Guest review by Malcolm Kyeyune
Loneliness is a feeling I have grown accustomed to as a black fan of Classical Music. Even in packed concert halls, I am often alone, the only black person. Like many similar situations, I often brace myself, shrug off the curious stares and focus on the task at hand. However, unlike other similar situations, this loneliness follows me on my morning run as I blast Tchaikovsky 4th, in the afternoon as I sway to Stravinsky’s intoxicating rhythms or in the evening when I tune in to Radio 3. I am listening to white music, composed by white composers, played by white people for a white audience. There is no me in this music.
But last week was different. Through the African Concert Series, I saw myself on the stage, I saw myself as the composer, the performer, the audience. I saw myself in the music.
The African Concert Series showcases African Art music. It was founded in 2019 by Rebeca Omordia (an award-winning Romanian-Nigerian pianist) and its aim is to promote the works of African composers. This year, the festival was hosted on Facebook and included an eclectic array of music from Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Morocco, among others. Performances included works for the flute, organ, voice, double bass, woodwind quintet and piano.
Overall, the series served its purpose well. It fostered understanding of the origins of the music performed through brief synopses, and in so doing allowed its audience to fully immerse themselves into the cultures, traditions and circumstances from which the music was born. The performances, although often too short, were extremely passionate and picturesque, such as the thunderous Study No. 4 by Fred Onovwerosuoke, performed by Rebeca Omordia, which depicts a journey along the River Zambezi, and the virtuosic El Male Rachamim by Mohammed Fairouz, written in memory of Gyorgy Ligeti and performed by Marouan Benabdallah.
The series has not only been successful in giving a platform to the often-forgotten sub-genre of African Art Music, but has also had an unexpected benefit, according to Rebeca Omordia. Through exposure to classical music as African Art Music, more BAME people are more likely to listen to Western classical music, thus creating a more diverse audience.
Malcolm Kyeyune is an amateur musician based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He holds a degree in Business Economics from The University of Dundee and is currently reading Music at the University of Glasgow. As a student, his main interests lie in Music Theory and analysis; he also enjoys performing and writing about music.
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