Shoowa Panel (2007)

for vibraphone and marimba

Dedicated to Frank Mallows and Magda de Vries
Commissioned by Frank Mallows
Bardic Edition Playing Scores (2 copies) BDE 947

Première

First performance: Tuesday 25 September 2007; South Africa; Frank Mallows vibraphone, Magda de Vries marimbaperformance details.

Programme note

Shoowa-Panel from Composers Collection

My enthusiasm for traditional African weaving developed in the 1970s about the same time as I was discovering the many facets of traditional African music. I was asked to create some music for an early SABC documentary film on weaving, and came up with a piece for harpsichord based on mbira patterns, which I subsequently orchestrated as Ground Weave.

In his phenomenally beautiful book on African textiles, John Gillow describes how the Shoowa, a northern group of the Kuba, in the Congo, decorated their skirts with cut-pile details:

"In the early 20th century Catholic nuns encouraged Shoowa women to use this technique more extensively; in addition to details on skirts, they sewed a large number of panels, usually square, which were used as dowry payments, shrouds, chair and floor coverings, and as symbols of wealth and status. Each geometric design — whether rectilinear, crosses and crotchets, chevrons or squares — is embroidered on a raphia panel and grows, almost organically, across the fabric.

“Nothing is drawn on the raphia panel before stitching commences. All the patterns comes from the imagination of the embroideress and can change as the work progresses…Although there may be one dominant motif, which defines that part of the embroidery, it is likely that the motif will change as it spreads across the panel.” (Gillow, J. 2003. African Textiles: Colour and Creativity across a Continent. London Thames & Hudson: 196)

This description of weaving by Gillow resonates uncannily with the way I like to approach composition, while the actual patterning and asymmetry of these panels is something I've tried to absorb into my work over a number of years. Shoowa Panel was commissioned by Frank Mallows for performance with Magda de Vries. It lasts about 12 minutes.

Press

Wonderlike inlewing het die ryk atmosfeer van die werk pragtig daargestel
Excellent delivery evoked the rich atmosphere of the work beautifully.
Pieter Kooij, Die Burger, Cape Town
Translation: Giel Swart

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