Profile: Akin Euba

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Akin Euba has had a wide-ranging career as a broadcaster, scholar composer and performer, spanning over 40 years. As a composer, Euba’s creative idiom derives from his fluency in both the African and Western musical cultures and many of his compositions combine elements from the two.

In his biography of Euba, entitled Akin Euba: An introduction to the life and music of a Nigerian Composer (Bayreuth: Bayreuth African Studies Series 1992) fellow Nigerian Scholar and composer Dr. Joshua Uzoigwe illustrates how Euba copes with the challenge of harmonizing two different cultural idioms. Uzoigwe states "although Akin Euba employs 20th century Western techniques of composition his creative instincts are firmly rooted in the mystical and mythological beliefs of his own people, the Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria." Euba himself has published widely on the topic of neo-African art music and his various theories and ideas on this subject are nowhere better exemplified than in Euba’s opera Chaka(from Leopold Senghor’s epic poem) for soloist, Yoruba chanter, chorus, dancers and a mixed ensemble of African and Western instruments, which was premiered by the city of Birmingham Touring Opera in a semi-staged performance at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham, England, in September 1995.

One of the concept that form a part of Euba’s theories on neo-African art music is that of an "African Pianism". This concept was pioneered by Akin Euba and first introduced into the literature in his 1970 essay "Traditional Elements as the Basis of New African Art Music" (African Urban Notes 5/4). In order to demonstrate and promote the concept, Euba has staged recitals based on this theme and performed by himself and/or other artists in Bayreuth (1989), Glasgow(1989, London(1990) and 1994), Pittsburgh(1993), Bronxville, Newyork(1996), Ann Arbor, Michigan(1997) and Tampa, Florida(1997).

Two CDs of Euba’s music(featuring the opera Chaka and the complete works for the piano) are in preparation. Also to be published in printed form is Towards an African Pianism: Collected Works for the Keyboard 1964-1997, consisting of Euba’s compositions for the piano.

As an Africanist with a specialization in musicology, Euba believes that the situations of musical practice in Africa are similar to those of other cultures with similar historical experiences and, and consequently, Euba tends to take a global perspective of the African world of music. This global perspective led him to the concept of modem interculturalism and to the establishment in London in 1988 of the Center for International Music Arts, a British charity, of which Dr. Euba is the founder and director. In this capacity, Euba has organized in London four biennial international symposiums and festivals on the theme " New International Music". This biennial series has provided an important platform for Euba to collaborate with colleagues from various parts of the world in formulating theoretical concepts necessary for the study of modern interculturalism in music. Euba believes that there is a new area of study and research (for example, that which involves scholarly work on Asian and African composers who articulate elements of their indigenous or other world cultures within the frame work of 20th century Western techniques of composition) which cannot be adequately approached either through the field of historical musicology or that of ethnomusicology, and which calls for a new field , described by Euba as "intercultural musicology".

Since joining the University of Pittsburgh in 1993, Euba has initiated a new project, entitled A Bridge Across: Intercultural Composition, Performance, Musicology, which is an extension of Euba’s London activities and is designed to spotlight the works of composers, performers and musicologist through recitals, workshops, lectures, residencies and so forth.

Akin Euba is the initiator of several theories and creative concepts which are directly linked to his own dual practice as a composer and musicologist. Apart from those already mentioned, Euba is actively engaged with the theory of "creative ethnomusicology" and has designed a course under this title which he teaches as the University of Pittsburgh. He is also planning a new book, Bridging Ethnomusicology and Composition: A study of J.H. Kwabena Nketia, in which he will use the activities of the Ghanaian ethnomusicology and composer(together with precedents drawn from the careers of Bartok and Kodaly) to explain the theory.

Akin Euba is cited in Brian Morton and Pamela Collins(eds) Contemporary Composers(Chicago and London: St. James’s Press, 1992) and in Eileen Southern Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1982). A major new study of Akin of Euba, written by Mark Clague, will appear in the International Dictionary of Black Composers.

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