Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje: AMNA Conference, UCLA Oct. 22-25, 'Once in a lifetime opportunity'

(Prof. Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje, Chair, Dept. of Ethnomusicology, Herb Alpert UCLA School of Music)

It's very nice of you to take time for our interview only two weeks and two days prior to the Conference.
Hopefully, I have something to say that is useful!
I'm sure you do! This is not something that we have covered in the past except on the website page devoted to the Nigerian composer Akin Euba who I understand was originally the founder of this series?
A series of different approaches appear to have been taken as to which part of the world would meet with Africa or with another part?
Right. Akin Euba is using his idea of Interculturalism or Intercultural Musicology to develop something creative programmatically. He believes it is important for different people, especially creative people -- composers and performers -- to use resources from each other`s cultures and combine or fuse them to make something different or similar. He's done this in Beijing, he's doing it here in the United States, and he's done it in India.
Just to back up slightly, you are a Professor of Ethnomusicology and the Chair of the Department of Ethnomusicology, is that correct?
Approximately how long have you been the Chair at the Department of Ethnomusicology of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music?
I became Chair July 1, 2005. So I'm in my fifth year. But the Herb Albert School of Music has only been in existence since November of 2008. There's been a Department of Ethnomusicology for many years. We've been in existence now for 20 years, since 1989.
I believe from your faculty website that you have a B.A. in Music at Fisk University, is that correct?
And then an M.A. and a Ph.D., both in Ethnomusicology at U.C.L.A.?
How long have you been involved in Ethnomusicology?
Since I was a student in 1970 when I came to the U.C.L.A. for my Master's.
Would you like to briefly comment on what attracts you to it?
I think it was in my junior year, Fisk hired an Ethnomusicologist by the name of Darius Thieme. He taught courses on “Music of African Diaspora” and “African American Music.” When I took those courses I was enthralled with what I was learning. So that's when I became interested in Ethnomusicology, because this was my way of learning about my cultural heritage; helping to give it legitimacy and respect.
What is your role in relation to this AMNA Conference?
Well, basically I'm the Local Arrangements Chair.
There must be quite a bit involved in that?
(Laughs) A lot is involved! There is a very supportive committee, my staff, which is doing much of the work. We've been involved in arranging the activities for several years. So you might say Akin Euba and Cynthia Kimberlin, they're the Program Chairs. They're the architects. They put it on paper. But you need the contractor and builders to make the blueprint a reality. We are excited about having all types of African and African-derived musics in performance. In addition, people throughout the United States, Southern California and other parts of the world will be coming to UCLA.
I believe I read that the concerts in the evenings are free, is that correct?
They're all free! But you will have to pay $10 for parking.
I believe one of the persons who is going to perform in your Art Music category is Girma Yifrashewa, from Ethiopia?
He has agreed to an interview with us while he's in the States. We've been covering him for many years.
Very good!
And then Maxine Franklin, originally from Jamaica, now in London I understand?
Yes. Unfortunately I know little about the performers. In fact, I'm excited that I will have an opportunity to learn more about them. Of course, I've known Olly Wilson for a very long time. I know people like J.H. Kwabena Nketia. I don't know if you know Janise White, conductor of the Afro-American Chamber Orchestra?
I don't know her personally but I have promoted her events.
I know who she is and what she does.
I'm pleased that she's participating because for the entire time I have been at UCLA, since '79 as a professor, I've always wanted to bring her to campus. She's asked me several times if she could perform. I've referred her to faculty in the Department of Music because they're the ones who focus primarily on classical music. But now that we are sponsoring an event that includes African American blues, and jazz -- all of it, everything, not separating, but everything -- we can invite her. I've always appreciated and enjoyed her performances. So the fact that she's going to perform here; performing music by a variety of composers is very nice. Hopefully, we'll have a good audience on that Sunday evening for her performance!
I understand that Dawn Padmore, the soprano from Liberia, will be accompanied by the British-born pianist Richard Thompson?
Right, he's originally from Scotland.
That's what I understand, yes.
Yes. That's exciting too. I know him personally and I'm very impressed with his musical ability. He can perform all types of music: jazz and classical music. He does it all very well!
He had a play recently, in New York.
Right, he had an opera that was premiered. He is a composer of larger works, so he should be interesting in this context (as an accompanist performing blues). For a lot of the musicians, it will be their first time performing at UCLA!
What else would you like to make sure that our readers understand about your objective?
Well, I think it's important that the African experience can be manifested in so many genres and types of music; there is diversity that we all should appreciate. African and African-derived music is not just popular music, blues or jazz; there are all types of music. Hopefully, the Symposium and Festival will allow everyone to experience it all. I believe everyone has made significant contributions, and we need to share and respect each other. People may find commonalities in different genres and cultures. So the Symposium and Festival will provide an opportunity to learn and experience this.
That must be why you chose not to have one blues segment and one classical segment on different days, for example, but you have a mixture on each day?
Right. Well, this was something that both Akin Euba and Cynthia Kimberlin, as Program Chairs, planned. And I think it's an excellent idea!
Have you found in previous conferences that some people were able to expand their musical horizons and interests?
Oh definitely! I'm teaching a course on “African American Musical Heritage.” There are about 60 students in the class and they are required to attend at least three or four sessions. Oftentimes, when students attend these events, it is a new adventure for them. Some have never been to a concert! They have never been inside a concert hall! In their concert reports, many students write: “Well, I've never been to a concert before this assignment. I listen to music on my iPod or on the radio, but I've never been to a concert!” So the fact they actually go to a concert, they're in an audience and they experience it, it is very, very transformative for them!
Can you think of anything else that you'd like to bring to our attention?
I suppose we're trying to emphasize our Festival Concerts because we want have a full house. But there's also the academic part, the symposium. If people have free time during the day, they should come to the lectures and panels. We have some very important people who will be presenting. People like Olly Wilson. Do you know Olly Wilson?
Not personally, but I certainly know of him. I've written about him.
The fact that we have him making a presentation on his compositions, discussing how and why he creates music is a fantastic experience! To have someone like Meki Nzewi present is also significant. Do you know him? He's a Nigerian.
I only saw his name on the program. I didn't know his name before.
Right. He's based in South Africa now, but he is a scholar, composer, and performer. He performs the drum and is interested in Education, using African music to help students learn musical concepts. Having him here is fantastic and special because my students find his publications very interesting. Then there is J.H. Kwabena Nketia, who is world renown for his scholarship on African music; he's a composer as well.
So, to have Nketia from Ghana along with Mosunmola Omibiyi-Obidike from Nigeria is great. Other important people in the scholarly world will present. I think it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Hopefully, people will come and take advantage of everything.
Is there anything else you'd like to say before we finish?
No, that's all.
Well, I want to thank you again, Professor, for taking so much time this close to your event, and I really wish you success in every aspect!
I thank you for your support and encouragement; we really appreciate this!
AMNA Flyer:
Symposium Program:

