Chineke! Orchestra – review
Southbank Centre
Part of the Africa Utopia Festival

Published: Monday, September 12, 2016 1:41 PM | Review by: Uchenna Izundu |
(c) Belinda Lawley / Southbank Centre (c) Belinda Lawley / Southbank Centre

Each musician, old and young, was an important cog in an Olympic wheel of stirring and emotional world-class performances.

Drawing together over 30 nationalities on the melanin rainbow spectrum, founder Chi-chi Nwanoku MBE has created an award winning force of classical musical power with the Chineke! Orchestra. It seems perverse that in 2016, a black and Minority collective is needed, but this is the consequence of white privilege.


(c) Belinda Lawley / Southbank Centre (c) Belinda Lawley / Southbank Centre

It was a powerful visual statement on the grand stage in the Royal Festival Hall. Locs, afros, tight curls, loose ones cornrows, and straight hair abounded. Each musician, old and young, was an important cog in an Olympic wheel of stirring and emotional world-class performances.


(c) Belinda Lawley / Southbank Centre (c) Belinda Lawley / Southbank Centre

I admit my Igbo bias: it is fabulous to hear the spirit of life (Chineke) ripple and burn through string instruments, horns, flutes, and percussion. Classical music is often the soundtrack to high octane or poignant moments in popular culture. And so I was whisked away to the 1973 TV advert featuring the boy pushing his bike up a cobbled hill carrying Hovis bread as Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony played in the background. The orchestra's rendition was stunning.


Solo cellist Sheku Kenneh-Mason made his debut performing Haydn's Cello Concerto in C major. A mere 17-years-old, this passionate and masterful fellow has just nabbed BBC Young Musician of the Year prize.



I felt like a proud mother who wanted to bawl her eyes out at her babe stepping into the world. The musicians on stage represented thousands of hours of practice and sacrifice, determination and isolation, encouragement and nagging which had finally paid off! It was a incredible testimony for other BME parents and mentors investing in their children’s social capital.


With Doreen Lawrence, Trevor Phillips, and Ben Okri some of the attendees, Chineke! Orchestra has demonstrated that there is power and unification in the note.


Info: Chineke! Orchestra performed at the Southbank Centre on 4 September 2016 as part of the Africa Utopia Festival | Find out more




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