The Pan African Orchestra


Occasionally, I do random searches for Non-Western Orchestras and came across this piece, “The Orchestra in the African Context,” by Fred Onovwerosuoke (1999). I was curious about some of the claims, since I know nothing about large ensembles of Africa, and did a search for African Orchestras.  I assumed I’d come across a number of European-styled Orchestras but to my surprise, one of the first results was for the Pan African Orchestra in Ghana.

As is the case with many of the large ensembles (e.g. Traditional Chinese Orchestra), the Pan African Orchestra was an attempt to create a large symphonic group, but with traditional African Instruments and playing African repertoire. Founder, Nana Danso Abiam, wanted

nothing less than to integrate for the first time the different regional musics of the continent into a ‘new’ classical synthesis. This would simultaneously offer an ‘Afrocentric’ system of symphonic music, as a substitute for the colonially established western classical repertoire in Africa, and move the cultural climate a degree or two in the direction of the grail of true pan-Africanism: the welding of the continent into a single African state.

Abiam’s aspirations for the group, initially were large scale–he wanted an orchestra of 108 musicians.  The group eventually settled on 28 and looks as if that’s still the number.

As this was an pleasant surprise, I thought I’d just make this brief–more of a bookmark for me–post. I’ll definitely have more to say about this and whatever other African Orchestras I find.


    • Sadly, it doesn’t look like it. Similar to the situation with Middle Eastern Ensembles as well. Primarily men. Which all contrasts with ethnic ensembles in the US which do have women participating in them regularly. Which contrasts with US local band/pop music scenes, which are trying to catch up with (not really trying to catch up) the near gender equality we already find in Classical Music ensembles. :/


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