Chineke! Orchestra – review
Africa Utopia 2017
Southbank Centre

Words by: Uchenna Izundu | Published: Thursday, July 20, 2017 10:51 AM
Chineke! Orchestra (c) Eric Richmond Chineke! Orchestra (c) Eric Richmond

As the founder of Chineke! Orchestra comprising all shades of brown classical musicians, Chi-chi Nwanoku's statement is a political one about social capital and the portrayal of this music genre which is typically associated with white elites.


Chineke! Orchestra represents thousands of hours of practice, sacrifice, notable awards, and huge talent that has coalesced in its first CD release hitting the top musical spot in BBC Scotland

As part of Africa Utopia, the annual festival at the Southbank showcasing ideas, talent, and innovation from the continent, the political statement is even more pertinent. Nwanoku says she was compelled to create Chineke! Orchestra after she was forced to question her own ignorance of historical black classical musical talent when she was asked to do an interview about the composer Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges who was nicknamed the black Mozart. "I had a terrible feeling of shame that I had not given a second thought to the idea that there might be somebody of my ethnicity composing and performing classical music of an extraordinarily high standard in previous centuries. I had simply accepted the canon as the status quo, and it set me thinking about how other musicians from ethnic minority backgrounds perceived themselves," she said.


This is a powerful ensemble that beautifully plays African American Florence Price's Symphony in E Minor, 1st Movement. There is no doubt about the passion of the orchestra which is sinewy and disciplined under the fine conductor Roderick Cox. This is a work that harks back to Negro folk music with strands of spiritual themes, cross rhythms, off beat phrasing and melodic accents.


Russian born pianist Gerard Aimontche of African descent is a master performer on the imposing piano as his fingers flutter and zip across the keys. It is unsurprising to read about the litany of prizes and his accomplishments in the programme.

There is no doubt about the passion of the orchestra which is sinewy and disciplined under the fine conductor Roderick Cox.


The orchestra represents thousands of hours of practice, sacrifice, notable awards, and huge talent that has coalesced in its first CD release hitting the top musical spot in BBC Scotland. What a fabulous achievement for a group that is still relatively young. May many bigger accolades come.

 

Info: Chineke! Orchestra performed on Sunday 16 July 2017 as part of Africa Utopia at the Southbank Centre.




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