West African rice production technology—developed by farmers in the Upper Guinea Coast more than five hundred years before the trans-Atlantic slave trade—laid the foundation for South Carolina and Georgia’s commercial rice industry. The agricultural skill, ingenuity, and technology of enslaved Africans made coastal South Carolina rice planters the richest planters with the largest slave holdings in the antebellum U.S. South.
The floods fertilizing the inland and tidal rice fields also created the most deadly living environments for enslaved laborers in the U.S. South. Tens of thousands of enslaved men, women, and especially children perished in the stagnant, cold, mosquito- and disease-infested swamps. Along the Savannah River, approximately two-thirds of children born on rice plantations died before they reached age 15, 40 percent in their first year up until the Civil War. Historians have no way of counting the stillbirths and miscarriages among enslaved women. Our ancestors lost their youth, health, lives, and children as a result of reshaping the coastal landscape, carving rice fields out of cypress swamps, building earthen embankments “nearly three times the volume of Cheops, the world’s largest pyramid,” and engineering a hydraulic irrigation system. Yet, there are no memorials to commemorate their appalling sufferings, involuntary sacrifices, or immeasurable contributions.
A true marriage between West African and European classical traditions, Casop: A Requiem for Rice is composed for full symphony orchestra and choir, an African and African-American inspired take on a classic requiem. Casop draws on funerary traditions among the Diola-Fogny to recount the stories of enslaved laborers building Lowcountry rice fields.
Carnegie Mellon’s Center for the Arts in Society selected Requiem for Rice as its Performance Initiative for 2015-2017. Portions of Casop will be staged in Pittsburgh February 22, 2018 (as part of the Pittsburgh Humanities Festival) and Fall 2018 (date to be announced). The full piece will premiere February 13, 2019 in Pittsburgh at the Carnegie Music Hall Oakland performed by the Colour of Music Festival Orchestra.
Information above taken from Casop: A Requiem for Rice Project Description. Further information available www.requiemforrice.com.
Details on the performances features under Schedule and Follow Us.