Umngqokolo (2018)

for solo alto flute

Dedicated to Justinian Tamusuza

Publisher: Bardic Edition

Duration: c. 10 minutes


Recorded by Marietjie Pauw on ‘Too Late for the Prayers’ (AOI CD 02)


First performance: Sunday 27 January 2019, 11h00; Hoofstraat Conceptual, Riebeek-Kasteel, South Africa; Marietjie Pauw alto flute.

Programme note

I think the flute came into its own in the 20th century, when it embarked on a new life as a solo instrument. While there had been some solo pieces in the 18th century, Debussy’s Syrinx, Varèse’s Density 21.5 and Berio’s Sequenza 1 redefined the instrument’s unique palette of colours and opened up new soundworlds for modern composers. Notable among these is Justinian Tamusuza (b. 1951, Uganda) whose Okwanjula Kw’ Endere – the first part of An African Festivity for Flute – is probably the most significant solo flute piece by an African composer. It was this piece that inspired me to write a solo work for alto flute, but whereas Tamusuza found his customary inspiration in the Kiganda traditional music of Uganda, I found mine in the bow music of the Xhosa in the Eastern Cape. Overtones, which are a feature of this music, became the essence of my piece titled Umngqokolo. ‘Umngqokolo’ is a style of gruff overtone singing researched and documented by Dave Dargie in his 1988 book Xhosa Music, the most important source of information about ‘umngqokolo’.