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Legends of Nigerian Music (Classical, Juju) By Uduma Kalu Part 1

 
Golden names of Nigerian Classical Music
 
Adeolu Akisanya: (Feso Jaiye)
Moses Adeolu Akisanya a.k.a 'Baba Eto', Director of Socials, was born on the 18th February 1928 into the family of Akisanya in Totoro-Owu in Abeokuta. He had his primary education at St. Paul , U.N.A School Lapeleke Abeokuta. After completing his primary school he proceeded to Lagos where he continued his educational career at St. Judes School Ebute-Metta. Adeolu Akisanya worked at Idumota as a clerk with motor spare parts dealers. He later worked as a typist with a foreign company called Gottshalk and Co Limited and later resumed as a signal clerk at Mobil Petroleum and then West African Ai rways Corporation. Without training in carpentry he built a box guitar with some strings on it and this was how Moses Adeolu Akisanya invented Agidigbo.
 
Adeolu formed a band called 'Rancho Boys Orchestra" which was disbanded in 1952. He organized another band in 1953 and named it "Rio Lindo Orchestra" which was strictly an Agidigbo band. He later formed the Western Toppers band stationed in Western Hotel, Idi Oro, Mushin, Lagos.Adeolu to his contemporaries and fans on the music scene was seen as the chief moral crusader of his time. A talented composer and satirist, Akisanya in some of his popular numbers lambasted the fairer sex for her materialistic tendencies and unabated love for worthless fad. Some of his sarcastic compositions, which later became hit numbers, include Bonfo, Acada (on arrogant educated men) , Awon Aboju Bora.
 
An unrepentant social critic and commentator till the end Akisanya once summed up his philosophy of life thus “when I criticize women in my compositions I don't aim at them but rather I condemn some unruly behaviour displayed by some of them, like the idea of wig is dirty, unnatural and anti¬social. I am a moralist and I will criticize anything even if not women.”
The Master composer and philosopher died on the 2 November 1987.
 
 
 
Fela Sowande
First acknowledged composer and conductor of a symphony in the country. He was born in Oyo in 1905 to an Anglican priest. He travelled to the United Kingdom in 1934 to read Engineering but ended up reading music. He had a fellowship diploma of the Trinity Music College of Music, London and a bachelor of music, London University. He was appointed organist and choirmaster in West Mission of the Methodist Church at Kingsway Hall. Back in Nigeria, he joined the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation(NBC) as head of music section. He taught at the University of Ibadan. . Died March 1987 at 82. Professor Emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh, and Kent State University, Ohio. His Works include_ Laudamus Te for Organ, Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, for organ, Obangiji, Ka Mura, Oyigiyigi all for organ. He also wrote the African Suite for string orchestra and folk symphony, also for orchestra.
 
 
T.K. Ekundayo
He was first Nigerian to study music to a professional level. Ekundayo was trained by his uncle, Rev Johnson before being appointed organist of the St Paul, Breadfruit, Lagos at 18. In 1911, he went to study at the Trinity College Music, London. He returned to become the organist and choirmaster at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos, till he retired in 1962. He laid the music foundation at the cathedral which eventually trained other Nigerian art musicians.He was the Oratorious of the Herald Mendelsslus’s at both Cathedral Church and Glover Hall, Lagos.
His works include: Emi O gbe Oju mi Soke Wonni, a setting of Ps 121 in Yoruba to music, Samuel Cantata for soloists, chorus and organ, A Choral suite for the Republic of Nigeria, for Soprano, Contralto, tenor and bass soloist, choir and piano.
 
 
Israel Oludotun Ransom- Kuti
A Reverend, an organist and Anglican priest that trained a lot of generation of musicians. He was born in 1891 and studied art music but was privileged to study at Fouray Bay, Sierra Leone where he said music was part of the curriculum. Later he was teacher and principal of Abeokuta Grammar School, Abeokuta. The reverend experimented with adaptation of traditional musicial idioms for use in the church while he also had his own personal compositions
Some of his works are Sons of Olumo (Omo Olumo), Gloria and Iwe Kiki which was the most evergreen.
He displayed lot of leadership traits that hyped up the musical sector in his days. He replayed the colonial tune of God Save the Queen Anthem, with Lori Oke Petele at Abeokuta Grammar School, a patriotic trait that undermined the influence of colonial masters on the country’s church music. It is to his credit that music has remained a tradition at the Abeokuta Grammar School. He was also a first piano teacher to his son, Fela.
 
 
Ayo Bankole.
He was Nigeria’s foremost art music composer and organist of repute. Born May 1935 and died in very tragic circumstances in November 1976, he had his early music education from his parents. He went to London in 1957 on federal government scholarship to study music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He rose in London to become organist and choirmaster of the St James-the less in South London. He was the first Nigerian to study music at the Cambridge University where he received the organ scholarship of Clare College.
Prolific composer, excellent in classic, he gave a niche for serious art music. Known for using native idioms in his works Among his great works are: the Three songs for baritone and piano comprising Iya, Ja Itanma to ntan and Kiniun, three part songs for female choir, comprising Orisa bi Kosi, Yungba Yungba and Enikeni to ba gbe ara rega, Toccata and Fugue for organ and the cantata songs for mixed media comprising a narrator, singer and an unusual combination of musical instruments including the Indian Tambura.
 
