Ekele: Piano Music by African Composers
There is a strong Nigerian theme running through this enterprising programme: Theophilus Ayoola ‘Ayo’ Bankole (1935 76) and Christian Onyeji (b1967) were born in Nigeria, and US citizen Fred ‘FredO’ Onovwerosuoke was born in 1960 in Ghana to Nigerian parents. The disc is a labour of love for Rebecca Omordia, whose father is Nigerian; the results of her research are appealing and pioneering in equal measure.
Ayo Bankole dominates the disc with over two-thirds of the playing time. A remarkable character, whose presence is still felt in Nigerian music, his Second Sonata (1956 59) was inspired by Christ’s Passion (his First is a ‘Christmas Sonata’). The first movement is a rather sectional sonata form, the slow second a depiction of the Crucifixion, picking up on the sinister traits of the first, yet ending with music of exquisite gentleness. The final Rondo is curiously undramatic.
Bankole’s skills as a miniaturist shine in the pieces for his children, Variations for Little Ayo and Ya Orule (1974), as well as the picturesque African Suite (1957) and Nigerian Suite. Onovwerosuoke’s intermittently Bartókian 24 Studies in African Rhythms has been hailed as one of the most important piano works to come out of Africa and has been recorded before. Omordia’s selection of eight is nicely contrasted, executed with her unfailing technical and expressive élan. The three pieces by Onyeji, including the title-track, seal a fascinating programme.