x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

David Arthur Fanshawe, a composer who found his inspiration on the road

Armed with a tape recorder, he persuaded local musicians to play and recorded their sounds. Hundreds of hours of recordings resulted in his most acclaimed work, African Sanctus (1972).

Eccentric, intrepid, obsessive and gifted, the English composer and ethnomusicologist David Arthur Fanshawe spent decades travelling, during which he taped the near-lost sounds of the Middle East, Africa, and the Pacific and fused them with live music that mixed East and West. His efforts produce some seminal works of unifying harmony. Born in Devon during an air raid, David Arthur Fanshawe was the son of the Raj - four previous generations of Fanshawes had lived in India.

He was educated at Stowe school, where mild dyslexia prevented him from joining the choir. Piano lessons bore fruit, however, and in 1965 he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music. His travelling began about this time, and he experienced an epiphany in St George's Cathedral, in Jerusalem, in 1966. As he listened to the Kyrie Eleison, he heard "Allah Akhbar", the muezzin's call, floating from the neighbouring mosque. Sensing harmony, he saw an opportunity to unify two musical traditions and felt a compulsion to record the sounds. He also visited Bahrain, where he was fascinated by the chants of the pearl fishers, which resulted in Salaams, first performed in London in 1970. In 1969 he commenced an epic cross-like journey, from Egypt down the Nile to Lake Victoria; and from western Sudan to the Red Sea.

Armed with a tape recorder, he persuaded local musicians to play and recorded their sounds. Hundreds of hours of recordings resulted in his most acclaimed work, African Sanctus (1972). In the 1970s, he composed music for film and television. He also produced Fanfare to Planet Earth, and Lament of the Seas, a tribute to victims of the Boxing Day Tsunami. In 1976 he produced an album, Arabian Fantasy, and two years later commenced a decade-long exploration of the Pacific.

He is survived by a son and daughter from his first marriage, to Judith Croasdell Grant, and a daughter from his second marriage, to Jane Bishop, who also survives him. David Fanshawe was born on 19 April 1942, and died on 5 July 2010, aged 68, following a stroke. * The National