• 2+pic.2.2+bcl.2(II:cbn)/4.3.2+btbn.1/4perc/pf.hp/str
  • 10 min
    • 23rd March 2024, Ambassador Auditorium, Pasadena, CA, United States of America
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Programme Note

Composer note
Kutimbua Kivumbi is a Swahili phrase that loosely means, “Stomp the Dust.” This composition was inspired by a trip to Kenya where, as a part of a sabbatical, I studied the music of the Akamba people in the Machakos region. Kenya is a colorful place, reflected visually and also in the vibrant and welcoming nature of the people. When composing the piece, I wanted to musically embody that colorful essence, demonstrated by the variety timbres and sonorities throughout the composition. Due to the diverse nature of Kenya, my experiences were vast and varied, including: visiting the slums; enjoying fast-paced Nairobian city life; taking advantage of the simple, technology- and electricity-free rural life; and even going on a safari at the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro. These daily (sometimes hourly) juxtaposed adventures – rapidly shifting and sometimes superimposed – added a level of unpredictability and excitement to my trip, elements I also tried to musically evoke in this work, both linearly and in terms of stratification.

The Machakos region, where I did most of my ethnomusicology study, has two short wet seasons, resulting in long dry spells throughout the year. Consequently, the terrain of the scenic plains in the low lands is extremely dusty. Many of the traditional songs and dances, especially the ones that plead for rain, are performed on the arid landscape, and as the people dance and stomp, dust rises, creating a beautiful and fascinating visual space. In this piece, I tried to musically create that unique atmosphere, using my own compositional voice and the inspired rhythms and sounds of the Akamba people. After a ferocious percussive invitation, the work begins with a violin solo, musically depicting the leader of a call-and-response, freely singing until the rest of the people join in and sing the synchronized tune. The primary theme of this piece is an adaptation of a welcome song that was performed for me by the Akamba people. The entire experience was moving: witnessing the drumming, the call-and-response singing, the dancing on the dry land, and, yes, watching the dust rise. The work culminates with a soundscape that musically depicts one final stomp, with dust slowly rising and gaining intensity—a final plea for rain.

— Shawn E. Okpebholo


world premiere performance by the Wheaton College Symphony Orchestra