Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mickey Thomas Terry Reviews Godwin Sadoh's Books on Organ Music of Fela Sowande & Ayo Bankole

[Fela Sowande]

Mickey Thomas Terry, Ph.D., is Editor, The African-American Organ Music Anthology:

This is a review of two books on two modern Nigerian composers written by Godwin Sadoh. The books are, The Organ Works of Fela Sowande and Cultural Perspectives and Intercultural Dimensions in Ayo Bankole's Music.

“The Organ Works of Fela Sowande: Cultural Perspectives [New York: iUniverse Publishing, 2007]
The advent of new scholarly publications is always a joy to discover; however, this first of Godwin Sadoh's two books featuring Nigerian/African organ composers is exceptionally fine. The organist and composer Fela Sowande (1905-1987) is the subject of this study.

“Sowande's life was marked by the type of distinction that manifests itself only when accompanied by extraordinary achievement. He was the first African to be appointed as a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists and was the first African to receive the British FRCO diploma (the highest award for organ-playing). In addition to this honor, Sowande was the recipient of the Harding Prize for organ-playing, the Limpus Prize for Theory, and the Read Prize for the highest aggregate marks in the fellowship examinations. Sowande received many honors during his lifetime. One of the most notable was conferred in 1956, when Queen Elizabeth II made Sowande a Member of the British Empire for distinguished service in the cause of music.

“Sadoh's book focuses primarily on Sowande''s work as an organ composer and the pervasive elements of culture (African, African-American, and European) contained in his works. The author begins by providing an historical background for the milieu in which Nigerian musicians, such as Sowande, developed. In order to do this, he discusses the political, social, and economic factors that were responsible for introducing western classical music to Nigeria. The significant role of the mission schools and colonial institutions in the musical development of Nigerian musicians is clearly highlighted, for these two sources played a major role in the formal education of Nigerians. It was the culmination of these forces that produced Sowande and other Nigerian musicians of the era. In Sowande, a world view was forged that would accompany him during his lifelong musical pursuits.”

“In speaking of Bankole, one can hardly refrain from citing similarities between the composer and his teacher, Fela Sowande; however, unlike Sowande, Ayo Bankole lived a rather short existence. His life came to a sudden and tragic end in 1976. Although he did not produce many works, Bankole was a man of considerable talent and promise. Had he survived, there is no telling what creations he may have given the world.

“Bankole's musical training was of African, English, and American origin. He was primarily an organist and pianist; consequently, it should come as no surprise that much of his compositional output centered on these instruments. His extraordinary skill as an organist is exemplified by his youthful selection as Assistant Organist of the Cathedral Church of Christ in Lagos, Nigeria. This tenure was soon followed by his appointment as Organ Scholar of Clare College at the University of Cambridge in London (1961-1964).” [Fela Sowande is profiled at]

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