SOUL MUSIC CAN HEAL US, AND IFE’S MUSIC COMES TO MIND- Gerald Eze
On a calm weekday at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, before the era of social distancing, Ife walked up to me and asked to talk for a while. This happened in 2018. She discussed with me about her plan to study the music of her native town, Umuawulu in Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State. I felt happy because at that time I needed a female singer in my band who will be committed to contributing to Igbo musical Renaissance. Seeing her perform severally, I had no doubt that Ife was a star, the type that will shoot right from the roots of African culture. I do not think I did much to help her, except that I watched Ife move from performing at the concert series of the Ichoku Ensemble to creating her own concert. I got into the beautifully decorated hall of Five Star Food and Restaurant, Stock Exchange, Onitsha, for the Ife and You concert and I took a bow for a girl who is out to do something the society will not forget. She simply took a great step ahead!
The Ife and You concert which held at Onitsha on the 23rd of February, 2020 was a major step in the right direction to the materialization of Ife’s musical dream which she had structured painstakingly in her first degree research work. Thus with her gown, she met the town in the most ravishing manner. At this time when most of us are at home isolating to keep safe from the Corona Virus, I appreciate more the role musicians like Ife who bring us together to enjoy music, exchange ideas, meet people and renew our lives generally, play to keep us “safe”. We are keeping safe now but we all know that there’s something we are missing. I can recall that in the February edition of the Lunch-hour Concert of the Department of Music Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, which I direct, a student of the department, Chinemelum Favour who is a strong fan of Ife relished the experience of the Ife and You concert so much that she had to perform one of Ife’s singles entitled Oh My Love. Listening to this student perform Ife’s song got me thinking that Ife called us together; to impart that seed she had collected from the roots; to enliven those musical experiences that she naturally embodies and those she had gathered from the aged and experienced traditional musicians of her home town, Umuawulu community of Anambra State. On a different situation, I heard a female voice echo Ife’s Nwannunu Nta in a playful but tender manner along one of the corridors of the Faculty of Arts building, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. I waited to see who it was. I was not surprised to see that it was the aforementioned Chinemelum Favour. I cannot go on recounting how Ife’s music has become an accompaniment to peoples leisure or happy time. Indeed, it appears that anyone who gets to love Ife’s music sings it a lot because I confessed the same experience in an interview conducted by the media team after the concert.
Really, sitting in my corridor where I do my studies during the day, I realize that the memory of this concert is still green in my heart. Ife opened the concert with a gracious walk into the Hall. The music was not just heard from the speakers, an ardent music listener will appreciate that she was revealing a journey, and ultimately that these songs came straight from her African soul. Ife is not out to repeat tradition, she is making her own pop and soul sounds too but has most of her songs as adaptations of traditional Igbo music, recreated in her own style.
During the first phase of the concert, Ife opened the show with Oh My Love which culminated in a standing ovation. Egwu, Nwa, Nwanne (which she performed with the Ubo-aka, the Igbo thumb piano), Little Lady, and Nwayo, were the next songs she performed. A break was observed and she opened the second phase by paying tribute to the veteran Late Chief Osita Osadebe by rendering Osadebe’s Ebezina. Black Bird, Omenana, Nwannunu Nta, Ifunanya, Ozo (which she recorded with Umuobiligbo), and Awele were the rest of her original compositions which she rendered to the audience. Nwannunu Nta, an adapted traditional Igbo music, was performed in a call and response form which connected the audience with the performers like in the days of yore when our mothers and fathers were out as boys and girls playing under the gaze of the moonlight. The rendition of that song was also fused with superb dramatic movements of a drummer, Elochukwu Aninta.
The song, Omenana, which means “tradition”, spontaneously got almost everyone standing, dancing, singing along and greeting each other as if they were asked ab initio to do so at that point in the show. The atmosphere of conviviality that the song, Omenana, sparked when it was being performed speaks of the undying appeal of the people towards the traditions of the Igbo-Africa. Ife’s music simply sparked the expression of love for culture which was already in those members of the audience. Ife also connected with the soul of the city by dedicating Ozo to the victims of the Ochanja market fire outbreak. Ozoemena in Igbo implies, “may such not happen again”. To sing this music was most thoughtful, to say the least.
It was Ife’s curiosity that led her to ask questions about traditional Igbo music. She explains her interests thus: “I wanted to make modern soul music from the lessons I was going to learn from the traditional musicians I understudied. The recordings of the songs followed and official presentation of the songs online. But for the concert, my aim was to connect with those who have been listening to my music through a live performance. Onitsha as a city needs to be projected consistently as a viable creative space for young people and this projection is also what my concert sought to contribute to.” When asked what her aspirations are for the future. Ife pointed that she will like to move from the local stage to the international stage. “Touring the world and touching lives with my sound is my goal. I want to be in the soul of everyone who loves good music.”
