This post is dedicated to Nigerian composer and ethnomusicologist, Joshua Uzoigwe (July 1, 1946 – October 15, 2005).

Joshua Uzoigwe
Joshua Uzoigwe - from the personal collection of Godwin Sadoh

 

I recently received an email from Professor Godwin Sadoh, who has been an avid supporter of the work that has gone into creating this site. As a prolific scholar of African Art Music in particular, he was kind enough to provide me with a complete list of his publications featuring the life and work of Uzoigwe and "specifically set to preserve his legacy and meritorious  contributions to Nigerian art music".

The full list is below. Let me know if you find any of these useful!

 

BOOKS

Five Decades of Music Transmutation in Nigeria and the Diaspora. Columbus, OH:  GSS Publications, 2015. 50% discount for a limited period.

Joshua Uzoigwe: Memoirs of a Nigerian Composer-Ethnomusicologist.  S.C.: Booksurge Publishing, 2007.

“Joshua Uzoigwe: An Introduction to the Life and Music of a Modern Nigerian Composer.” [M.A. Thesis, University of Pittsburgh, 1998].

ARTICLES

"Cross-Cultural Expressions in the Music of Joshua Uzoigwe."  Musical Times, vol.157, No.1935 (Summer 2016): 99–106. [UK]

“African Musicology: A Bibliographical Guide to Nigerian Art Music (1927-2009).”  MLA Notes 66, No. 3 (March 2010): 485-502. [U.S.A.]

“Modern Nigerian Music: The Post-Colonial Experience.” Musical Times 150, No. 1908 (Autumn 2009): 79-84. [U.K.]

“The Emergence of Percussion in Nigerian Art Music.” Percussive Notes 46, No. 6  (December 2008): 52-61. [U.S.A.]

“Twentieth-Century Nigerian Composers.” Choral Journal 47, No. 10(April 2007): 33-39. [U.S.A.]

“Nigerian Art Music Composers.” NTAMA Journal of African Music and Popular Culture, Universität Hildesheim, Germany.  January 10, 2007. [Germany]

“Hybrid Composition: An Introduction to the Age of Atonality in Nigeria.” The Diapason 97,  No. 11 (November 2006): 22-25. [U.S.A.]

“The Creative Experience of a Contemporary Nigerian Composer.” Living Music 20, No. 1 (Spring 2005) : 6-9. [U.S.A.]

“Intercultural Creativity in Joshua Uzoigwe’s Music.”  Africa 74, no. 4 (Dec. 2004) : 633-661.  Africa is the official journal of the International African Institute, London,  United Kingdom. [U.K.]

“Joshua Uzoigwe.”  Published at http://africadatabase.org September, 2003.  In Contemporary Africa Database, London, [U.K.].

“Creativity and Dance in Joshua Uzoigwe’s Music.”  Composer-USA 9, no. 2 [Spring 2003]: 4-5.  [U.S.A.]

These publications have been cataloged in prestigious libraries all over the world, including Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institute, American Ivy Leagues, and world-class university libraries in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Africa (especially Nigeria and South Africa).

FORTHCOMING 

A CD of piano works by African composers including Joshua Uzoigwe's Talking Drums.  
Pianist: Silvia Belfiore
Release Date: 2020.

More on Joshua Uzoigwe can be found in his Wikipedia page.

Don't forget you can find a list of more general information related to this research on the Resources page.

October is Black History Month in the UK and this year, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance have let me do a plainsightSOUND Instagram takeover!

This is an opportunity to highlight the musicians that feature on this site. It will hopefully encourage some new visitors too.

If you have an Instagram account and would like to join in the conversation, head over to https://www.instagram.com and search #plainsightsound. Don't worry, if you don't have an account, you can still see the pictures during Black History Month and after. Don't forget, you can use the same hashtag on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest news.

Everyone who appears should already be shown in the Timeline. Let me know if there's anyone missing...

Message from a reader

A couple of weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a really nice email from Emma Price in Australia who had come across my website while researching her own project.

