Located and published under the African Composers Edition Christine Lucia’s recent scholarly outputs have foregrounded amakwaya/iikwayala (Black Choral Music)Lucia, C. 2016-2017 on “amakwaya/iikwayala” to refer to this genre that uses the local derivation of the English noun, “choir”. See also Lucia, C. 2020. ‘Michael Mosoeu Moerane in the Museum’ in Fontes Artis Musicae: Journal of the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation, July-September: 186-215. In footnote 1, she provides a context for the use of the often contentious denotation Black against the background of South African choralism as well as the national political framework. through detailed Critical Editions that provide painstakingly assembled repertoires and comprehensive commentaries on the music of Mohapeloa, 2016, and Moerane, 2020.The J. P. Mohapeloa Critical Edition in Six Volumes, revised edition (2016-2017) in SAMUS: South African Journal of Music Research, 36-37: 157-264 with CD Rom and the Andrew Mellon Michael Mosoeu Moerane Scholarly Edition (2020), also called the Moerane Edition for short. While Lucia has thus far compiled choral Critical Editions by two Southern African composers (Lesotho/South Africa), it is on the Moerane edition (2020), that this review and critical commentary will focus.
The first question that comes to mind is: what is the Andrew Mellon Michael Mosoeu Moerane Scholarly Edition? In the Preface, Lucia informs us that
The Moerane Scholarly (or Critical) Edition contains 51 works: 50 a cappella choral works mostly for two (SA), three (SAA), or four voices (SATB), and one symphonic poem for full orchestra. These are the extant works by Moerane discovered so far, although there are probably more than 25 works still missing.
Later, she highlights the importance of this volume stating that “[t]his is a ‘critical’ edition, which aims to present Moerane’s work with accuracy and consistency, respecting the composer’s legacy and presenting it in a form that scholars, teachers, and performers can access”. A subscription or a scholars’ access is required for one to gain entry into the edition. What lies in store is a wealth of information on the composer. The page is quite easy to use and this facilitates utilization of the contents to the fullest.
Lucia achieves this by setting out the edition in the following manner: tabs with Edition Information, Works in Edition, Composers Biography and Resources. In the Edition Information tab, a drop down arrow allows the user to access the Preface, Acknowledgements, General Introduction, MM Moerane Catalogue and a List of References. In this section of the edition, I am mostly drawn to the General Introduction. This is not to say that others do not matter, as they collectively form part of the complete product. Instead, here Lucia gets into her historical-analytical scholarly mode, situating Moerane’s work within the broader tradition of South African Black choral music that stretches back to 1875 with the first published manuscript composed by John Knox Bokwe (Olwage, 2010/2011). She also provides analyses of three songs Alina, Mitsa Mahosi and Mohakoe. It is in this part of the edition that one gains insights into Lucia’s rationale for this work, its methodology and the analytical tools used and their effects.
The edition groups Moerane’s works into four Volumes according to scoring, genre and in alphabetical order:
Volume I: Fatše La Heso (My Country), Symphonic Poem for orchestra, full score
Volume II: Works for unaccompanied SATB Choir A-L, in dual notation, vocal score
Volume III: Works for unaccompanied SATB Choir M-Z, in dual notation, vocal score
Volume IV: Works for unaccompanied SA & SAA Choir, and arrangements of African American Spirituals for unaccompanied choir, in dual notation, vocal score.
Occasionally, Lucia adds hyperlinks to other aspects of the edition that are relevant for the section under discussion. Often, these direct one to various source materials accessed and used for researching and compiling the current publication. I will revisit this aspect later in the review. The works are not only listed alphabetically according to the volume in which they appear, but also have other key details such as scoring and cataloguing particulars. Regarding the source of music, the scores; Lucia informs us that “Each score is presented here in dual staff-solfa notation together with a translation of the non-English texts, a brief historical introduction to the work, a list of sources used in preparing the score, and a critical commentary”.
