The Organ

Godwin Sadoh: Three Books

Godwin Sadoh: Three Books

The Organ Works of Fela Sowande: Cultural Perspectives. Universe. ISBN 978-0-595-47317-5.

Intercultural Dimensions in Ayo Bankole’s Music.132pp. Universe. ISBN 978-0-595-46436-4. $US13.95.

Joshua Uziogwe: Memoirs of a Nigerian Composer-Ethnomusicologist. BookSurge Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4196-7380-1.

Godwin Sadoh will be known already to readers of The Organ. He is a Nigerian ethnomusicologist, composer, church musician, organist, pianist, choral conductor and publishing. He is the first African to receive a doctoral degree in organ performance from any institution in the world. He is presently a Professor of Music at Talladega College, Alabama, US. Together, the three titles reviewed here present a rich picture of music making in Nigeria in the 20th century, with special reference to church and organ. The study of Fela Sowande’s organ music provides a fascinating insight into the life, experience and cultural development of a Nigerian organist and composer and the founder of the ‘Nigerian Organ School’. The work begins with a short but comprehensive overview of the development of art music in Nigeria, with its complex blend of African and Western (church) strands and influences. Sadoh also draws attention to the cultural, social and political background. Chapter two is a well-researched biography of Sowande, with many photographs adding colour to the description of his time in Africa, England and the United States. Perhaps of particular interest is Sowande the jazz musician, not least because of the light the study sheds on life in England in the 1930s and 1940s. Chapter three, four and five focus on the music; chapter six provides an overarching summary. There is a list of principal archives, a discography, reproductions of posters and programmes from Sowande’s Adelaide Hall (London) concerts, a bibliography and a list of the composer’s organ compositions. This is a valuable study of a composer who deserves to be better known, not least because of the fusion of influences on his music and the increased understanding that we are given into African ‘classical’ music of the 20th century.

Much the same can be said of the study of Ayo Bankole, with its review of African musicology in the 20th century and the state of Art Music in Nigeria. There is also an interesting chapter on organ building in Nigeria. The chapter focussing on Bakole’s life clearly shows the church and European – as well as the African – influences on the man and his music. There is similarly a fascinating chapter on ‘African pianism’ which looks at the trends and themes that fashioned the composer’s music. Four chapters consider Bankole’s music: organ solo; piano solo; solo art song; choral works. The work is well researched, with lists of archival sources, a discography and bibliography. Again, this is music that deserves to be better known.

Joshua Uzoigwe was a Nigerian composer and ethnomusicologist who spanned the two worlds of Western and African Igbo/Yoruba music and culture. As the preface to the book states, ‘his music is a vivid representation of a modern intercultural music. A discussion of the stylistic features in Uzoigwe’s music reveals the relationship between traditional and contemporary musical processes in modern African art music through the examination of rhythmic, tonal and harmonic organization, thematic processes, form, instrumentation titles of works and interrelations of music and dance’. Though the composer did not write any organ music, the study complements the other two books and reinforces the influences and themes that emerge in all three works, and notably the church and organ/choral influences on all three men.