In my workshops and coaching sessions, I am teaching the broad spectrum of performing African music, from singing styles to body percussion, rhythm and dance, as well as basics about tradition and culture.
With school classes, students, or groups of singers, I form frequent Power of Voice programs, a European-African choir project, and prepare them for a public performance on Jazz festivals or international meetings. Courses may go from several days to months or even a full semester. Groups usually learn a repertoire of five to ten songs and perform with my band and musicians from Africa.
The fact that the lively workshop atmosphere will eventually culminate in a public choir performance is naturally the best experience and a great motivation for all participants. The Power Of Voice choir has recently performed on festivals in Germany and on several international official meetings, such as the German president’s “Africa Forum”, for state leaders from African countries or on various European Union-Africa conferences.
I am offering the choir project to schools and universities and to choir conductors around the world. Workshop dates 2017
In Africa, there is no separation between everyday life and music, dancing, and singing,
everything comes together and what seems to result in a special cultural happening is actually just about cooking or hunting or storytelling about a wedding or a funeral. Therefore, both singing and dancing have a deep spiritual meaning for African people.
As soon as the participants learn to sing and dance the rhythmical songs in African languages, their facial expression, gestures, and body movements become very strong and vivid. Although many songs are sung in African dialects, they learn these very quickly by heart. Most words are easy to pronounce and sound very close to the actual feeling or meaning of the word. Since the lyrics and stories of these songs are based on all-day or simple emotional situations, the students easily identify themselves with its contents and soon discover their very own way of expressing moods and thoughts in singing these African tunes. Due to the strong rhythm in African music, which offers the singers a structure to lean on, they quickly learn how to move their bodies. The songs usually have one or two lead voices. Having learned about the meaning of the lyrics, some may even dare an own spiritual and soulful expression with their voices. By alternating roles from singing a lead voice to immersing in and merging with the choir, the singers gain courage and feel the importance of the community, eventually experiencing the choir as one powerful voice. In some songs, I offer time or sequences for free improvisations like imitating the sounds of animals or African instruments or in order to find individual ways of expressing feelings.
Learning to use variations of a musical theme is the first step towards the heart of jazz music, namely the improvisation. Here, it is often surprising to see how fast children learn to pick up a theme, paint it their own way and – then again – blend in the community.
Those who are already into music or playing an instrument will recognize more and more elements that are used in our popular music, in hip-hop and rap, funk and soul and in dance. African music is the ancestor of many modern forms. By realizing this, one can see it in the participants’ eyes, African culture suddenly becomes familiar and looses any strange or alien touch.
Some of the participating children have a migration background. Experiencing a strong community, which is based on cultural aspects we all share, offers a chance for everyone to become aware of his/her own background and at the same time become curious for the unknown and foreign.
Since 2014, I have been improvising with The Art Of Voice choir. Inspired by musicians from Arvo Pärt to Frank Zappa, Bobby McFerrin or Johann Sebastian Bach, the vocal ensemble experiments with comprehensive crossover improvisations. In view of my forthcoming album Pygmyzonia, we are interpreting traditional African chants from the Pygmy people and mixing those with Jazz standards.
See the choir project live at the · Afrika Forum
Listen to the choir project
- The Power Of Voice 2006, Documentary (30min) and concert (60min) 20.00€ plus shipping
- The Power Of Voice at Jazz-Festival Viersen 2007, Concert (58min), 20.00€ plus shipping.
- Das Lied der bunten Vögel. Premiere. HD-Qualität. 20.00€ plus shipping.
The LOFT · Under Joburg Skies, Center for Young Talent in Music and Film, Johannesburg, South Africa
Music for life Foundation, African Childrens Choir, South Africa
Music for life Foundation, primary school, South Africa
Goethe Institut Dakar, Senegal
School projects, Germany