Furthermore, these songs are composed in two indigenous languages; isiXhosa and seSotho. This linguistic dexterity reflects the diverse identity of the composer who was born in the Eastern Cape, Mt Fletcher region which is predominantly seSotho speaking, whereas he lived and worked in the Queenstown/Komani region which is predominantly isiXhosa speaking. He also lived in Mfundisweni in Flagstaff, Pondoland as well as Lesotho, where he worked, lived and died.
South African Black choral composers’ song texts are exclusively in their mother tongues, perhaps with very few exceptions. Effectively, this linguistic distinctiveness accords one an “ethnicized identity” as a “Zulu, Xhosa, Tsonga, etc. choral composer”. Michael Moerane was more than this. While most of his works have isiXhosa and seSotho texts, languages spoken in the two areas in which he lived most of his life; others are available in English. These are his arrangements of African American Spirituals. This too adds an insightful dimension to his musical interests and capabilities. Generally, composers in this tradition only produce and circulate original compositions, hardly any arrangements. A few exceptions would be transcriptions from staff notation to tonic solfa, a translation of a text of an existing song to a vernacular language or the setting of an original vernacular text by the composer to already existing music by a different composer.
Interestingly, unlike any other composer of his genre, Moerane also produced an instrumental work, a symphonic poem for his graduation assignment for the BMus degree under the tutelage of Prof Hartman of Rhodes University. This orchestral piece titled Fatše la Heso (My country) stands alone as the only orchestral output by a Black choral composer for at least 60+ years. Of course this is not by accident or testament to his compositional inventiveness. There is a political and pedagogical history responsible for this status quo, something which Lucia (2019) elucidates on with great insight.
As far as methodology is concerned, it is quite fascinating and eye opening that Lucia places Moerane’s compositional output under an Historical-Analytical Musicological lens in order to read it as works rather than just as songs. Thus, she manages to unpack elements of style through in-depth analyses of the music that reflects Moerane’s compositions not as failed or inadequate handlings of the Western compositional traditions but as standing alone, creating a trajectory that requires this music to be understood in its own full context. She does this with Mohapeloa’s work too and the outcome yields very productive insights.
Informative as well is her collaboration with se Sotho and isiXhosa language experts. This collaboration brings to the fore the combined skills of mother tongue speakers, Mrs Nosipo Rapiya (isiXhosa) and Mrs Mpho Ndebele (SeSotho). This accords the works with linguistic accuracy with insights into the earlier orthography, syntax and semantic fields that Moerane drew from. Again, in her detailed manner, Lucia explains how this was executed and achieved. Her students also contributed to the setting of the music into staff notation and tonic solfa. The overall effect of this is to assist non-mother tongue speakers towards a meaningful pronunciation of the text. After all, this edition is for scholars and singers too. Similarly, the English translation received close attention, primarily as a way of ensuring that nothing loses context.
I would argue that Lucia’s Moerane edition is quite instructional for anyone who wishes to follow a similar path of research: collecting, analysing and exploring life histories and music of composers such as Caluza, Tyamzashe, Myataza, Khoza, Marivate and more. Most of these were Moerane’s contemporaries and their compositions have not as yet received as much scrutiny, let alone collection and “ordering” to the extent that Lucia and her team have done with Mohapeloa’s and Moerane’s. Everyone should know by now that in order to talk and write about a South African Black choral tradition more authoritatively than we have hitherto, we need to point out to its existence, we need to have easy access to it, and variously utilize it for live performance, recordings, scholarly analysis and pedagogical material for choral conducting classes, composition theory and possibly local vernaculars for singers in the same tradition of Italian, German and French diction for singers. Lucia pioneers this work in this edition.
Also, the thoroughness of verification of these works might be useful for performance practice too. Aspects such as tempi, expression marks etc have been mostly presented as the composer had wished them.
The manner in which Lucia writes points to how she and her team have followed the sources, their current physical location, when they were published, revised or edited, contexts of use over the years and more. Likewise, she meticulously explains the process they followed for placing works in this edition and the final outcome. I am convinced that this edition is also a useful learning guide for students in historiographical methods. Phrases such as those quoted below, which I italicise for emphasis to amplify the points I raise above, are quite illuminating.
