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African Pianism (Rebeca Omordia)

Rebeca Omordia (piano) (SOMM)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

African Pianism
Works by Bankole, Benabdeljalil, D Earl, Euba, Nketia, Onyeji and Onovwerosuoke
Rebeca Omordia (piano)
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 0647   77:30 mins


In the mid 20th century, the legacy of imperial Victoriana blended with traditional African soundworlds to produce an extraordinary style of music. This repertoire was largely unknown in the UK until Nigerian-Romanian pianist Rebeca Omordia recently introduced key composers. Omordia’s second album takes its title from a collection of 12 pedagogical pieces written by JH Kwabena Nketia when the School of Performing Arts at the University of Ghana was established in the 1960s. The four featured here are written in the style of intermediate-level Classical hits but with a focus on distinctive African rhythms. Volta Fantasy, otherwise free-flowing and melodic, is enhanced by a percussive undertone. This idea is taken further by Christian Onyeji, who transfers Nigerian drumming patterns to the piano; Omordia effectively turns the instrument into a piece of tuned percussion. The three-movement semi-improvisatory dance Ufie recalls Steve Reich’s similar approach when incorporating Ghanaian techniques into Drumming.

Ayo Bankole’s Egun Variations is a step change. The exploratory harmonic language evokes Chopin and Nigerian folk song (with a hint of ‘Morning Has Broken’). Nabil Benabdeljalil’s Nocturnes also take their lead from Chopin, imbued with a modal character indicative of the composer’s native Morocco. The added percussion in En attente du printemps is a distraction.

Trout have inspired both Schubert and David Earl, whose ‘Princess Rainbow’ from Scenes from a South African Childhood evokes pastoral scenes of the Jonkershoek Valley, where the young Earl played pretend fishing. Omordia’s liquid touch successfully creates the watery effects – listeners must decide whether the frenetic ending heralds escape or capture.

Claire Jackson

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