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Akin Euba, the father of African pianism, dies at 84

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Professor Olatunji Akin Euba

Professor Olatunji Akin Euba, a Nigerian composer, musicologist and pianist, is dead. He died two weeks to his 85th birthday.

According to Dr Albert Oikelome, head of Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos, “I got a message from Prof. Bode Omojola, a
a close friend of his, that he passed on Tuesday evening.

Oikelome said, “this is a great loss to the nation. He was a mentor to a great many of us, who are in the field. Euba left a big shoe, which we would find difficult to fill.”

According to the music scholar, “we are happy because he lived a fulfilled life.”

Born on 28 April 1935 in Lagos, Euba studied composition with Arnold Cooke at the Trinity College of Music, London, obtaining the diplomas of Fellow of the Trinity College London (Composition) and a fellow of the Trinity College London (Piano).

He was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in 1962. He received B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of California, Los
Angeles, where he studied with Mantle Hood, Charles Seeger, Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia, Klaus Wachsmann, and Roy Travis. He holds a PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Ghana, Legon (1974).

While at Legon, Professor Nketia supervised Euba’s doctoral work, and his dissertation is entitled, Dundun Music of the Yoruba.

On Thursday, January 17, 2019, the Musical Society of Nigeria in partnership with Friends of Akin Euba and University of Lagos hosted a concert in honour of Akin Euba.

The concert, in which eight out of the 19 classical pieces performed were Euba’s compositions, held at the Agip Recital Hall, MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos.

Globally known for inventing and theorising the concept of African pianism, Euba devoted a significant portion of his composing career to
exploring how the piano, because of its unique attributes, could be used as a medium for re-interpreting the core structural and rhythmic principles of African music in new ways and for global audiences.

Euba’s interest in music began when he was a student at the CMS Grammar School in Lagos. After years of study at the Trinity College of
Music in London and the University of California, Los Angeles, Euba returned to Nigeria to start the department of music at the University of Ife (OAU) in 1976. He left Ife for the University of Lagos where he was appointed Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies and Professor of music from 1977 to 1980.

A former member of MUSON, Euba devoted a significant part of his professional career to promoting African modern compositions on the
global stage through performances, research and creative work. He retired in 2011 and lived in the United States of America.

He was professor and director of the Centre for Cultural Studies at the University of Lagos and has also served as a senior research fellow at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Nigeria.

He served as head of music at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation for five years. He was a research scholar and artist in residence at IWALEWA House, the African studies centre of the University of Bayreuth in Germany between 1986 and 1992.

He was the Andrew Mellon Professor ofMusic at the University of Pittsburgh between 1993 and 2011 and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor, Emeritus in music. He was the founder and director of the Centre for Intercultural Music Arts, London (founded in 1989), and director emeritus of the Centre for Intercultural Musicology at Churchill College, University of Cambridge.


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