The Pan African Orchestra

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This band is the brainchild of Ghanaian musician and musicologist Nana Danso Abiam and was borne of his desire to unite the diverse sounds of his continent. Accordingly, he compiled a group of 30 musicians…
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This band is the brainchild of Ghanaian musician and musicologist Nana Danso Abiam and was borne of his desire to unite the diverse sounds of his continent. Accordingly, he compiled a group of 30 musicians from throughout Africa, using purely African instruments and musical signatures. The orchestra included antenteben flutes (Abian’s own instrument), wia flutes, gylie (wooden xylophones), gonje (violins with only one string), koras, elephant tusk horns and various forms of drums and percussion instruments. Its birth lay in an academic paper submitted by Abiam to the Ghanaian Ministry of Culture in 1983. His proposal was coloured not only by his heritage and knowledge of his own culture but also his extensive travels, including several years in London. That proposal was rejected, but he had spent enough time working on the brief to enable him to raise the funding necessary himself. By 1988 he began auditioning musicians and bringing them back to his home base in Accra. Abiam developed a special programme, and an adapted form of musical notation (which was previously very much a Western approach to music) to integrate his discoveries, whose backgrounds and cultures were diverse. Even tuning the varied instruments to a governable collective pitch proved difficult. However, with such intricate problems overcome, the Pan African Orchestra made its debut in 1995 with Opus 1, a rich, multi-textural collection.