Music for Yoruba Proverbs (2019)


In the late 1970’s I was given 500 proverbs that came from the Yorubas of Nigeria by my mentor Chief Fela Sowande. At first I just read them and felt they were wise sayings, lessons that gave insight on how to live life. Later, in speaking them to myself I realized that they had a flow, a rhythmic sense. I began to use the syllables to create melodic lines. After writing for about 10 of them I saw that they each had many dual meanings depending on the person who read them. 

It was time to perform the lines and I contacted Julius Hemphill to arrange them for Asian double reed horns, cello, cornet, alto sax, soprano sax, baritone horn, bass guitar, metal flute, atenteben wooden flute, euphonium, had drums, drum kit, and balafon. 

On September 26, 1986 at Symphony Space, NYC we performed several of the proverbs for the first time.

This album features Bill Cole (Chinese suona, Korean hojok, and atenteben wooden flute), Joseph Daley (euphonium), Julius Hemphill (alto saxophone, flute & soprano saxophone), Olu Dara (cornet), Abdul Wadud (cello); Gerald Veasley (bass guitar); Warren Smith (drum kit & balafon); and Hafiz Shabazz (hand drums).