Kevin Volans Southern Africa Music Collection


The Kevin Volans Southern Africa Music Collection is a collection of field recordings made by composer Kevin Volans in the late 1970s in Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Housed at the British Library in London, in the U.K., the recordings include rare recordings of the late Princess Constance Magogo on the ugubhu musical bow, as well as a large number of guitar and concertina pieces. With a collection 512 items, the music archive also includes natural sounds such as the sounds of storms and a range of insects.

Prompted by his research trips in the early 1980s, Volans wrote a series of pieces based on African compositional techniques which made a significant contribution to post-modern compositional repertoire. Most well-known is his work with the Kronos Quartet.

The South African born composer Kevin Volans recorded a wide range of music in Lesotho and South Africa during the 1970s. His fieldwork focused on the Zulu, Swazi and Xhosa people.

The recording includes a lesiba, this is a stringed-wind instrument which has a quill attached to a long string. The quill is blown across, causing the string to vibrate and resulting in a sound rather similar to a didgeridu. Other names for this type of instrument are gora, ugwali and ugwala.

Other highlights from the collection include songs sung by Princess Constance Magogo, accompanying herself on the ugubhu or musical bow. There are several other types of musical bows which feature in Volans' collection, including the segankuru which you can read about in an earlier blog. There is also a broad range of music recordings; he recorded soundscapes of birdsong, cicadas, thunderstorms and other atmospheric recordings.

GBLondon, United Kingdom
In operation since: 


British Library
Profile added by Ano Shumba on 30 Sep 2015
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