African Diaspora Music Project Seeks to Diversify Arts Programming

By Logan Martell

In order to facilitate research, performance, and appreciation of African Diaspora music, Dr. Louise Toppin has launched the African Diaspora Music Project, an online database which currently offers 4,000 songs.

The project comes as a result of Dr. Toppin’s work as an archivist and began while she was at the University of Michigan as a research assistant. Traveling to the National Association of Negro Musicians, Toppins was able to meet a variety of composers who shared their works with her, amassing a body of African works.

The growing database is designed to help companies and artistic administrators with diversifying their repertoire of works, providing access to scores, recordings, and research materials. The database includes works in various languages, such as Pende from the Republic of Congo, French Creole, Portuguese from Brazil, and more.

“As artists increasingly look to diversify their programming, they are faced with unexpected challenges,” Dr. Toppin said in an official press release. “While living composers often update their websites, many pieces by previous generations of African Diaspora composers are not published, and it takes hours of research to find publisher information for others. This is compounded by a lack of performance history for many pieces, which have been historically underperformed, have been neglected for decades, or were never premiered.”

“ADMP has introduced me to a host of composers and works unknown to me beforehand and I have already begun a journey with this wonderful music that will not only help in providing material for future recording projects, but will also inspire interesting and creative programming ideas,” added famed tenor Lawrence Brownlee. “I’ve only just scratched the surface of this extremely impressive website, but I look forward to the new discoveries I’ll find in this ever-expanding database.”