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Professor Akin Euba

Akin Euba

Professor Akin Euba is a Nigeria-born pianist, composer, and musicologist. The renowned ethnomusicologist is presumably the most literary Nigerian scholar and is globally known as the father and inventor of African Pianism.

He developed the theory of African Pianism to re-interpret the core structural, rhythmic principles, and performance aspects of African music. The term he popularized and called creative ethnomusicology.

Professor Akin Euba was one of the top authorities on African musicology around the world with notable research work. 

Specifically, his research work covered areas of popular, traditional, church, and art music from different nations and ethnic communities in Africa.

Professor Akin Euba was born in Lagos to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Alphaeus Sobiyi Euba. on the 28th of April 1935. The name of his mother is Winifred Remilekun Euba who is a school teacher by profession.  

Both of his parents are from the Yoruba ethnic group and specifically from Lagos. Akin Euba grew up in Lagos and started his musicianship there as well.

Akin Euba Journey Into Music

Akin Euba

Professor Akin Euba started his journey into music at the tender age of 8 when he started piano lessons.

His interest in music was ignited by his father who was his first piano lesson teacher in 1943. Actually, his father who is also a pianist wanted him to become a professional musician.

Mr. Alphaeus Sobiyi Euba is indeed a lover of music and an active amateur musician in his youth. Moreover, he was a member of the choir at then Olowogbowo, Methodist Church, Lagos. The Methodist Church is now The Wesley Cathedral, Olowogbowo.

Professor Akin Euba’s father is also a clarinet player (clarinetist) at the Triumph Orchestra, a Lagos dance band. Fela Sowande, another celebrated African art musician from Nigeria was the pianist of the band then.

Learning Under Mayor J.G.C. Allen

In addition to his father’s teaching, he learned more about piano and music with Major J G C Allen who is his second piano teacher.  

Major Allen is a British civil servant with whom Akin Euba started his private piano lessons in1948.

His musical experience was so significant that he made rapid progress in piano playing. 

In fact, he won a silver medal at the Nigerian Festival of the Arts organized by the Ministry of Culture in 1950. This is a stronghold of his progress toward his musical career.

After 1950, Major Allen believed Akin had learned all he could offer so he sent him another teacher for more knowledge. Akin Euba’s New teacher was Monsieur Tessier Rémi du Cros, who was the French Consul in Lagos then.

He was sent to a Monsieur Tessier Rémi du Cros, who was the French Consul in Lagos then by Major Allen. He went under the tutelage of Monsieur Tessier Rémi du Cros for a while, and later returned to Major Allen.

Indeed, Major J.G.C. Allen has a great impact on Euba’s music career. Besides teaching young AKin piano lessons, he was through his help Akin Euba was awarded a Federal Government scholarship.

Moreover, Major J.G.C. Allen used the scholarship to arrange for his admission to the Trinity College of Music, London where he studied music.

Both Major J.G.C. Allen and Rémi du Cros’s tutelage later served as a strong foundation for his study at Trinity College.

Akin Euba Education

Akin Euba started his formal education at C.M.S. Grammar School, Lagos which is now Anglican Grammar School. At the school, He received more education about rudiments of the Western music and singing.

Also, the school introduced him to British folk songs and some Nigerian songs that he sang together with other children. However, he later became a well-known student of the school after he had won the Silver award in 1950.

Moreover, he left the school nine months earlier on a successful musical journey to continue his studies abroad. Specifically, Akin Euba secured a government scholarship and traveled in September 1952, to study music at Trinity College, London.

What Did Akin Euba Study?

Professor Akin Euba studied ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles for his Bachelor’s degree. (B.A. degree in Music in 1964).

He also did his Master’s degree program in Composition at the same university. (M.A. Music Composition, 1966). And obtained his doctorate from the University of Ghana. (Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology, 1974)

The following sections will elaborate on his academic journey.

Akin Euba Life At The Trinity College, London

Professor Akin Euba started a new life as a music student at Trinity College, London. He spent the first two years as a normal music student at the college.

Thereafter, he changed his program to one he believed would be of great value to his career in the future. So, he focused his studies on score-reading, piano, organ, harmony and counterpoint, composition, and orchestration.

At the college, he was a student of harmony and counterpoint under the tutelage of Eric Taylor. Also, he studied composition under Arnold Cooke who was a former student of Paul Hindemith.

Study Under Eric Taylor

Akin Euba has the privilege to study harmony and counterpoint on a one-to-one basis under Eric Taylor. This course was not taught as class subjects at that time and this made Taylor’s influence on Euba’s career possible.

The influence of Eric Taylor contributed greatly to Akin Euba’s music career.

Eric Taylor steered him toward composition as a result of the great potential he saw in him. This was championed by Euba’s arrangements of Nigerian folk songs Taylor saw.

Consequently, Eric Taylor encouraged him to do them and guided him toward developing an African voice in his composition. This led Akin Euba to do the first of such arrangements while he was still a student. And the rest they say it was a story.

Study Under Dr. Arnold Cooke

Akin Euba studied composition under Arnold Cooke is one of the factors that have a positive impact on his music career. 