Ife who has always been intrigued by Onyeka Onwenu, Nelly Uchendu, Miriam Makeba, Angelique Kidjo, and Nina Simone, to mention but a few, seem to have come to inspire another generation of African music lovers. These big names can be likened to the shoots of the Iroko of African music. It is only from this same mighty tree that Ife shoots out and this has been the tradition of African musical rebirth. Ife who was nourished by the earlier veterans is beginning to nourish a new generation with her albeit tender but scintillating voice, not to forget her inspiring messages.
It is safe therefore to say that truly, Ife represents the hope in Igbo cultural Renaissance and should be part of events that promote Igbo and African culture. She was once known as Mercy Michaels when she emerged the first runner up in the first Unizik Next Supper Star, a tough competition which was organized by the SUG of Unizik in 2015. Her trail of excellence can be seen as gradual and consistent. She was a gospel artist as can be felt from the texture of her voice, ardent Penticostal Christian, and had little experience of the Igbo musicianship except for the songs her mother sang to her as a child, the music of Onyeka Onwenu, Nelly Uchendu amongst others, which she grew up listening to. She has not stopped being a Christian, nor has she stopped singing gospel music, but she has chosen to build a career in the road she has traveled less as a growing child. She is now set to journey almost forever on that part she is convinced that leads home. Ife represents many African souls seeking to journey home, seeking to have a feel of the African ideals and to represent these ideals. It takes calling to discern such journey, courage to begin it and tenacity to remain undeterred. Ife in her performances and her music has revealed that she has discerned this calling properly, summoned the courage to begin, and she is committed to taking African music round the world as much as her wings, our urges, and providence can take her.
Ife contributes in her measures to the growth of modern African music and musicianship. This can be felt once one listens to her music. The imports of Ife’s music are still relished by those who attended the Ife and You concert. Indeed, the confessions people have made of the concert as well as on Ife’s DarkLight EP on Facebook, Instagram and twitter has shown that Ife’s music is rich and transcendental. Interestingly, Ife has not arrived yet, she is only still shooting out to the skies and leaving ravishing flashes of different colors; from the roots, up to the skies. And this is the point one may say, that the sky is her starting point. At a time like this when we are all in isolation, it is apt to listen more to creative soul music. Soul music heals and inspires, and Ife’s music comes to mind. In case you missed the concert, Ife’s DarkLight EP which contains most of the songs she rendered in the concert is worth the while.
Adekunle Gold & Simi Treat Us To Their Virtual Concerts.
Alternative artistes, Adekunle Gold and Simi joins the list of artistes in Nigeria to entertain thier fans in a series of live music concerts via social and streaming platforms.
Here’s a taste of what they offered to their teeming fans online.
Deadline Extended For Submission to the Toyin Falola Prize
The Toyin Falola Prize is administered by the literary magazine Lunaris Review. The prize is named after and presented in honor of Toyin Falola, Nigerian historian and distinguished professor of African Studies who has published over 100 books.
Submissions are currently being accepted for the inaugural prize. In an email to Brittle Paper, the TFP co-ordinator Tololupe Oke reveals that there has been a few updates.
The monetary award for the prize have been increased from $700 to $1,000. In addition, the winner gets a fully-funded travel trip to attend the BIGSAS Festival of African and African-Diasporic Literature in Bayreuth, Germany.
The deadline for submissions have also been extended to May 31.
The short story must be creatively inclined towards the historicity of an African place, people, time or event; however this is done is solely left to the imagination and creativity of the writer. Creative and genre-bending submissions are highly welcomed. All genres of stories are encouraged (including those hard to categorize) except erotica and chic-lit.
Witty language and humour are especially welcomed.
The narratives can be either factual or fiction, or the mixture of both; however, the genre must be clearly indicated by the entrant, which does not in any way influence/constrain the chances of the submission, as originality, creativity, and delivery are principal criteria.
The writer should not be below the age of 15 nor above 35 at the time of submission.
There is no limit to the number of words; however, we would prefer submissions within the range of 1,500 – 6, 000 words.
We do not accept more than an entry per writer/submission.
All entrants must be African, that is, the writer should either be born in Africa or have either of the two parents as African.
All submissions must be the original work of the entrants, previously unpublished in any form and not under consideration for publication or prize somewhere else. That means we do not accept translated works or simultaneous submission. Note: Published means either online in any form or on any platform.
All submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject SUBMISSION FOR THE TOYIN FALOLA PRIZE.
All submissions should be attached as doc. file, named as the title of the submission (without the name of the entrant) and formatted in 1.5 line spacing, Book Antiqua theme font with font size 12. Note: Other file formats would not be considered for the prize.
Also, the body of the submission email should not contain the bio of the entrant, just the title of the submission, word count, genre and contact information. Bios of the entrants would be requested upon selection. The file itself should not indicate the name or any identifying detail of the entrant.
By submitting to the prize, the entrant gives Pan-African University Press the exclusive right (or as determined by PAUP) to edit and publish their works upon selection for longlist in the ensuing anthology of the prize.
No member or relative of the Lunaris Review Team and Pan-African University Press would be considered for the Prize.
All Inquiries should be directed to the administrators via email@example.com
Source: Brittle Paper
African and Black Writers Featured in TIME’s 100 Women of the Year Project.
TIME magazine designed the 100 Women of the Year project to retrospectively recognize influential women in their “Person of the Year” archive.
The magazine commissioned artists to design one hundred new covers celebrating influential women from 1920 to 2019. Among these new portraits are seven profiles of African and Black writers: Angela Davis (1974), Nawal El Saadawi (1981), bell hooks (1984), Toni Morrison (1993), Wangari Maathai (2001), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2006), and Michelle Obama (2008). Here’s a brief profile on each.
South African Author & Doctor Gets Shout-out from Bill Gates.
South African Author & Doctor Kopano Matlwa Featured in Bill Gates’ Heroes in the Field Series for Her Work in Fighting Malnutrition in Children.
The South African author and doctor Kopano Matlwa got a shoutout from Bill Gates. Her work with undernourished children in South Africa was featured in the American billionaire and philanthropist’s “Heroes in the Field” series, which seeks to highlight the work of ordinary people doing their bit to help humanity.
“One in four children under five in South Africa is stunted,” Matlwa revealed in the video. It is an unfortunate figure for an upper-middle-income country like South Africa, she said.
Major British Production Company Acquires Film Rights for Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other.
Ever since winning the Book Prize, it’s been hard keeping up with Bernardine Evaristo’s achievements. The latest addition to these heartwarming strings of achievements is the acquisition of the screen rights to Girl, Woman, Other by Potboiler Television.
The British production company is run by BAFTA Award-winning producer Andrea Calderwood and Gail Egan. You might know them from their work on the Academy Award-winning movie The Constant Gardener and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Another high profile adaptation coming out of their stable is Adichie’s Americanah, which is about to go into production for HBO Max.
Venice Film Festival Rules Out Digital Option.
The Venice Film Festival is forging ahead with preparations for the September 2-12 event despite coronavirus concerns, and ruling out the possibility that the fest could go digital — at least not in its entirety.
“The Venice Film Festival cannot be replaced by an online event,” a Venice spokesman told Variety on Monday. He added that “there is obviously the possibility that we use technology for some initiatives,” but noted that at present “it’s too early for this to be decided.”
The Venice spokesman was commenting on a brief interview given by Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera to Italian news agency ANSA over the weekend, in which Barbera said he is currently not weighing digital options.
Barbera was reacting in the interview to last week’s announcement by Toronto Film Festival co-heads Joana Vicente and Cameron Bailey that they were “looking at both on-site and digital innovations” for that event, which is scheduled to run Sept. 10-20, due to “uncertainty about what ‘people coming together again’ will look like come September.”
“Toronto is a different type of festival, not comparable to Cannes or Venice,” Barbera told ANSA, adding that while he and his team “are working just the same as in past years,” at present, “we cannot provide specifics about the future,” besides the fact that Venice does not see scrapping the physical aspect of the event as a possibility.
Meanwhile, in a further indication that Venice is moving forward seemingly undeterred, at least until a clearer September scenario emerges, organizers on Monday announced the call for projects for its Final Cut in Venice co-production workshop dedicated to supporting works from the Middle East and Africa, currently scheduled to be held during the fest.
While Italy is currently in strict lockdown — with a coronavirus death toll of more than 15,000 that currently makes it the world’s hardest hit country by the pandemic — new infections are believed to have plateaued and, somewhat similarly to China, the hope is that the crisis will subside in Italy sooner than some other nations.
Last month, the fest’s parent organization, multi-disciplinary arts org. the Venice Biennale, headed by film producer and former Cinecittà studios chief Robert Cicutto, moved the opening date of its Architecture Biennale, which was originally set to open May 23, to August 29, due to coronavirus concerns.
Venice, which is considered the world’s oldest film festival, in January announced that Cate Blanchett would preside over its 77th edition.