1 comment:

pianomuzic said...

Some comments on the Afro-American Chamber Music Society Orchestra's concert performance, Sunday, October 25, 2009 at UCLA Schoenberg Auditorium for the 3rd International AMNA Festival include the following after a performance of Fela Sowande's, African Suite; Jeraldine Saunders Herbison's "Sunrise from Symphony II", Olly Wilson's "Wry Fragments", Ed Bland's " Grand Slam", William Grant Still's Quit Dat Fool'nish with Janise White, pianist & conductor; Motherless Child arranged by Janise White with Janise White, pianist & conductor;

"The program was very diverse and demonstrated Janise White's and her orchestra's musical expertise in several genres."Dr. Eddie Meadows, Professor Emeritus of Music, School of Music and Dance, San Diego State University.

"Thank you for performing my work. You did a great job." Dr. Akin Euba, Professor of Music, University of Pittsburgh

"I thought the performance by the Afro-American Chamber Music Society Orchestra was outstanding for the variety of compositions performed as well as the overall quality of the performance. Furthermore, the concert was a perfect ending to a wonderful and memorable celebration of the African/African American experience in music." Dr. Jacqueline Cogdell-Djedje, Chair & Professor, UCLA Ethnomusicology Department

"It was stupendous! Janise White was exceptional because she could conduct and play at the same time. The orchestra musicians were excellent."
UCLA students

Comments sent by Dr. Jacqueline Cogdell-Djedje