As I stood outside the rehearsal room during our normal Sunday morning practice, a single soprano sang out “Tunataka Aaah-free-ca eeh-eeh-nu-KEH” and was quickly joined by a bass, entering boisterously with “Africa!” Before I knew it, the whole choir was singing, undirected, this new song they had learnt only the week before.
Amani Tinkasimile, a first year from Tanzania, had come to me two weeks prior asking if the choir could sing one of his songs. Since the year had begun with a bang–we had already learned six of the seven songs that the previous year’s choir had recorded on our first ever ALApella album–we were feeling pretty good and so the Student Director and I decided to give him a shot. The song was called “Africa Inuke,” Swahili for “Africa Rise.” He went into the first rehearsal nervous, but sang out all four parts confidently. When we started singing the first verse, everyone took pause. From the first chord, the song felt powerful. What had been a fidgety alto section and a distracted tenor section became a broad middle-range chorus, joining the sopranos and basses to form a strong wall of sound. We were on to something special.
The song was unlike any other song the choir had sung in my three years as part of ALApella. For the very first time, we had a song written, composed, taught and conducted by one of our very own.
Honoring a former Board Member of ALA, Osaze Osifo, the day was full of pomp and circumstance. Beautifully dressed Nigerian men and women passed through the halls and gathered in the auditorium to celebrate the life of their friend and colleague. To end the ceremony, Mr. Peter, Events Director, called us up. I could tell the choir was nervous, as they quickly got into the traditional arc, hastily adjusting uniform shirts and skirts. Amani came up to conduct, his hands shaking, and started the song.
Although the choir was nervous and started the song on the wrong note, Amani showed tremendous leadership by calmly stopping the song, singing the correct notes to each section, and restarting the song without pause. This time, when the words “Tunataka, Aah-free-ca, iinuke” sang out, we knew we’d made it. We sang the rest of the song without a hitch, and Amani took his bow at the end. The world premiere of Africa Inuka, first song written, composed, and conducted by an ALA student, was complete.
Please join me in congratulating Amani Tinkasimile and ALApella for an excellent performance.
By Kate Kraft, Faculty Director of ALApella