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Africa: Ceremony, Song and Ritual

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Robert W. Smith

Robert W. Smith

General Info

Year: 1994 / 2017
Duration: c. 9:00
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Alfred Publications
Cost: Score and Parts - $90.00   |  Score Only - $10.00


Full Score
Oboe (optional English Horn)
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Percussion I-VIII, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Castanets
  • Claves (2 sets)
  • Congas
  • Cowbells
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Finger Cymbals
  • Flexatone
  • Glockenspiel
  • Gong (Tam-tam)
  • Gourd (beaded)
  • Log Drum
  • Marimba
  • Shaker
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tom-Toms (large)
  • Tubular Bells
  • Wind Chimes


  • There are several pitch notation errors in the Piccolo part.

Program Notes

Africa: Ceremony, Song, and Ritual is based on the primitive folk music of Western Africa. Inspired by the recording and research of Mr. Stephen Jay, the work features traditional ceremonial music for dance and entertainment as well as dynamic percussive invocations and historical songs.

African musicians feel that they bring life to their instruments just as God gives life to the musician. As a result, individual instruments are believed to possess consciousness and are treated with the same respect and reverence given to an honored living person. The drum, the featured section of this work, is considered a sacred object as well as a musical instrument. It is believed to be endowed with a mysterious power which has been incomprehensible to the many missionaries and early travelers on the African continent. As one listens, the mind experiences a wide range of emotions including joy, fear, hope, and grief.

Oya "Primitive Fire" recreates man's conquest of fire. In the beginning of time, man discovered that he could create the elusive power by striking two flints together. He gathered his sticks and dry leaves and kindled them. The flames begin to rise very slowly, yet steadily building higher and higher into a large writhing body of energy spreading across the horizon. Suddenly, it begins to fade ... slowly ... losing life ... then the last spark ascends to the heavens and leaves the earth in darkness.

The Ancient Folk Song originates from Ghana, situated in the tropical belt of West Africa. It is a land of lush tropical beaches and rocky lagoons. The peaceful tranquility of this beautiful country was first disturbed by European settlers in the 1500s as Ghana became the center for exporting slaves and gold. As a result, the area became known as the Gold Coast. A secondary melody based on the folk song Marilli weaves throughout the final statement of the original theme.

With thunder and lightening as his weapon, Shango, the God of Thunder, revisits the earth. To herald his return, his devotees chant this invocationary praise. The big and small drums made of hollow trees and the skins of rams resound throughout the night as circles of worshipers dance to a frenzied state. The joyous opening statement returns amid the primal percussion, drawing the work to an exhausting conclusion.

Africa: Ceremony, Song and Ritual was commissioned by and is dedicated to the New Trier High School Band, Winnetka, Illinois, John A. Thomson, Conductor.

- Program Note by composer


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)

State Ratings

  • Minnesota: Category I


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • San Diego (Calif.) State University Symphonic Band (Thomas Finch, conductor)
  • Bethel College (Mishawaka, Ind.) Wind Ensemble (Vicky Warkentien, conductor) – 15 November 2018
  • Colorado Wind Ensemble (Denver) (David Kish, conductor) - 19 May 2018
  • Duquesne University (Pittsburgh, Penn.) Symphony Band (Robert Cameron, conductor) – 31 October 2017
  • Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge) Symphonic Band (Kelvin Jones, conductor) – 22 November 2016
  • Category 5 Wind Ensemble, Inc. (Charlie Fix, conductor) - 8 March 2014
  • University of Minnesota, Duluth, Concert Band (Daniel Eaton, conductor) - 10 November 2013
  • Ohlone Wind Orchesta (Tony Clements, conductor) - 11 March 2012
  • Liverpool High School Concert Band (James R. Dumas, conductor) - 16 May 2012

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

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