Ekele: Piano Music by Ayo Bankole, Fred Onovwerosuoke and Christian Onyeji

Rebeca Omordia (Heritage)

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Ekele Piano Music by Ayo Bankole, Fred Onovwerosuoke and Christian Onyeji
Rebeca Omordia (piano)
Heritage HTGCD188 63:26 mins

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Skilfully compiled and beautifully performed by Rebeca Omordia, Ekele places a welcome spotlight on contemporary piano works by African composers, introducing new audiences to a neglected but vibrant strand of classical music. At the heart of the disc is a selection of Fred Onovwerosuoke’s 24 Studies in African Rhythms, composed between 1988 and 2009. Cast as a series of dazzling miniatures, the work explores a broad range of African dances, including the irresistible dance rhythms of Edo (Nigeria) and Buganda (Uganda) heard here in an exuberant moto perpetuo titled ‘Okoye’. Omordia brings all the warmth and drive of Onovwerosuoke’s score to life, matching his complex textures with marvellously crisp articulation.

Several key works by the acclaimed Nigerian composer Ayo Bankole also feature, including his Piano Sonata No. 2 in C (The Passion) of 1959. This substantial piece darts between thunderous drama, delicately-crafted melodies and the imaginative recasting of hymn tunes which resound splendidly in Omordia’s assured performance. The disc closes with a cluster of works and arrangements by Christian Onyeji, including an exultant and virtuosic arrangement of the traditional gospel song Chineke Diri Ekele (‘Thanks be to God’) that brings this appealing album to an uplifting close.

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Kate Wakeling