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African singers

African singers are becoming more popular in the West and certain African artists such as Salif Keita and Sade are already out in front.

Twenty years ago you would have been hard-pressed to find a wide variety of world music in the aisles of the biggest record stores. Music from outside the American or European mainstream was usually relegated to a small corner of the store. Even then most ethnic artists were best found at small, specialized stores. But a variety of factors from globalization to a modernization of traditional non-Western music have increased the popularity of world music today. The most dramatic change is seen in the rising dominance of Latino music, but it isn`t the only type of music taking up more room in the music store aisles. African music is becoming a trend as well, and certain African artists such as Salif Keita, Sade, and Papa Wembe are already out in front.

Born an albino in Mali, West Africa, Salif Keita had intentions of becoming a teacher. But unemployment was high in Mali during the 1970s, and Salif made his living playing in local bands. His big break in Africa came when he joined the government sponsored Rail Band. By 1973 he was working with a group called Les Ambassadeurs and was awarded the National Order of Guinea by President Ahmed Sekou Traore.

Africanmusic.org, an African music information repository, describes Salif s music as a blend of griot and West African influences with Islamic overtones. Griots are traditional Malian singers who tell the history of their patrons through song. Griots usually sing at family celebrations such as weddings. For a culture without a strong written tradition, their songs serve as a verbal history of the family lineage.

But the flavor of Salif s music has been influenced by other cultures as well. Salif switched to Les Ambassadeurs because they were playing a wider range of music. Malian political unrest in the 1980s forced Les Ambassadeurs to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. Salif eventually settled in Paris and launched a solo career. The blend of hi-tech Euro pop with his more traditional Africa lyrics made his music an instant hit across Europe. He recently composed a song on the soundtrack to Patricia Rozema s film adaptation of Jane Austen s Mansfield Park. His album Papa was also nominated for Best World Music Album at the 42nd annual Grammy awards.

Although Salif is based in Paris, his music has not abandoned its traditional African roots. Salif s band continues to play with traditional Malian instruments such as the balafone and the kora. While living in France, Salif has had the opportunity to mix with other notable African musicians like Tabu Ley Rochereau and Mana Dibango. And the Montreiul quartier where he lives, is home to 15,000 Malians to remind him of home.

Another African artist whose popularity has transcended borders is Sade. Sade was originally born Helen Folsade Adu in Nigeria, West Africa to a Nigerian father and an English mother. When she was still young, Sade returned to live with her mother in London. Although she grew up in London, African rhythms still influenced her. These influences, though, came from America in the form of Ray Charles, Al Green, and Aretha Franklin. Sade s direct connection to Africa may not be as strong as other African artists, but the influence still comes through in her highly lyrical style. Much like Malian griot singers, Sade s music always tells a story.

In the early 1980s, Sade retreated to Madrid to escape the pressures of fame but has recently returned to the music scene. As testimony to her worldwide popularity, Sade s concerts are always sold out in places as diverse as Australia, Japan and the United States.

For Africans, some of the best music the continent has to offer comes from its heart the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly known as Zaire). The flavor of central, tropical Africa is captured in the music of Papa Wembe. Papa mixes the Congolese African folklore, known as soukous, with a bit of Cuban rhumba to create a unique style known as Rhumba Rock . Papa s music was first noticed in Kinshasa in the 1970s. With his band, Zaiko Langa Langa, Papa was instrumental in introducing western drums and vocal styles to Congolese music.

Papa s influences come from his Congolese roots, but also from the African Diaspora such as North American funk and R&B. His unique style has influenced western artists, as well. In order to reach wider audiences, Papa relocated to Paris. His music attracted the attention of Peter Gabriel who invited Papa to join him on his Secret World Tour. Annie Steinhardt, the bass and fiddle player for Pele Julu, cites Papa as one of her top music choices. And Papa was selected to compose the music for Jose Laplaine s 1996 film Macadam Tribu.

The rise in African music, and ethnic music in general, has much to do with globalization. Satellites might beam MTV into households around the world, but ethnic communities living abroad still cling to their roots. Successful African artists like Salif Keita, Sade and Papa Wembe have found the right blend of traditional and modern influences. In essence, their music has become a true world language.

