David Fanshawe: Composer and explorer best known for 'African Sanctus'

On accepting an honorary degree as a Doctor of Music at the University of Bristol last November, the composer and explorer David Fanshawe described his "life's missions": "to celebrate the universal language of music; to record for posterity endangered World Music, threatened with extinction; to seek inspiration for my own compositions – thus uniting musical worlds apart."

His best-known and most influential work was African Sanctus (Philips, 1975), which fused a choral mass with field recordings of traditional music he had made on extensive travels in Africa between 1969 and 1975, and won him an Ivor Novello Award. That year, the project was also the subject of his only published book, and a BBC TV documentary.

When co-editing the first edition of The Rough Guide to World Music (1994), the writer and film-maker Simon Broughton wrote a chapter based largely on an interview with Fanshawe about his later work in the Pacific. He described Fanshawe's legacy: "His importance was in pioneering enthusiasm for other musical cultures and using them in a new way of composing – seeing the BBC film about African Sanctus was without doubt one of the things that made me realise how much amazing music there is in the world."

David Fanshawe was born in Paignton during an air raid. He was educated at St George's School, Windsor and Stowe, where he struggled with mild dyslexia but showed promise in film, music and drama. On leaving school in 1959 he landed a job at a small film company in Wimbledon, Merton Park Productions, but soon set off on the first of his travels, to Europe in 1962.

In 1965 he won a Foundation Scholarship to study under John Lambert at the Royal College of Music, and in 1966, produced his first significant work the 17-minute orchestral piece Requiem for the Children of Aberfan. The same year he also began exploring the Middle East, which led him to compose Salaams (1970) a work based on rhythms he had learnt from pearl divers in Bahrain.

Between 1969 and 1975 he travelled widely in North and East Africa, partly funded by the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust and a Churchill Fellowship. This resulted in around 600 field recordings of the indigenous musicians he met and gained the trust of, some of whose work went into the creation of African Sanctus.

While based in London between trips during the 1970s, he also pursued a successful parallel career composing scores for over 30 films and television programmes, including Tarka the Otter, When the Boat Comes In, Three Men in a Boat, England their England and Softly, Softly. However, the travel bug bit again in 1978, when he began to explore the Pacific region. By 1981, with his then wife Judith and their two young children, Fanshawe relocated to Fiji, which he used as a base for his travels. Back in London and divorced by the middle of the decade, he remarried and resettled in Australia, from which he continued his journeys through Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. He eventually made around 2,000 recordings.

The family returned to the UK in 1992, settling in Wiltshire, where Fanshawe established his archives and continued to compose. From the mid-1990s on, a number of his field recordings were released on the ARC, Saydisc and Nonesuch labels.

Aside from African Sanctus, Fanshawe's work has been the subject of three other documentaries: Arabian Fantasy (1976), Musical Mariner (1987) and Tropical Beat (1995). Significant later compositions include Fanfare to Planet Earth, Millennium March and Pacific Song – a movement for choir, flute and drums, inspired by Tongan music – the only completed part of his planned Pacific Odyssey.

Jon Lusk

David Arthur Fanshawe, composer and explorer: born Paignton, Devon 19 April 1942; married firstly Judith Croasdell Grant (one son, one daughter), secondly Jane Bishop (one daughter); died Swindon 5 July 2010.

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
Customers browse through Vinyl Junkies record shop in Berwick Street, Soho, London
musicBest exclusives coming to an independent record shop near you this Record Store Day
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit