SOMM Recordings is thrilled to announce African Pianism, a revelatory collection of music by seven African composers. Released to coincide with Black History Month in the United States, it marks the label’s solo debut of Nigerian-Romanian pianist Rebeca Omordia.
First recordings include three haunting Nocturnes and percussion- enhanced En attente du printemps by Moroccan, Nabil Benabdeljalil. And Five Kaleidoscopes for Piano by Ghanaian-born to Nigerian parents, Fred Onovwerosuoke, best known for Bolingo, featured in the 2006 Robert de Niro film, The Good Shepherd. They evocatively reference a beehive, love of homeland, Nubian folklore and the elemental power of Nature.
African Pianism takes its title from Ghanaian J.H. Kwabena Nketia’s set of Twelve Pedagogical Pieces, richly influenced by the rhythmic, tonal accent of African percussion music. Ayo Bankole’s Egun Variations, remarks Robert Matthew-Walker in his booklet notes, “skilfully melds… Nigerian musical language within a European G major tonal structure”.
Fellow Nigerians Christian Onyeji and Akin Euba also interrogate African drumming technique to brilliant effect in the former’s Ufie (Igbo Dance), the latter’s Three Yoruba Songs Without Words celebrating indigenous song. David Earl’s ‘Princess Rainbow’, from his autobiographical Scenes from a South African Childhood, is a touching memory of fly-fishing with his father.
Hailed as an “African classical music pioneer” (BBC World Service) and “a classical music game changer” (Classical Music), award-winning pianist Rebeca Omordia is an exciting virtuoso with a wide-ranging career as soloist, chamber musician and recording artist.
She is artistic director of the African Concert Series in London, part of Wigmore Hall’s Family of Partners. The 2022 series launches at London’s Africa Centre on January 25.
Rebeca’s previous SOMM release, The Piano Music of Ralph Vaughan Williams (SOMMCD 0164), was hailed by MusicWeb International as “spellbinding music”. Gramophone declared her collaboration with Mark Bebbington “a classy anthology… [both] finding a unremitting logic, sweep and concentration that thrill to the marrow”.
On This Recording
- Egun Variations in G major
- Play Time
- Dagarti Work Song
- Builsa Work Song
- Volta Fantasy
- I. Moderately fast
- II. Slow
- III. Fast
- I. With vigor
- II. Adagio molto parlando
- III Larghetto espressivo
- IV. Lentissimo e languendo
- V. Vivace con brio
- II. Princess Rainbow
- Nocturne IV*
- Nocturne V*
- Nocturne VI*
- En attente du printempsa*
- Ore Meta (Three Years)a
- Mo Ja’we Gbegbe (I pluck the leaf of remembrance)
- L’ori Oke ati petele (On the hill, on the plain)
Ayo Bankole (1935-1976)
J.H. Kwabena Nketia (1921-2019) — African Pianism — Twelve Pedagogical Pieces
Christian Onyeji (b.1967) — Ufie (Igbo Dance)
Fred Onovwerosuoke (b.1960) — Five Kaleidoscopes for Piano*
David Earl (b.1951) — Scenes from a South African Childhood
Nabil Benabdeljalil (b.1972)
Akin Euba (1935-2020) — Three Yoruba Songs Without Words
“No one would seem to be better equipped to present the music of African composers Akin Euba, Ayo Bankole, Christian Onyeji, David Earl, Fred Onovwerosuoke, J. H. Kwabena Nketia, and Nabil Benabdeljalil than Rebeca Omordia.… Omordia has created something truly special. Not only does she bring attention to figures whose names might be new to many a Western listener, she also presents a compelling argument on behalf of the classical music originating from their homeland, especially when so much of it entices for its distinctive melodic quality, rhythmic drive, and folk-influenced tone.… Regardless of differences in tone, dynamics, tempo, and character between the works, Omordia delivers each unerringly and with conviction and concerted attention to detail.… the remarkable music and Omordia’s sterling realization thereof that most recommends the release.” —Ron Schepper, Textura (a Textura Top Instrumental Release of the Year)
“The commercial success of this release is perhaps no surprise, for it certainly delivers something different from most anything else listeners are encountering in 2022. … what is likely to strike many listeners is the exploration of musical elements other than rhythms in the music on this album. This is a fresh collection of music, well played by someone who has thought about it, and it seems to open up a new world. The Somm label’s Menuhin Hall sound is excellent.” —James Manheim, AllMusic
“For her fascinating new Somm release, ‘African Pianism’, Nigerian-Romanian pianist Rebecca Omordia has chosen music from three Nigerian composers, Ayo Bankole (1935 76), Akin Euba (1935-2020) and Christian Onyeji (b1967); two Ghanaians, Kwabena Nketia (1921-2019) and Fred Onovwerosuoke (b1960); a South African, David Earl (b1951); and a Moroccan, Nabil Benabdeljalil (b1972). The music of these seven composers is as wide-ranging as you might imagine, given their geographic and cultural diversity. … its extraordinarily varied texutres and colours unfolding… Omordia traverses with probative grace. … one cannot escape a sense of gratitude to Omordia, whose musical curiosity and imagination, bolstered by an admirably versatile technique, bring us a bounty of largely unfamiliar yet richly rewarding music.” —Patrick Rucker, Gramophone
“I consider this release to be a compact, balanced and vital gateway to the work of African composers in the Western classical tradition, especially in the piano genre. In addition, I urge audiences to begin approaching this album by thoroughly reading the liner notes to inform their listening, because there are crucial cultural and place-based references throughout this music that might otherwise remain unheard – or misheard – by those unfamiliar with the composers’ worlds. Furthermore, I see this album as encouraging us to dive even deeper into studying the histories and traditions of the places and communities that have shaped the creative voices heard on this disk. The ‘cloak of historical precedent’, as Matthew-Walker puts it, has been centuries in the making, and it will take a great deal of collective sustained effort for us all to help lift that cloak and thereby make the world of Western classical music both richer and more inclusive.” —John Dante Prevedini, Classical Music Daily