Nwokedi, conductor of the choir.
Sir Emeka Nwokedi is a musicologist of international repute, who has made appreciable impact on the Nigeria music scene. In this interview with SAMUEL OSAZE, the ace music director juxtaposes music sensibilities in Nigeria with those of the western world. The result is priceless and a huge testament to how unquestionably talented the country is in spite of obvious perennial challenges. Having served as music lecturer at Lagos State College of Education, Ijaniki, he also had a stint as a broadcaster, who currently is a tireless music director at MUSON School of Music and jointly manages MUSON Choir. In the past 26 years, Nwokedi has trained a number of young people
Sir, you have gone round the world exporting Nigerian culture through songs. How would you compare the level of musical sophistication here in Nigeria to what obtains in developed countries?
I can only say that music is music and the only thing is that we have great talent in Nigeria and if given the opportunity to develop, I think we are comparable to anyone you can find anywhere in the world. If we have the same facilities and opportunities that they have, for instance in developed countries, they start music at childhood; they also have music entrenched in their curriculum.
If given the same opportunities, I believe we will do well. Music is taken very seriously, especially classical music in most of the countries I have been to, but I must say that we try to propagate our own music, which is the African kind of music, with its inherent rhythmic structure. We do it with costume and local instruments and I must say that this kind of music attracts foreigners.
Music is unique, and each country has its own unique type of music and I would say that Nigerian music, on its own, in as much as we are learning the classical music, we are experts, when it comes to our music. Other countries of the world love it very much. So, I would say that in as much as we learn the classical music, the emphasis should be on developing our own music and exporting it to the world.
Is there anything like African Classical music?
Yes, there is! Sometimes, people mistake classical music to mean music of the western world, which is not the case. There is the African classical music and Nigerian classical music. Classical music is music that has a structure. If you take a Nigerian music, for instance, arrange it and give it a structure, put in African instrumentation, then it becomes classical music.
Classical music is unique. It has embedded rhythm inside; it has speech rhythm and most importantly, you accompany it with musical instrument that makes it unique and attractive to the outside world.
You are the chorale leader for the MUSON Festival Gala 2017. What are your expectations this year?
I was a pioneer member of the festival committee many years ago and we entrenched this chorale culture, as part of the festival. As a matter of fact, over the years, the chorale music has always been the grand finale of the festival, which attracts a large crowd and we have experimented in various ways with a variety of things. This year, we are doing a joint performance with the orchestra and we will be doing with the orchestra some western classical music like the Borodin Polovtsian Dances by Prince Igor.
We will do Kayama with the orchestra from Songs of Sanctuary by Karl Jenkins. Also, we will doing Die Fledermaus finale opera by an Australian composer, and then the choir will do on its own a variety of things. Asides serious classical music, we are going to do lighter music like concert celebration by Andrew Lloyd Webber; we are going to enthrall the audience with some popular music, pop choral, Nigerian classical music from different cultural milieu and other African classical music.
Do you think this year’s edition is any different from previous outings?
Every year, we come out with different innovation in approach. For instance, last year the finale was an opera, which people liked. The dynamic approach each year rids the MUSON festival of all forms of monotony; there is something always different each year. For this year, I must say that preparation is in top gear; more awareness is being created this year.
What will your audience take home from the festival?
Music is educative! If you are into classical music, it educates the mind, it entertains; it brings pleasure. We are also trying to cultivate a classical music audience. If Nigeria, in general, keys into classical music, our country will be better for it because it instills discipline.
You just rounded off with Lagos City Chorale. Is there anything you would like to reminisce on concerning the outcome?
Lagos City Chorale is a large feast. It is not a school so we concentrate more on chorale music. We have been doing well exploring and going to various parts of the world. The MUSON Choir has also been part of this and the last work we did is called Creation. Arboretum is a musical work based on biblical stories about the creation of the world. I am a very busy person, but this is what I love to do.
The 21st MUSON Festival of the arts is slated for October 18 through 29. It is going to be an eclectic display of all art genres, but primarily on music. Every lover of the arts and tasteful entertainment should come around to savour the fiesta because there is enough for everyone to take home. You can be there for any of the programmes lined up for the festival. Festivals like this are what people should look forward to every year. So, I am telling the public to be here and support the arts. We welcome everybody to be at the festival and to also enjoy it.