Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pan African Orchestra Live feat. Tunde Jegede: Abami Eda Lives!

COPYRIGHT 2003 Financial Times Ltd.

(From Accra Mail (Ghana) - AAGM)

Residents on Hibiscus Road at Teshie-Nungua Estates in Accra have grown used to the sounds of atenteben flutes, xylophones, drums and other instruments of the Pan African Orchestra (PAO) in rehearsal.

Over the last week and a half, they've been hearing an additional instrument which to some of them, has brought a new flavour to the orchestra's output.

The person responsible for the fresh tang is United Kingdom - based composer and multi-instrumentalist, Tunde Jegede. He is in Accra with his Kora (21 - stringed Malian harp lute) for the first phase of a collaboration with the PAO which explores the music of the late great Afro-Beat King, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

Tunde and the PAO will give a concert at the British Council Hall in Accra tonight at 8.00 pm to show how they are getting along on the collaboration. The concert will also feature separate compositions by Tunde and the orchestra.

There has been mutual admiration between the Director of the PAO, Nana Danso Abian and Tunde for nearly two decades. The two musicians worked together in a London band called Dade Krama in 1984. Tunde was then a 12 - year - old boy.

Seeing the remarkable transformation he has gone through over the years and his ability now to blend various idioms in bold, innovative and delightful ways, Nana Danso can't help describing him as an accurate representation of 'the new African musician'.

"By that I mean the African musician whose qualities include exposure to various musical styles, ability to read music and compose for a number of instruments from different parts of African and is articulate about what he does," says Nana Danso.

Tunde also thinks that it is an honour being invited over to work with the PAO. "They are an unusual group of musicians. There are not many institutions in Africa where traditional instruments and traditional instrumentation are pushed more then Western instruments. The PAO in unique at that and I'm happy to be working with them at this moment."

As a boy of six years, Tunde was happy when one of his father's friend's, a Kora player from Senegal called Bouly Cissokho visited and stayed with them for a while in the U.K. That was the first time he heard the Kora and immediately fell in love with it.

His interest grew and had to go to Gambia when he was ten to learn further from a master called Amadu Jobarteh. Tunde also studied the cello and Western classical music at the Purcell School of music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

Studying the Kora and at the cello at the same time, Tunde says he didn't necessarily think of them as African or European instruments. "I was just interested in the music of those instruments. Later on, I became more aware of the different cultures they represent".

He also became more aware of the PAO when he met up with Nana Danso again in London in 2001 during the orchestra's involvement with the Yaa Asantewaa musical.

The two old pals got talking and realized they had a mutual admiration for Fela's music. With the support of the Arts Council of England and the African Caribbean Music Circuit, it has become possible for the two to work together on a project called 'Fela's Legacy' which will culminate in a tour of the U.K. next month.

Speaking of Fela's music, Tunde said: "Fela stands out because of his relevance not only to Africa but also to the African Diaspora. He is one of the few African musicians that really penetrated the African Diaspora's sound world. His music is much more universal in some ways than a lot of other African composers of his time".

So what does it mean to Tunde that Fela's music which was composed mainly for Western instruments is now being interpreted by a collection of African instruments?

"What it shows is that the music goes beyond its form and its instrumentation. A lot of elements in Fela's music came out of traditional African music even though one cannot always hear that distinctly. Taking the music back to traditional instruments brings out a lot of these traditional dimensions".

The Kora taking on the guitar treatments in Fela's music and the atenteben flutes rendering the brass parts, with the support of xylophones, drums and gong gongs have brought an adventurous new edge to Fela's music but to Tunde, what really comes out of all that is the Afro-Beat King's capabilities as a composer.

"The way the PAO and I have combined to illustrate Fela's music shows him as a competent composer rather than the other aspects that he is also known for like political activist and vocalist."

Tunde has played music in several different settings and entranced audiences in many countries with his compositional and playing abilities. Tonight's concert with the PAO at the British Council Hall in Accra will be a manifestation of his expansive talents and the great amount of possibilities that can be achieved with African instruments and instrumentation.

Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media. (

Tuesday, October 7, 2008