AAfrican art music – a bridge between Western classical forms and traditional melody and rhythm – has a determined champion in the Romanian-Nigerian pianist Rebeca Omordia. She has made her life’s work a quest to discover and interpret the production of – often unpublished – composers from all over this great continent. Judging by her inaugural recital in this year’s African Concert Series, her determination is yielding fascinating results.
Imagine, if you can, a sensual, serpentine Arabic melody in the left hand winding towards a delicate filigree of twinkling stars in the right hand and you have something of the impression that Moroccan composer Nabil Benabdeljalil (b. 1972) creates in his beautiful Nocturne No. 4 from 2015. His romantic Nocturne No. 6 from 2020, which expresses his intense joy in traveling the Middle Atlas Mountains after the lockdown, gives the impression that John Field himself could have been a ghostly presence at his side.
Christian Onyeji (b. 1967) seeks to transfer Nigerian drumming techniques to the piano in his Ufie, Igbo dance, which becomes a wild celebration of an intense beat, spectacularly captured by Omordia. His piece perfectly reflected the ideas of Akin Euba (1935-2020), who promoted interculturalism in composition and saw pianism as a means of expressing the characteristics of Nigerian traditional music. from Euba Meta Ore uses percussion – performed here by Abdelkader Saadoun – to drive its sophisticated arrangement of a popular song from the Yoruba region. David Earl (b. 1951) grew up in Stellenbosch. rainbow princess, of his Scenes from a South African Childhood, sparkles with lyrical longing as he recalls fishing on the river alongside his father.
Next month in the series: an all-day celebration of music and musicians from Africa at Wigmore Hall in London on February 5. Go ahead and open your eyes and ears wide.