UNIPORT Hosts Maiden African Composers' Summit…As CBAAC Marks Black History Month



As part of efforts aimed at repositioning African Music on the world arena, accomplished Indigenous Music Composers and stakeholders converged at the University of Port Harcourt between Monday and Wednesday, last week, to brainstorm on ways and means of improving the quality of Music produced in Africa in the face of the onslaught from Western musical forms. The historic event was also used to celebrate the Black History Month under a collaborative venture between Summit organizers and the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC).



The event which was organized by the Department of Music in collaboration with CBAAC, with the theme: “From Indigenous to Modern African Music Composition” drew participants from universities within and outside Nigeria. Declaring open the two-day maiden African Composers Summit held at the Theatre Arts Lecture Hall, University Park, last Tuesday, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Joseph Ajienka, expressed hope that “the Summit would afford African Indigenous Composers a rare opportunity to shape the direction and development of our rich creative genres and assess their contributions to the growth of the global music industry”.

“Art is so important that civilizations rise and fall, but only the arts of the people survive. As a University, we want to celebrate creativity; we want to ensure that we celebrate the arts not just the degrees we award to students on graduation. Music touches the spirit and soul and we must make the best out of our cultural background to produce the right kind of music for our delight and instruction”, the Vice-Chancellor told the gathering that included globally-renowned Composer and Music Teacher, 92-year old Emeritus Professor KwabenaNketia of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

The Vice-Chancellor called on African Composers and Musical Educators with common interest in research activities to invest their time and resources in creating diverse musical styles, vocal and instrumental works that would project African indigenous music to the rest of the world, promising to support establishment of a Secretariat for the two newly-inaugurated Association of African Composers (AAC) and Society of Nigerian Composers (SNC).

He expressed gratitude to the Director-General of CBAAC, Professor TundeBabawale and his team for their commendable interest in the promotion of the Black identity through sponsorship of the maiden African Indigenous Composers' Summit aimed at documenting aspects of the local repertoire that stands out anywhere in the world.  “We believe that this Summit would aid us to engage in more collaboration with CBAAC”, Professor Ajienka noted.

Delivering the Keynote Address titled: “Compositional Procedures In Africa Music Practices: Types and presentational Styles”, Professor Dan Agu of NnamdiAzikiwe University, Awka, disclosed that Africans make great use of music in all activities, ranging from birth, religion, politics, social and warfare, stating that music conveys a lot of meaning to be acknowledged and accepted by any audience.

“All African Composers should be encouraged to give their ideas without inhibition, their composition must be heard for whatever they are, since the ideas of today could serve as pivot on which tomorrow ideas will rotate”, he said, advising Composers to seriously consider application of African rhythmic and melodic instruments to enhance the beauty of their works and make them uniquely African.

Director-General, CBAAC, Professor Babawale, expressed gratitude to the Department of Music and Management of the University for accepting to host the Summit. “I want to thank the Vice-Chancellor and assure you that CBAAC is ready to carry this partnership forward as we hope to sign an MoU with your University to advance Diaspora studies”, he disclosed.

In his Address, Head of Department of Music and Convener of the Summit, Professor OnyeeNwankpa, said the essence of the gathering was to involve the academia in exchange of ideas and scholarship, stating that the Summit  was convened to articulate artistic direction and leadership in the academia and music industry, considering the state-of-art in musical creation, including innovation in vocal and instrumental arrangements on the African continent.

“It is expected that modules and methods of musical creativity as a document for educational development will emerge at the Summit leading to the production of a study guide in musical creativity and industrial innovation, as well as software development, computer music and instrument technology for African music,” he noted, charging participants to invest their time and resources in creating diverse musical styles, vocal and instrumental works for diverse media.

Erudite Historian and Cultural Ambassador, Professor OkonUya, delivered a paper titled, “Diaspora and Homeland: An Emerging Theme in African Cultural and Historical Studies”, in which he called for the institutionalization of studies of Africans in the Diaspora in the Nigerian university system to forge a new sense of oneness with the African continent.

Earlier, during a courtesy visit on the Vice-Chancellor, Chairman of the Summit, erudite scholar and Composer, Emeritus Professor Nketia, called for encouragement for young Composers, stressing that music has a universal appeal that has the capacity to build bridges across cultures. “I have been studying developments in Nigerian music dating back to 1952 and I am every impressed with what the younger generation of musicians are doing; but my advice is that they should stick to authentic African music and not just imitate alien styles.

Professor Nketia accepted an invitation to become a Visiting Professor to the Department of Music as part of his vision to mentor younger entrants into the music industry.

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