[launch concert] Report on first Bafrik concert

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  Bafrik's launch concert by bafrik

We proudly release the first report on the Bafrik's Launch Concert, which was excellently written by Prof. Christine Lucia, from Cape Town.

Above, you can listen to all pieces' recordings. But we will continue to post one-by-one as the discussions can be hold separately for each work.

Make a good advantage of this fine written review and add flavour to your listening.


Report on first Bafrik
Bahia-Africa Concert, 22/3/
Teatro Vila-Velha Salvador Bahia

By Christine Lucia (Cape Town, South Africa)

This concert was an auspicious launch for Bafrik.com, the exchange program
me between African composers and composers in the Bahia region of Brazil. Eight short works were played, by composers from Uganda, South Africa and Bahia. The common instrumentation - solo flute, clarinet, trumpet, violin, cello - focussed the composers’ intentions despite their different backgrounds and lineages, and also brought out similarities and differences in aesthetic between them.

The concert thus had diversity
within a relatively modest scale (short length, small ensemble) and this seems to symbolise the spirit of this new exchange as one of unity of purpose and individuality of expression.

The five performers of the new music ensemble Gimba (Group for the Interpretation of the Music of Bahia) were Alexandre Casado (violin), Lucas Robatto (flute), Heinz Schwebel (trumpet), Pedro Robatto (clarinet), and Suzana Kato (cello). Congratulations to them, the composers, and Alex Pochat and Paulo Rios Filho in Salvador who designed and produced this live/internet event.

Victor Rios’s Conta o meu nascimento ao contrário: como voltei para a barriga da minha mãe num pulo desesperado [ ‘An account of my birth in reverse: as I returned to my mother's womb in a desperate leap’] opened the concert. In some ways the most radical and dissonant work in the programme, it relied on the contrapuntal motivic development of extremely small motifs, often 2 notes, often a semitone apart, played simultaneously or in alternation - this was the fundamental ides that drove the very spare texture. One relished the interplay of long notes or glides against this, and the sinewy continuity of rhythm. If the trumpet was used (I could not tell), its use was minimal and this made for an overall Schoenbergian treatment, although the material itself was far from Schoenbergian.

Pierre-Henri Wicomb, too, experimented with small musical ideas and lean textures within an overall fairly sustained sound base, but his in October [‘em Outubro’] had more of a sense of gradual unfolding than Rios’s. Rhythm was not a significant parameter here either, but pace was, and the gradual increase in pace brought a sense of purpose to the unfolding. The relation between individual events was mysterious, and harmony was more important than in Rios’s work because there was less emphasis on counterpoint and motivic development, and a bolder simultaneity. The difference made by the trumpet was also quite striking in this piece, and even more so in the next one.

Guiherme Bertissolo had a pointillistic approach at the beginning of Fumebians No. 1 [‘To FUMEB N. 1’], with the convergence and reconvergence of rapidly alternating short pitches, silences, or sustained notes. His was a quirky motivic language here, a strong sense of humour lurking below the surface. About halfway through the piece an ostinato in the cello began and was taken up and developed by the other instruments. Against this, appeared out of nowhere inconsequential runs, trills, and leaps. It was a very coherent piece, full of wit, and its a bright, street quality added to this, coming largely from the trumpet writing.

Angie Mullins’s Defense Mechanism used an electronic tape with the five instruments. The taped sounds were watery, metallic, clangorous, reminiscent of somewhat unsavoury places - toilets, sewers, prisons? Ominous sounds, in any case. Fragmented instrumental themes entered into dialogue with this tape, and the resultant conversations would rapidly became arguments: shrill and brittle, the parts shouting at each other as they reached the height of an accelerando. When new material began another attempt at dialogue, it was again interrogated, interrupted, and again the background clanking metal rose, eventually, at the end fading away in a rather unexpected way. The piece had a strong sense of attack and retreat, as befits the title.

With Joelio Luiz Santos one was again somewhat in the world sketched by Rios, largely because his Bulinadas No. 2 [‘Nudges Nº 2’] relies strongly on the idea of motivic development. But the tonality was far less dissonant, indeed this was the most ‘tonal’ piece in the concert if one defines this very loosely in terms of having a recurring tonal reference point (often B-flat, sometimes F). Dense contrapuntal textures, strong unisons, a fugato towards the end, and throughout there were punchy syncopated rhythmic figures that made the music dance. A fun piece, in which rhythm played a significant role, with (to me) a Latin feel.

Charles Lwanga then gave us an African feel - really, at this point of the concert we felt the ‘exchange’ happen the most strongly. His Repetitive Insults (‘Insultos Repetitivos’) took a minor pentatonic scale on E and some very Bugandan rhythms and turned out a very interesting three-part piece in which small pitch motifs continually transformed over a repeated backdrop. In the middle section the a-rhythmic material was more fragmented, and although ‘rhythm’ reasserted itself in the third section it seemed less developed than in the first, more abstract. The work relied heavily on timbres invoked by the constantly changing instrumentation, and it ended rhetorically, with a snappy flourish.

Wellington Gomes brought the concert to a very fine end with Acordes de Ébano [‘Ebony chords’]. After an impressionist opening with 9ths, 2nds, chromatic motifs and converging against each other and a clear dynamic ebb and flow and fluid treatment of pitch, we began to realise that this piece was very intentional, driven: we were embarking on a journey. This was effected mainly by an underlying regular pulse and by a very directional harmonic language (not tonal, just very purposeful). Again one felt something Latin - almost a hint of tango. It was rhythmic drive that set this piece apart from the others, and it was also its confidence and accomplished language, and polished use of the instruments.

Some generalisations struck me: the later pieces have s stronger sense of place, somehow - of their being from Bahia or from Africa. The earlier ones were more abstract in language, more clearly post-serial. But what struck me most was how strong all the voices were, and how well they made their mark. They all used the ensemble in such varied ways, their approach to harmony was different, and their textures. Most striking, perhaps were differences in approach to rhythm: the regularity of pulse in Lwanga and Gomes was very different from the aphoristic treatment of rhythm in Wicomb and Rios. Rhythm was linked to a kind of dark humour in the pieces by Mullins and Bertissolo, while in Santos the syncopations made the mood light-hearted. Synergies of this kind bode well for the future, but they also speak to good programming, and insightful interpretation by the performers.


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