Akin Euba and Léopold Senghor: Intercultural Music, Négritude and Chaka Zulu
As one of the foremost scholars and composers of African art music, Akin Euba and his writings, research, and compositions are invaluable resources to researchers and performers today. Euba’s opera Chaka: An Opera in Two Chants (1970) is a study in interculturalism, with African materials co-mingling with Western compositional techniques. Euba (1989, 116) defined intercultural music as that which integrates elements from two or more cultures. The basis of most Chaka’s libretto is an English translation of Léopold Senghor’s poem “Chaka,” with added portions of Yoruba oríkì praise poetry. Senghor’s négritude and his views on assimilation could be viewed as an intercultural movement, much in line with Euba’s intercultural music, making Senghor’s poem an ideal libretto for Euba’s opera. The opera presents Chaka as a Pan-African figure; White Voice, representative of colonial and missionary activity in Africa, serves as both a cultural and musical foil to Chaka. Using the field of topic theory analysis, deriving from the work of Danuta Mirka (2014) and Wye Allenbrook (2014) on the contextualisation of styles, I analyse the ways in which Euba combines Western and African musical genres. By combining different idioms with clear Western and West African contextual associations, Euba creates layers of meaning which at times throw those idioms into stark relief and at other times provide nuance
or even blur the lines between musics.