How does music travel?

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Working on a project many years ago with orchestral musicians, I was involved in a conversation about the work of an African composer whose music was included in a concert programme the ensemble was due to perform.

The gist of the discussion was that African music does not derive any benefits from being imagined and presented in a Western Art music context, since the attributes of the genres are often not compatible.

It’s difficult to generalise about such matters. An African musical genre such as Taarab (from East Africa, especially Zanzibar) already combines the use of Western orchestral strings with African instruments, in ways that are exhilarating to hear.  The output of artists such as Bi Kidude displays these possibilities resoundingly well.

Listening from another angle, several Minimalist composers from other parts of the world have successfully created concert works that feature African derived percussive sounds and ideas.

Is it possible that African composers and creative musicians often allow the conventions of Eurocentric music making to inhibit the natural essential flow of the sounds they could be making?

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