We sat down with the London-based pianist to discuss her album Ekele, her current role as the Artistic Director of African Concert Series and the history of classical music across Africa.
Nigeria's rich history of classical music gets a convincing revival in Ekele: Piano Music by African Composers, the debut album by Rebeca Omordia, a London-based pianist of Nigerian and Romanian descent. An alumnus of Trinity College of Music and Royal Birmingham Conservatory, where she has taught for the past ten years, Omordia has collaborated with a range of celebrated international musicians that include Julian Lloyd Webber, double bassist Leon Bosch, pianist Mark Bebbington, cellist Raphael Wallfisch and Chineke! Orchestra, the first professional orchestra consisting of majority black and ethnic minorities in Europe.
Ekele is a result of a five year research into the works of pioneering Nigerian composers Ayo Bankole, Fred Onovwerosuoke and Christian Onyeji. Most of the works were composed pre-independence in 1960 and in the years after, at a time when the country was shaking off the shackles of British colonialism while defining its own cultural identity.
"Rebeca is a fluent pianist. She's classical trained in Eastern Europe and has a certain technical facility and a flexibility, rhythmically-wise" says DY Ngoy, the Congolese executive producer with whom Omordia created Africa Concert Series, a year-long recital by musicians of African descent at London's October Gallery. "What is fantastic about Ekele is that she played the music of African composers and made it relevant to our time." Examples of monthly themes for the African Concert Series include "String Quartets by African Composers," "African Art Music for Woodwind," "Arabesque: Piano Music from the Arab World," and "The South African Bass."
"It's a great project that Rebeca has started and I commend her" says Chi-Chi Nwanoku OBE, the British-Nigerian double bassist who founded Chineke Orchestra alongside whom Omordia often performs. "There's something else about playing music by someone that comes from the country of your fatherland. Sometimes there's a familial feeling that you aren't even aware that you've got, until you've discovered it."
OkayAfrica sat down with Omordia in London to discuss her album Ekele, her current role as the Artistic Director of African Concert Series and the history of classical music in Nigeria and Africa. The following are edited excerpts from the interview.