Only two choral works appear to have been published during Moerane’s lifetime… both printed by Lovedale Mission Press in tonic solfa notation in 1938 (Moerane [n.d.1938]; Shepherd 1937) …
A few other works … have been informally reproduced by SAMRO on demand or by the organisers of choral competitions as prescribed music, over the years …
The process of publishing Moerane’s music … involved a team of workers … We typeset the orchestral work, … in Sibelius music notation software, working from a copy of the original hand-written manuscript of the full score that is now kept in the Cory Library for Historical Research, Grahamstown. …
We researched and collected as many choral scores as we could find and transcribed them from tonic solfa notation into staff notation … (own emphasis).
Evidently, the trail to the sources was not only followed, but the materials themselves were subjected to multiple analytical lenses, interpretive tools and purposeful decision making for completing the edition. All this has bearing for the many facets of a musical work from conception, production, dissemination, reception and more.
Having examined the contents of the edition, I will now reflect on what its relevance and impact might be within the broader context of South African music studies, especially at this moment in history. To this end, I invoke and propose a decolonial reading and consideration. Ramon Grosfoguel (2013) reminds us about the nature of knowledge production in the academy and its entanglement with long histories of racism, colonialism, sexism and a diverse set of exclusionary practices. The end result of this network of processes and related ideologies is the silencing of certain voices in the academy, faulting as inadequate some theoretical, methodological and analytical tools and denying legitimacy to other realities and worldviews. He builds his argument from Boaventura de Souza Santos’ notion of “epistemicide”, wherein particular forms of knowledge and cultural practices have been exterminated during the colonial conquest and consistently berated as inferior.
Thus, it is not by accident that until two decades into the 21st century in “post-apartheid” South Africa, the genre Moerane represents; which is practiced by a very large number of participants, both as performers and audience, still lurks in the margins of the academy. Purportedly, it does not even feature in the curricular of some music departments of the same country in which it occurs in abundance. Olwage (2002) provides illuminating insights as to why South African music research has barely attended to amakwaya as a genre worth investing intellectual energy on. The competing, if not also conflicting intellectual histories and agendas of Musicology(ists) and Ethnomusicology(ists) set the scope of what to study and how, thus completely ignoring the realities of what was, and continues to happen, on the ground. Ultimately, this further marginalizes Black choral music as a focus of sustained rigorous scholarly intervention.
Accordingly Lucia’s work presents itself as one of numerous approaches that can be utilized to subvert the status quo. Through this edition, different users are provided with a thoroughly researched corpus of work in order to counteract the claims that this performance and aesthetic tradition exists in disarray. The editions already compiled by Lucia, and hopefully more to come by other teams of scholars, should be repositories of knowledge about this creative cultural expressive medium. Importantly, this is where Lucia’s scholarship on both Mohapeloa and Moerane, beyond just the editions, derives its decolonial merit, I would argue. She constantly provides evidence through rigorous analyses and cogent arguments that amakwaya need to be viewed as part of a longer tradition of choral music globally. In that way, the genre deserves to be in the music academy as part of historical and performance studies. Yet, she also recognizes quite acutely its specific positionality as independent and uniquely South African. She encourages this work be viewed and understood on its own terms within a context of composers writing and performing from the margins of a colonial empire, the apartheid state and post-colonial identity assertion. The kind of research and critical commentary emerging from her research is valuable for its “talking back” to set scholarly traditions of music scholarship in South Africa and elsewhere in the world. Quite powerfully, Lucia (2007, 2008) challenges doubts cast on, if not directly berating, amakwaya and its composers by some leading scholars of South African music.
Through this edition, Lucia’s major contribution and achievement lies in creating a multimodal presentation of Moerane’s oeuvre. Both the visibility and auditory existence of this work in digital format allows for readers to piece together the evidence of the lived experiences of a composer whose history has in many ways been erased. That this work also deals with issues of copyright of Moerane’s music, that his family can receive royalties for work he composed and probably never received a penny for, is a profound act of human rights and justice. Hence this edition, with its complex intersecting registers and generousoverall purpose is rendered as an act of epistemic justice. I wish to state this unequivocally.