 
Christopher Oyesiku
One of the first generation of schooled musicians in Nigeria, he started his career as a choirboy in the Cathedral Church of Christ. He went on a scholarship to London Music Conservatoire where he specialised in Voice. He became baritone singer of note who competed favourably with his white counterparts, featuring in concerts graced by the Queen of England. In Nigeria, he joined the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria(FRCN) as director of music and raised good and reputable choir for the corporation.
On retirement in early 80s, he went to the academic and pioneered the establishment of a music department. At the Osun State College of Education. He later joined University of Ibadan as artiste in residence and raised a choir for the university community. He is retired from the university now.
 
 
Akin Euba.
Dr Euba is one of Nigeria's trained musicians. Born 1935 to a pianist father who gave him early music education, he studied at the Trinity College of Music, London, University of California, Los Angeles. and the University of Legon, Ghana, with a PhD in Ethnomusicology at the University. He pioneered the establishment of a department at Ife. He has contributed to the development of tradition music just as his research has led him to become a spokesman for traditional music. Some of his works are Six Yoruba Folk Song arranged for voice and piano, Scenes from traditional life for piano, The wanderers for cello and piano, Olurombi for symphony Orchestra, Igi nla so for piano and Four Yoruba Drums.
For years, he was organist and choirmaster at the St James-the less in South London, which he took over from Bankole. He combines the rhythmic and melodic elements of traditional Yoruba music. Presently, he is lecturing at the University of Pittsburgh, United States.
 
 
Sam Ojukwu
Prolific composer of Choral music in Nigeria today., he was pioneer student of music UNN. He authored the University Anthem in use till today. Now a reader at the Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri where has been there for the past two decades., his works are over 200. 
 
 
Joshua Uzoigwe
He is a second generation of classical musicians in Nigeria. After initial training in Nigeria, he studied Music at the Guildhall of Music, London where he got GGSM diploma. At the Queen's University, Belfast, under John Blacking, he got M.A and PhD in ethnomusicology.
Now assistant professor of Music, Uyo, senior lecturer at the dept of music OAU, his is said to be the most talented among his peers. He is cited in Contemporary Composers edited by Brian Morten and Pamela Collins, Chicago and London James Press, 1992. Works: Four Igbo Songs for Voice, Piano and Maracas, Siren Limits (A poem by Christopher Okigbo) for unaccompanied choir, oja for flute Lustra variations for symphony Orchestra.
 
 
Emeka Nwokedi
Well known Choir trainer in Nigeria. He is Director at MUSON School of Music where he conducts music choir. He studied Music at the UNN. Today he has positioned himself at the mainstream of art music in Nigeria. Instructor at the Nigerian Army of Music, Ojo, Lagos, he is also a broadcaster with the Voice of Nigeria and radio Nigeria a choir master in various churches in Lagos, director and conductor of City Choral, Lagos, and music consultant to Orpheus Company Ltd.
 
 
Ayo Bankole Jnr.
A second generation of art musicians in the country, he got his training from his father, Ayo Bankole Snr. He studied Music at the University Lagos. In he 1986, won the first prize in a piano competition sponsored by the MUSON and French Cultural Centre, Lagos. He was awarded scholarship to study in France and attached to the Conservatoire of Music of the University of Picardy, Amiens. He has been in the vanguard of the propagation of art music in the last decade.
He is also involved in Classical music and popular music. Ayo is at home with jazz and Afro beat. His band Asha, is a pacesetter in music scene. But he is also involved in advertisement. He composed the music of the Eko Bank advertisement on television and the theme song for the aborted Nigeria 95 World Cup.
 
 
Wilberforce Echezona
Born in August 18, 1926, to the family of late Sam Nwakezie Echezona of Uruoga, Nkwelle-Ogidi, Anambra State, he inherited music from his father. Acquired formal training. Obtained associate of the Royal College of Music and Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music. He Possessed GTCT in 1950.
He aslo pioneered the first music department at the UNN, and remained the Head of Department until his death. He bred a set of musicians at Nsukka that today makes it occupy the apex of Nigeria's art music. Some of students include Sam Ojukwu, Felix Nwauba, Lazarus Ekwueme and Meki Nzewi. He had a PhD in musicology with interest in African music and instrument. Echezona invented the popular Ogenephone, the melodic idiophonic instrument common to the eastern Nigeria. It is painful that he died working on bottlephone, another experiment.
Folksongs he arranged are Egwuobi, Obu Ije Ozim, Akwa Eke and Centenary Song.
 
 
Felix Emeka Nwauba.
Epitome of hard work in Nigerian art music scene, Nwauba was born on December 23, 1936, at Isioji Village in Nkpologwu Aguata, LGA, Anambra State. He studied music privately and most of the time on his own to pass grade viii, final grade of the Trinity College of Music, London. It was unsuccessfu for him to further his education. So did it through correspondence. He obtained M.Ed., from the Buffalo University in 1977 and established the Music Deptarment of Alvan Ikoku College of Education. Some of his works are- Gozie Jehovah, Mkpuruobi, Onu Uzu Oma and The Case of Biafra.
 
 
Adam Fiberessime.
Great exponent of art music in Nigeria, he studied at the Trinity College of Music, London. Even as a black student, he was expert as in dance music. This led to his stint as a pianist for Ambrose Campbell. Back in Nigeria, he was head of Music Department at Voice of Nigeria. He loves classical music. But he also promoted traditional music. His works included- Fantasia Origin for Orchestra, Orukoro, an Opera for Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra, Opu Jaja for Soloists, Chorus and orchestra.
 
 
 
Next Blog:  Legends of Nigerian Music (Classical, Juju) By Uduma Kalu Part 2
 
 
 
 

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