Have you ever dreamed to visit the African continent? While this dream has been realized for many people these days, Afro-Americans in the early 20th century, for the most part, could only imagine what it might be like to visit the Motherland. But, one composer, in particular, wrote music that painted beautifully engaging images of Africa that are still celebrated today. Hi there – I’m Loki Karuna, and on this edition of Noteworthy I’d like for us to take a trip to Africa, led by composer William Grant Still.
William Grant Still is probably one of history’s most significant composers. In 1930, the premiere of his first symphony made him the very first Black person to have a work performed by a professional orchestra in the United States. He’d go on to write many other works that speak to Black experiences not only in the US, but around the world – including Africa. This work, that he titled “Sahdji,” depicts an African war ritual that continues to inspire the Black imagination to this day.
In addition to writing Black-themed compositions, William Grant Still played a huge role in supporting Black composers of his day, including his contemporary, Florence Price. He was a man of many firsts for Black folk in classical music, and he’s without a doubt, among history’s most Noteworthy.
Noteworthy is a production of WDAV classical public radio.
Pictured: William Grant Still by Carl Van Vechten – United States Library of Congress’s, Public Domain.