Through her work, Emma had compiled some material about ‘F. Bridgetower’ – cellist, composer and younger brother of George Bridgetower. The elder Bridgetower is better remembered as a former friend of Beethoven and the original violinist that the ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata was dedicated to.

Hearing from Emma was great because most of the references I’d found for George don’t mention any siblings at all. Even those that do, can’t agree on the possible younger brother’s name, with mentions of his death based on guesswork. These also assume that he was the same Frederick Joseph Bridgetower who died in Liverpool the mid-1800s. Today though, modern technology and online tools like digitised historical newspapers make this kind of information much easier to research.

New information

Emma was kind enough to pass on some material including newspaper scans and photos of scores that she’d found at the National Library of Ireland, Dublin.

Teaching advertisement for Frederic Bridgtower
Teaching advertisement for Frederic Bridgtower

MR. BRIDGTOWER,

Professor of Music, and Teacher of the Violoncello and Piano-forte,

HAVING at the earnest solicitation of many respectable friends, determined to fix his future residence in Dublin, has taken the house No. 2, Exchange-court, near Dame Street, where he will receive Pupils on the Violoncello, and respectfully attend to any commands he may be honoured with to teach abroad on either of the above instruments.

Pastoral Rondo title page
Title page for 'A Pastoral Rondo' by Frederic Bridgtower

I was also pointed towards other recent work that filled some of the gaps in the brothers’ life stories including New Light on George Bridgtower (Hart, 2017). The relatively recent paper includes lots of new details and reminders, like the different spellings that the family used (Bridgetown/Bridgetower/ Bridgtower), which was a big help. A lot of other research materials end up regurgitating the same old myths and made-up stories, so it was great to see something where the author was able to use original sources and newspapers of the day. Using this new information, I’ve been able to update Frederick’s entry on the timeline.

Updated timeline - still no image of Frederic/k though!

Future additions

Huge thanks to Emma for sending over this material. I set this page up to share my research with other people who find it useful or are just interested in this topic. In the short time since it launched, it’s been great to get messages from people who are keen and willing to share their own work. If you can think of anyone who might be missing from the project, please get in touch using the contact page.

 

NB. It turns out there was also a third brother, Johannes Albertus, who was born in Mainz in 1787. If anyone has any information on him, please pass it on!

Atwell at the BL

It hasn't been very long since my last post about Winifred Atwell, but I couldn't resist this opportunity to plug something else I've written her. This time, I've been writing about archival recordings by and about Winifred Atwell at The British Library, as part of my Edison Fellowship there.

The blog post focuses specifically on recordings that you can find in the British Library's catalogue. As well as Atwell's performances, you can also hear interviews with some of the people who had met her. I've included clips of all of these in the Sound and vision blog post.

Have a read, listen and let me know what you think!

It's much easier than it used to be to do your own research at the British Library. Or you just visit one of the free or ticketed exhibitions that they regularly have. More information is on the British Library website https://www.bl.uk and I highly recommend a visit.

For more information on other musicians in this project, take a look at the plainsightSOUND Timeline.

Award icon

International composition competition alert!

Although my research usually focuses on historical composers, I've just heard about a new award that might be useful to some international readers of this blog - the Commonwealth International Competition Award.

The award aims to "promote composition around the world" and "give young composers the skills they need to further their careers" and it's interesting to see in the FAQs that it's open to all styles of music, not just European classical music!
 
There are two categories:
 
FLYERS - under 18s from around the world but excluding UK residents or those getting any specialist music education in the UK ie specialist music schools and Junior conservatoires.
STARTERS - anyone interested in composition who is from one of the 4 target regions (2019 is Antigua and Barbuda, India, New Zealand, and Rwanda)
There doesn't appear to be a cash prize but winners will get a composition teacher as well as a recording and performance of their piece by the Dionysus Ensemble. If you think you or someone you know might be eligible, have a look at the website and send something in. The closing date is 31st July 2019, so you've still got time! https://cicompositionaward.com/

Woman holding giant smiley face
So happy!

