Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nigerian Composer Fela Sowande, Born May 29, 1905; 'The Music of Fela Sowande' by Prof. Bode Omojola

[The Music of Fela Sowande: Encounters, African Identity and Creative Ethnomusicology;
Bode Omojola; MRI Press (2009)]

The Nigerian composer, organist and Professor Olufela Sowande was born in Oyo, Nigeria on May 29, 1905 and is profiled at Bode Omojola, Ph.D., chronicled his life and career in the 1995 book, Nigerian Art Music, in which he observed: “Fela Sowande is undoubtedly the father of modern Nigerian Art Music and perhaps the most distinguished and internationally known African composer. The most significant pioneer-composer of works in the European classical idiom, his works mark the beginning of an era of modern Nigerian Art Music.” Bode Omojola has since devoted an entire book to the life and music of Fela Sowande: The Music of Fela Sowande: Encounters, African Identity and Creative Ethnomusicology. It was published in 2009 by MRI Press.

Dr. Dominique-René de Lerma has posted an excerpt on Fela Sowande from a manuscript on Black composers:

The African Suite (24:52) was recorded on CD in 1994 on CBC Records SMCD 5135. The CBC Vancouver Orchestra is led by Mario Bernardi, Conductor. The liner notes outline the history and composition of the work: “The African Suite, written in 1944, combines well-known West African musics with European forces and methods. For the opening movement, Joyful Day, Sowande uses a melody written by Ghanaian composer Ephrain Amu, as he does in the fourth movement, Onipe. In Nostalgia, Sowande composes a traditional slow movement to express his nostalgia for the homeland (in itself a rather European idea). At the centre of the work is a restive Lullaby, based on a folk original. The finale of the Suite, Akinla, traces a very singular musical history. It began as a popular Highlife tune - Highlife being a pungent, 20th-century style, combining colonial Western military and popular music with West African elements and a history of its own.”

Prof. De Lerma writes: “After 1960 Sowande worked mainly as a professor - he was Visiting Scholar at Northwestern University in the US, worked at Princeton University, and in 1968 he accepted a position at Howard University in Washington DC - a post he held until 1972 when he became professor of Black Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. His last position was in the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University, which he held until his retirement in 1982. Olufela Obafunmilayo Sowande died in Ohio on March 13, 1987; he was 82 years old.

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