Proselytising for a style | Juwon Ogungbe

Time and place are important markers for things we do. When a particular style or genre is mentioned, if it has made a mark, one can imagine the sound, look or ambience that it evokes. This is very much the case with the classical performing arts of European derived cultures.

As a result of cultural exchange that happened at a particular point in time, other hybridised cultures emerged. In some cases, there were ambitious explorations on the page, but not enough activity on the stage that helped to define what they would feel like.

Now is as good a time as any to bring the sound, look, feel and ambience of an aesthetic into being. Artists of a couple of generations have spent a lot of time theorising about the essence of this genre. Some of them have left the building, while others are about to retire.

Akin Euba (of blessed memory) worked very hard to create spaces where the African art music aesthetic could be performed by artists and heard by audiences. When we attended his symposiums at Churchill College Cambridge over ten years ago, he included us in the birth of a new performance vocabulary.

Some of us will have to take the baton from Euba and his supporters such as Francis Abiola Irele. The works of African composers need to move from the page, into living and breathing on the world’s stage.

Originally published at on September 18, 2020.