photo of Akin Euba drumming

This week, I heard the sad news that the respected Nigerian composer, ethnomusicologist and pianist Professor Akin Euba passed away on April 14th. The work of Professor Euba has featured in many aspects of this project, particularly through collaborations with Decus Ensemble where I have been able to programme both his 5 Pieces for English Horn and Piano and his String Quartet.

Among the many tributes shared in the days since his passing, was one by Professor Godwin Sadoh who has been a great supporter of the plainsightSOUND project. I am sharing it below with his permission.

Akin Euba: Foremost Nigerian Musicologist and Composer Dies at 84

Akin Euba was born on April 28, 1935, in Lagos, Nigeria.  He had his early musical training in Lagos before proceeding to England for advanced studies.  In four years at the Trinity College of Music, Euba earned three diplomas:
Associate of the Trinity College, London (Piano Performance) 1954; Licentiate of the Trinity College London (Teacher’s Training Diploma) 1955; and Licentiate of the Trinity College London (Piano Performance) 1956.  At UCLA, Euba graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. degree in Music in 1964 and completed his Master’s degree also at UCLA in 1966.  In 1967, he registered with the University of Ghana as a Ph.D. student in ethnomusicology under the supervision of late Prof. Kwabena Nketia, and subsequently graduated in 1974. 

In the area of academic position, Euba has been a lecturer, Visiting Fellow, and External Examiner at a variety of universities in Africa and North America.  His first position as Lecturer at the University of Lagos in Nigeria extended from 1966-68. From 1968-75, he was a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Ife in Nigeria, where he served as the Founding Head of the Department of Music.  He spent the Summer of 1969 at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Assignments as External Examiner involved both the University of Ife and Makerere University in Uganda. Euba was a Professor at the University of Lagos from 1978-81.  Among other appointments, he was Director of the Center for Intercultural Music Arts in London, which he founded, in 1988.  He was also Honorary Visiting Professor, Department of Music, City University, London.  Other academic appointments include Research Scholar and Artist-in-Residence at the IWALEWA House, the African Studies Center of the University of Bayreuth in Germany, between 1986 and 1992.  He was the Andrew Mellon Professor of Music at the University of Pittsburgh between 1993 and 2011.  Until his death on April 14, 2020, exactly two weeks before his 85th birthday, Akin Euba was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor, Emeritus in music.

Professor Akin Euba at the piano – University of Pittsburgh

While in the employ of the University of Pittsburgh, Euba taught several courses including Music in Africa, Introduction to Ethnomusicology, Field and Lab Methods, World Music, Creative Ethnomusicology, and Intercultural Musicology.  He was well known for pioneering various theories, including those of African Pianism, Intercultural Musicology, and creative ethnomusicology.

Selected Activities

  • Azusa Pacific University, School of Music’s first World Music Scholar-in-Residence, 2004.
  • Composer-in-Residence, Ensemble Noir, Toronto, 2003.
  • Organizer, 1st and 2nd biennial international symposium and festival on the theme “Composition in Africa and the Diaspora,” Churchill College, University of Cambridge, 2001 and 2003.
  • Organizer, International symposium and festival on the theme “Towards an African Pianism: Keyboard Music of Africa and Its Diaspora,” University of Pittsburgh, 1999.
  • Overseas Fellow, Churchill College, University of Cambridge, 2000-1.

Selected Honors/Awards

  • Biography in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed., 2001
  • Biography in International Dictionary of Black Composers, 1999

May his soul rest in peace.

Prof. Godwin Sadoh
Former student of Akin Euba

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