Those of you who have been following the progress of this site over the last few months will be pleased to see that the timeline is now working properly!

There are still a few little bugs to work out with how it displays but you can now scroll through to see details of most of the musicians who have been researched so far in this project.

It would be great to be able to include images for all of the musicians (not everything on Wikipedia is public domain) so if you happen to own an original photograph of anyone featured in the project and would be happy for it to be used, please get in touch. In the meantime, take a look at the timeline of Black musicians in British classical music (up to the mid-20th century) in all its glory.

Happy scrolling!

photo of Winifred Atwell

I’m back for the New Year with someone that I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of before – Trinidadian-born pianist Winifred Atwell. Although she influenced a number of musicians through her ragtime performances and compositions, Winifred was also sought after for her classical performances.

I first came across her at the Black Sound exhibition at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton in 2018 and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t already aware of someone who, as well as being a famous black pianist who worked across genres, was the first black person to have a no. 1 UK single and still seems to be the only female instrumentalist to have achieved that!

Judging by the comments below her YouTube performances, she has a pretty loyal fanbase and recorded TV performances are still being uploaded wherever they’re found.

I’m hoping I’ll have a chance to put together a Spotify playlist soon but until then, here’s another video to keep you going.

Decus poster - Nov 2018

As part of the plainsightSOUND project, Decus Ensemble performs music by Black British and African composers.

The Decus Ensemble performs the first concerts in the project as part of this series. The programme includes music for instrumental ensemble by Segun Akinola, Errollyn Wallen and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

Concert dates

If you would like to attend, tickets are FREE but must be booked via Eventbrite.

A couple of weeks ago, I was doing my regular trawl through YouTube for African composers and found this track from a CD rerelease of Fela Sowande’s African Suite for Strings performed by The New Symphony Orchestra conducted by Trevor Harvey.

I keep finding mentions of this piece in my research but this is the first professional recording that I’ve found, even better that it’s from not long after he wrote it.

Originally released on the London Gramophone Corporation label in New York, USA, Sowande wrote the liner notes himself – with lots of background info to help out an audience that probably wouldn’t have heard much like this before.

Track listing:

  1. Joyful Day
  2. Nostalgia
  3. Onipe
  4. Lullaby
  5. Akinla

Despite being recorded 1950s, the sound quality is great and I’m really glad that Kipepeo Publishing decided to release this. If you want to get hold of the album yourselves, details are below.

BUY

The album is available via Kipepeo Publishing at World Beat Archives. Follow them on Twitter @Kipepeo_UK

If you want the vinyl, it looks like there are still a few copies left on Discogs 

The Beginning…

The plainsightSOUND project is here!

This project came about because it occured to me one day that, as we know the presence of Black people in the UK goes back hundreds of years, historical Black classical musicians must also have existed.

Early into this research, I discovered that if you type 'African composer', 'African classical musician' or any similar variations into Google, you'll be redirected to information about African American musicians. If you really want to find out about performers of Western classical music of African heritage who are not American (and there are LOADS), you will need to know their names. I realised that for the first time in years, I was going to have to go into a library. I was also going to have to email and meet with a load of strangers.

My own parents are Nigerian and although I was already aware of people from West Africa - including my father - coming to the UK to study throughout the 20th Century, I've found so many interesting stories about musicians that go much further back. This site has been set up as a way to share what I find and share it with as many people as possible.

Right now, I've got names of over 50 musicians that I'm researching and the list is growing weekly. Sometimes I find out information that makes a particular subject less relevant for this project, but I'm still amazed at how many I still have.

I've decided that to be included in this project, a composer must:

  • be of Black African descent
  • have created work in European classical music in Britain (performing or composing)
  • have been musically active in Britain before 1952

If I'm being realistic, I'll probably be pretty lax about the final point because I've already found a few composers that I like who just miss this deadline.

 

In the meantime, I'm going to dedicate this project to the entire Ngwe fam because they're always reminding me to continue to create and discover new things.