• Judith Weir
  • Nuits d'Afrique (2015)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Wigmore Hall, with the support of André Hoffmann, president of the Foundation Hoffmann, a Swiss grant-making foundation.

  • fl/pf/vc
  • Soprano
  • 12 min

Programme Note

Nuits d’Afrique was written as a companion piece to Ravel’s Chansons madécasses and shares its instrumentation; soprano, flute, cello and piano.

In response to Ravel’s texts (by Évariste de Parny, who claimed that his ‘Madagascar Songs’ were translations from folk sources, although he had never been there), I searched for poetry by contemporary African women, and found it in Irène Assiba d’Almeida’s French-language anthology A Rain of Words.

The three writers represented here, Fatou Ndiaye Sow, Véronique Tadjo and Marie-Léontine Tsibinda come from Senegal, Ivory Coast and Congo-Brazzaville respectively. All were born in the 1950s. The poems evoke local life: a lullaby, the sound of drums, the appearance of a crocodile. The final poem, describing the continuity of village life, closes with a simple invocation which may recall the ending of Ravel’s composition.

Nuits d’Afrique is warmly dedicated to Ailish Tynan. My thanks also to Michel Vallat for his advice about French prosody.