towards an African Pianism: Keyboard Music of Africa and Its Diaspora,” blew open for Nyaho a whole new world of available music. Nyaho also credits Dr. Louise Toppin, who gave him as a birthday present a stack of copies of out-of-print scores.
Nyaho began compiling, editing and performing these pieces and soon enough presented a session at MTNA titled “Into Africa,” where he not only showed some of this amazing music to piano teachers, but also caught the attention of Oxford University Press, who brought him onto help him publish his five-volume anthology, Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora, one of the year’s best sellers.
Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora is a graded collection of music by two centuries of composers from Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Haiti, Cub, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, the Dominican Republic, China, Canada and the United States, and includes out-of-print classics and works never before published. Written by more than thirty-five composers, the music comprises a myriad of styles and influences, including blues, jazz and folk-tunes. Detailed performance notes are provided for each piece to aid interpretation, and to explore new ways of learning and performing piano music.
Level: Early Intermediate
This first volume for advanced beginners offers a wonderful introduction to Ragtime and Jazz as well as syncopation and different articulations. The pieces range from light-hearted pieces like ‘Kwela,’ the Zulu term for dance, to soulful and spiritual pieces like ‘Dusk.’ This volume includes performance notes for each piece.
From the influences of the Southern US and the Caribbean to the Igbo people of Africa, this second volume truly represents the music of Africa and its Diaspora. This intermediate-level volume features more jazz and syncopated pieces that are both reflective and dance-like. Performance notes and composer biographies are also provided.
Level: Early Advanced
The third volume for early advanced pianists explores even more genres than the first two volumes, such as elements of Tango and Haitian Merengue music. ‘Cell Phone Blues’ is derived from pop music and Jazz. This volume also includes spirituals and African folksongs. Performance notes and composer biographies are provided as well.
The fourth volume in this series includes seven advanced pieces that are longer in duration than those in the first three volumes, making them excellent options for recitals. These are wonderfully entertaining for both the listener and performer and will appeal to pianists looking for fun and expressive repertoire.
This is the last and most advanced volume of the graduated series, which includes works by composers of African descent that are hard to find or have never been published. This volume is for advanced performers and is a wonderful source of new and unusual repertoire.