Afwa Yuovu

With the title “welcome white-man,” this piece is reminiscent of a trip to Ghana. The piece is based in 7/8 time to give a feeling of unfamiliarity while the tonality and composition techniques emulate a traditional Gyli player (Degara region xylophone).

Robert Zolnowski is a composer, educator, and performer residing near Buffalo, New York. He composes primarily for chamber percussion and arranges for marching bands and winter drumlines.

Literally translated “welcome white-man,” this work for solo marimba was written as a reflection on gyil performances experienced on the composer’s trip to Ghana. “Afwa Yuovu” requires a 4.5-octabe instrument, is set primarily in 7/8 time, but also features several unusual sixteenth-note based time signatures. However, the biggest challenge will be the rhythmic interplay and independence required between hands.
Other than the brief bridge section in the middle and the final two measures, the left hand alternates exclusivesly between two, one-measure syncopated bass-line figures. Layered over these repeated ostinatos are a variety of equally syncopated melodic lines, often in athe octaves. Despite what will be an initial challenge for the performer, the two independent lines work extremely well together to create a sophisticated but relaxed groove that projects excellently on marimba.
The bridge section temporarily increases the overall energy of the more relaxed groove of this piece before settling back into a brief reprise of the opening melody. The work then diverts to a longer passage in which both hands are in virtually the same range, creating more interplay of the left-hand bass line and right-hand melody, weaving them together to essentially create a single melodic line. This section also features a few instances where the performer is instructed to move the mallet gradually from the edge to the center of the bar, creating a very effective use of the contrasting resonances of a marimba bar. A final reprise of the opening melodic material closes the work.
This nearly six-minute solo is quite repetitive, but contains more than enough contrast in texture, register and melodic material to keep an audience mesmerized throughout. This would be an excellent work for intermediate to advanced undergraduate students and is ideally appropriate for recital performance. This piece also provides a glimpse into the constructs of a musical culture that is historically significant as it relates to our contemporary concert marimba.
Josh Gottry, Percussive Notes — November 2011



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