Who's vocalizing on Africa?

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#1 Fri, 1996-10-04 11:37
Robert L. Campbell
Last seen: 9 years 11 months ago
Joined: 2010-12-22 21:43

Who's vocalizing on Africa?

James, Daniel,

I hadn't listened to "Africa" (the original version--there is a much revised arrangement that Sunny trotted out in December 1980 for his Detroit concerts) for quite a long time. So I gave it a try this morning. Those Nubians of Plutonia sessions were really something; I need to spin the whole CD again, soon.

The vocal arrangement is more complex and difficult than the ones Sunny would write for his "space chants." But I'm still inclined to think it's members of the Arkestra doing the singing. If it is a separate vocal group, it's not the Rays, and it doesn't sound like Lynn Hollings and the other three males in the Five Joys, either.

Maybe Sunny learned the hard way that writing such arrangements for Arkestra members wasn't going to pan out (he would just drop arrangements when the Arkestra had too much trouble with them at rehearsals), and he simplified his future efforts. "Interplanetary Music," "Rocket Number Nine," and all of those we now know were written after "Africa."

I don't know whether my judgments about the vocalists will satisfy everyone. But I did discover some mistakes in my instrumental listings! You always learn more about the music after the Evidence CD comes out... (like finally realizing there was a bass trombone in "And Otherness," etc.).


  1. Sun Ra (Wurlitzer ep); Nate Pryor (tb); Marshall Allen (fl); James Spaulding (as, poss. voc); poss. Charles Davis (bs); Pat Patrick (space lute, voc); Ronnie Boykins (b, voc); Robert Barry (d, perc, voc); Jim Herndon (timb, perc); John Gilmore (voc). Rehearsal, Chicago, 1958 or 1959

Africa (Ra) Saturn 9956-11E/F

This listing has been somewhat revised from the first edition of the discography. Careful listening to the CD release, with its superior sonics, reveals that the baritone sax and the space lute are being played simultaneously (for instance, at the beginning of the track). The baritone work is rather "outside" for Charles Davis; it could be that Patrick played baritone sax and another Arkestran was entrusted with the space lute (which is prominent in the arrangement). Also, Spaulding's alto sax can be heard in the background near the end of the piece. Meanwhile, Marshall Allen's flute work is too continuous for him to be contributing to the vocal ensemble.

The vocal ensemble is clearly an arranged one for (most likely four) males singing and humming wordlessly. John Gilmore is almost certainly among them (and, contrary to what was said in the first edition, his tenor sax is not audible anywhere in this piece). The other vocal identifications are guesses. Although the arrangement is more complicated than those of "space chants" like "Interplanetary Music," the vocal group is definitely not the Cosmic Rays, and it doesn't sound much like the Five Joys minus Juanita Rogers.

Robert L. Campbell Associate Professor, Psychology Brackett Hall 410A Clemson University Clemson, SC 29634-1511 USA phone (864) 656-4986 fax (864) 656-0358 http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/index.html