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.

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