A senior artist (of blessed memory) was effective in bringing together ‘serious’ musicians of African descent. In his symposiums, he encouraged us to think about our relationship with audiences. He suggested that our sector could learn some lessons from our counterparts on the literary scene. This idea struck a chord in my heart and has stayed with me ever since.
One of his protégés once presented a paper that highlighted a turning point in the history of people of our heritages – Ajayi Crowther – the pioneering African Anglican Bishop, translated the Holy Bible to Yoruba and his work was published.
The history of art music in West Africa is strongly linked to Christian missionaries and their activities. The first generation of published authors also emerged from communities who were influenced by this phenomenon.
Composers and writers of that era were inspired to utilise the skills they learnt from the missionaries to create music and tell stories that hadn’t been presented in literary formats before. It is clear that the writers have made more progress than the formal musicians in connecting with audiences in Africa and elsewhere since those days.
The writers were clear in their motives regarding telling African stories. When will the art musicians get it together in singing and playing our music and songs?