The making of the edition also reflects an integrity in the way in which indigenous scholars are empowered, have a stake in the music they perform and the languages they speak. That Lucia assembled the kind of team she did in excavating materials, and reassembling them in meaningful ways towards the completion of this edition is quite telling in how she recognized their voices, skills, prior knowledge and performance histories. In my view, this created a plurivocality that marks this work with integrity and a sense of empowerment and sharing of knowledge for all those involved.
To conclude, this work sets the standard and creates a benchmark against which all future presentations of histories, scores and analytical materials of South African amakwaya can be measured. As decolonial theory and practice champion justice, a return of what was obliterated through erasure and distortion; I once again indulge in the insights forwarded by de Souza Santos, in his instruction that “there can be no global social justice without global cognitive justice” (cited in Smith (2012: 216). Preserving and presenting amakwaya histories and repertoires in this manner trumps and purges colonial and apartheid ghosts lurking in the corridors of music departments here and elsewhere. That it has taken so long to even start in this manner is quite illustrative of the resistance to transformation of South African music pedagogies, research priorities and more. While Lucia’s gesture and output might have its shortcomings, I commend her (and others who have been and continue to research amakwaya) for their foresight and resilience.
Grosfougel, R. 2013. The Structure of Knowledge in Westernized Universities: Epistemic Racism/Sexism and the Four Genocides/Epistemicides of the Long 16th Century. Human Architecure, Journal of the Sociology of Self Learning. Vol. 11, Article 8, 73-90.
Lucia, C. 2007. ‘Travesty or Prophecy? Views of South African Black Choral Composing’ in Akrofi, E, Smit, M and StiMagnus, T. (eds). Music and Identity: Transformation & Negotiation. Stellenbosch: SUN Press, 161-80.
2008. ‘Back to the Future? Idioms of “Displaced Time” in South African Composition’, in Olwage, G. (ed). Composing Apartheid: Essays of the Music of Apartheid, Johannesburg: Wits University Press, 11-34.
2016-2017. The J. P. Mohapeloa Critical Edition in Six Volumes, revised edition (2016-2017) in SAMUS: South African Journal of Music Research, 36-37: 157-264 with CD Rom In African Composers Edition accessed on 24 June 2020.
_______. 2019. “The Times Do Not Permit”: Moerane, South Africa, Lesotho, and Fatše La Heso. Muziki: Journal of Music Research in Africa. Vol 16:2, 87-112.
2020a Andrew Mellon Michael Mosoeu Moerane Scholarly Edition. Cape Town: African Composers edition. In African Composers Edition accessed on 24 June 2020.
2020b. ‘Michael Mosoeu Moerane in the Museum’ in Fontes Artis Musicae: Journal of the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation, July-September, 186-215.
Olwage, G. 2002. Olwage, G. 2002. Scriptions of the Choral: The Historiography Of Black South African Choralism. SAMUS: South African Journal of Musicology Vol.22, 29-45.
Olwage, G. 2010/2011. John Knox Bokwe: Father of Black South African Choral Composition’. NewMusicSA Bulletin Issues 9/10, 18-19.
Smith, L.T. 2012. Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples. 2nd edition. London and New York: Zed Books.
|1.||Lucia, C. 2016-2017 on “amakwaya/iikwayala” to refer to this genre that uses the local derivation of the English noun, “choir”. See also Lucia, C. 2020. ‘Michael Mosoeu Moerane in the Museum’ in Fontes Artis Musicae: Journal of the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation, July-September: 186-215. In footnote 1, she provides a context for the use of the often contentious denotation Black against the background of South African choralism as well as the national political framework.|
|2.||The J. P. Mohapeloa Critical Edition in Six Volumes, revised edition (2016-2017) in SAMUS: South African Journal of Music Research, 36-37: 157-264 with CD Rom and the Andrew Mellon Michael Mosoeu Moerane Scholarly Edition (2020), also called the Moerane Edition for short.|