Pianist Rebeca Omordia on sharing African classical music with the world

African music is having its moment thanks to chart-topping Nigerian Afro-pop and the gospel-house fusion of amapiano, the South African electronic music genre that fills clubs from Johannesburg to Ibiza.

Another sound that is more gentle yet immersive and makes the rounds is African classical music.

Nigerian-Romanian pianist Rebecca Omoldia unveiled this rich and underrated form. Over the past decade, he has unearthed and recorded the work of the continent’s influential past and present composers. As a result, she will perform a selection of them in her recital at the Cultural Foundation on Friday, concluding her series of her Classical Her Concerts in Abu Dhabi this season.

The work will make up her critically acclaimed new album african pianismacclaimed in classical music magazines. gramophone And appeared on BBC radio.

The attention is very welcome given the partly academic approach she adopted during recording.

“This album consists of music from all over Africa, so a lot of research went into presenting this repertoire,” she says. The National. “I wanted to draw on and showcase different traditions of music across the continent and give some of these composers the recognition they deserve.”

local hero

There are some names that I don’t know right away, african pianism It features composers who have made waves in their respective hometowns.

They include the late Ayo Bangcor — represented by Opener Egun Variations in G major — Graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and became an influential composer on Nigerian television and radio in the 1960s.

Also featured are works by South African composer David Earle and a nocturne trio by Nabil Benabdeljalil from Morocco.

on many of the 21 tracks african pianism When first released, Omoldia recalls mining these scores through research trips to Nigeria and Morocco.

There, she became involved with composers and deceased family members, and scrutinized records at Lagos’ classical music institutes and conservatories.

“Then of course the events where we can find many of these composers who are still with us and where we connect,” she says.

One of these niche gatherings was a piano competition in Casablanca, juried by Hassan II University composer and musicologist Benabdeljail.

“He was surprised to find that there were people interested in recording this kind of music,” recalls Omordia.

Omodia mentions his gorgeous suite of nocturnes recorded for the album.

“Nocturnes are usually reminiscent of European composers using the genre to express themselves through deeply lyrical, slow and beautiful music,” she says. culture.

“We did Zoom sessions and he would sing melodies for me so I could learn how to play them.”

dynamic repertoire

These delicate works contrast with some african pianismenergetic score.

5 kaleidoscopes for piano Ghanaian-American Fred Onovwerosuoke is defined as wistful motifs and undulating melodies.The third and final part of his lively Wuffet by Christian Onyeji of Nigeria is inspired by the dances of Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo community.

These juxtapositions are african pianism To showcase the continent’s classical music diversity, Omordia said:

“One example is the comparison of the music of North and West Africa, which are very different cultures. In West Africa, the classical music tradition is based on the use of the piano as a tuned percussion instrument. classical music,” she explains.

“North Africa, on the other hand, is traditionally slower with more lyrical melodies.”

Omordia is delighted that so many parts of the world have joined her passion.

Her Abu Dhabi Classical Concert is part of an expanding itinerary that will include the UK, Spain and the Caribbean.

African music is now enjoying unprecedented global attention, but she says these advances are due to pioneering composers of the past.

“I must argue that this work has been done for generations and we are not the first to bring this rich cultural heritage to the world,” she says. “It’s becoming apparent because the world is finally interested in listening to what Africa has to offer besides its natural resources.

African Pianism by Rebecca Omoldia on Friday at 8pm at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation. Tickets starting with Dh75 are available at: ticketmaster.ae

Update: Jan 18, 2023, 7:00 AM

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