Sources: www.africanmusic.org , www.putamayo.com

Written by Wendy Kahler -

Ludwig van Beethoven: biography

Ludwig Van Beethoven was a musical genius who created symphonies and sonatas of intense passion and emotion, leading the way into the Classical Era of music

Ludwig Beethoven, child prodigy, was revered for his talent throughout the world even during his lifetime. Famous as the composer of "Fur Elise" and the Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, Beethoven is remembered as a man of great genius. But did you know he had a softer side? A side that often caused the man to fall hopelessly in love? A side that made him feel a friend`s grief so deeply he could not speak? Did you know he composed entire symphonies "in his head," hearing the part for every instrument before he set the first note on paper? These are the lesser known facts about the well known musician.

Born in 1770 in Bonn, Germany, Ludwig Beethoven was a precocious musician. His father was a rough man who determined to exploit the young boy`s musical gifts and therefore forced the child to practice many hours each day. When the boy tired and made mistakes in his music, it is said that his father thrashed his head, "boxing" his ears as punishment for imperfection. Despite the harsh treatment, Beethoven loved music, and took lessons in violin, organ, and piano. Like Mozart, Beethoven began public performances at the age of six. He left school to tour full-time at the age of thirteen.

When Beethoven was eighteen, his father died, leaving him the responsibility of providing for himself and two younger brothers. He accepted a position playing the viola in the orchestra to provide the household income. In 1792, Franz Joseph Haydn passed through Bonn and recognized the brilliant talent of young Beethoven, not only as a performer but as a composer. Haydn insisted that Beethoven accompany him to Vienna.

In Vienna, Beethoven studied with Haydn. He, like many other young musicians there, lived in an upstairs attic; but he received - and, of course, accepted - many invitations to perform in the homes and palaces of the wealthy. Beethoven was able to earn his own support as well as send money home to his brothers.

Beethoven`s music expressed his innermost feelings through the dynamics and movement of the pieces he composed. In fact, his attention to feeling in his music began a new "style" different in some ways from the very technical, almost mathematical, form of the Baroch period. Beethoven`s music was passionate and dramatic, leading into a more emotional period of music known as the Classical Era. He blended rich chords and tones, feelings, and emotion into the composition of his greatest pieces from love songs to symphonies.

The emotion came from deep within the man. Beethoven was almost always in love, proposing marriage a number of times. But Beethoven was uncouth, small, thin, and not very handsome. He also had a violent temperament that frightened the ladies. His advances in love often turned to disappointments.

But disappointment too became a compelling force in Beethoven`s music. On one occasion, Beethoven was quite miserable after his marriage proposal to Countess Giulietta had been turned down. He sat at his piano as moonlight beams trickled through the windows of his flat, unable to put his feelings of dejection into words. As happened so often, the music did it for him. It was that night that he composed the famous "Moonlight Sonata" for love of the countess.

Beethoven`s gamut of emotions ran from the rough and unseemly to the empathetic. The story is told of a baroness who lost her children in a terrible tragedy. Her friends did their best to cheer her, but she did not respond. For days, she sat motionless, her eyes fixed on the floor. Although Beethoven was a close friend, he could not bring himself to visit her. He openly admitted that he was so overcome with the sense of her loss that he wished to grieve himself in private. Finally, Beethoven asked the baroness to come to his home. To the amazement of her friends, the Baroness accepted the great composer`s invitation and was soon sitting in his study. Beethoven went to the piano and played for over an hour without stopping. He poured himself into piece after piece, pounding out the emotion that he felt in sympathy for his friend. For the first time since her loss, the Baroness allowed the tension to relax. She left the house without ever uttering a word. Recounting the experience years later, she said, "He told me everything with his music and at last brought me comfort."

In his late twenties, Beethoven began to experience lapses in his hearing. As he sat at his piano, he heard the notes but then felt that they faded. He pounded out the notes all that much harder until the keyboard`s action wore away and refused to sound again. There has always been the supposition that Beethoven`s hearing loss was the latent result of his father`s music games toolking . The head thrashings were severe and could have indeed caused the development of a tumor that grew larger with the passing of time. Such an anomaly may have damaged Beethoven`s auditory nervous system.

Even when deafness totally overtook the composer, Beethoven continued to write and remained dedicated to his music. Beethoven had always heard the various instrumental parts "in his head" before actually listening to them. Now he composed completely in his mind, unable to listen to the music in any other way.

He continued to direct the orchestra, especially in debuts of his newly created symphonies. Beethoven`s deafness became such that the maestro could not hear the applause after such performances. He only knew that he had pleased the audience when he turned to face them and could see the clapping of their hands.

Beethoven died at the age of 56. History documents that he developed complications from a chill. Legend reports that he died during a hailstorm. At the sound of a tremendous peal of thunder, Beethoven closed his eyes to death.

Written by Elaine Schneider -

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