Dr. Arnold Cooke is another person he met at Trinity College that gave him so much encouragement.

Cooke engraved Euba’s first term excellent grade in composition with a special comment that says “Akin Euba was a gifted student”. This, in Euba’s point of view, greatly reinforced his ambition to become a composer.

Certificate Akin Euba Obtained at the Trinity College

Professor Akin Euba spent his time at the Trinity College of Music, London judiciously.  During the course of his four years at the college, he earned three degrees.

In 1954, he received an Associate of Trinity College London (Piano Performance). 

Again in 1955, he obtained a Licentiate of the Trinity College London (Teachers Training Diploma). 

And later in1956, he earned a Licentiate of the Trinity College London (Piano Performance).

Finally, in 1957 he obtained the Fellowship of the Trinity College of Music, London (FTCL) in piano and in composition.

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Akin Euba returned to school in 1962 with the Rockefeller Foundation Scholarship award he got to study in the United States. 

He chose to study ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Indeed, studying ethnomusicology at UCLA was a period of good composition discoveries for him.  

The study really had an impact on his career as he was made acquainted with different musical cultures from different parts of the world.

In particular, he took courses on the elements of traditional African music along with the prospects of their inclusion in his works. 

This generally widened his perspective and gave him more insight into African music and more understanding of Nigerian traditional music.

Hence, he started to realize the key to developing an African voice in composition. He celebrated this new discovery with the composition of Igi Nla for piano and Yoruba drums, in 1963.

At the end of the 1963/1964 school calendar year, Akin Euba graduated with a Bachelor of Art (Honours) degree in Music.

People Who Impacted His Learning At The UCLA

At UCLA, he met people like Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia, and others like Professor Mantle Hood and Klaus Wachsmann.

Professor Hood was the director of the Institute of Ethnomusicology during his studies at UCLA and he was the one that encouraged him to acquire academic degrees.  

Furthermore, Klaus Wachsmann was a great scholar of African music at UCLA that indeed really encouraged Akin Euba’s scholarly efforts. Besides, Klaus Wachsmann was like a role model to him.

These ethnomusicologists really impacted his career in one way or the other. Consequently, he studied with Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia for his doctorate degree.

Master’s Degree At UCLA

Later in 1965, he registered for a Master’s degree program in Composition at the same University of California, Los Angeles.

During that time, he studied with great scholars like Charles Seeger, Mantle Hood, Roy Travis, Klaus Wachsmann, and Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia.

He completed his master’s degree in 1966 with composition for an ensemble consisting entirely of African instruments for his MA thesis.

The influence of Mantle Hood and Roy Travis on his MA committee made writing for an ensemble consisting entirely of African instruments possible for him at the University of California.

Euba said in one of his interviews with the Music Guy that Hood assembled musical instruments from different parts of the world and brought over people to teach them at UCLA.

He further cleared the air that the practice enabled students to learn how to play the music they were studying.

And finalized it that the atmosphere at UCLA at the time promoted intercultural composition and was most favorable for his development as a composer.

University of Legon, Ghana

Akin Euba did not actually stay long enough at UCLA to do his Ph.D. degree program.

However, he made up his mind to enroll for his doctoral work at the University of Ghana and work with Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia.

Specifically, he enrolled as a part-time student in the Ph.D. program in ethnomusicology at the University of Ghana in 1967.

Consequently, he earned his doctorate degree in 1974 with a thesis on Yoruba dundun music.

Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia truly impacted him in different ways and influenced his career longer than anybody else.

As a result of that, he wrote a book on creative musicology that is typically based on the music practice of Nketia.

Akin Euba’s Professional and Academic Career

Akin Euba’s career traverses broadcasting and academics. And at every point of his career, the iconic musician left an indelible mark of success.

The eminent Nigerian composer and musicologist worked as professionally as a broadcaster and lectured in different universities across the globe.

He has successfully published diverse academic books and composed different forms of music.

Work at Nigerian Television Authority

After he had finished his study at Trinity College of Music, London, he returned to Nigeria and joined Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC).

The Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) is now the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).

He was a Senior Programme Assistant in the Music and Music Research Unit at the NBC.

During his time at Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), Professor Akin Euba started to develop an interest in Nigerian traditional music research.

Of course, he recorded and produced different performances of traditional music across different parts of Yorubaland for broadcast.

He was at NBC (now NTA) when he wrote Six Yoruba Songs for voice and piano and also Two Yoruba Folk Songs for an unaccompanied choir.

The two compositions he completed in 1959 were based on his broadcasting experience at that time.

Subsequently, in 1960, the corporation promoted him to the post of Head of Music. Thereafter, he put another composition together and called it The Wanderer for violoncello and piano.

The Wanderer is the arrangement of folk songs and first Euba’s composition he made an effort to explore elements of African music.

Akin Euba judiciously used his position as head of music in the broadcasting house for o performances and recordings of part of his early works.

During his service as an employee of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation he got a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship scholarship towards the end of 1962.

Specifically, the scholarship was awarded to him to study for a Bachelor’s degree in ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Lecturing Job At University of Lagos

Professor Akin Euba formally left the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in 1965 to study for his Master’s degree at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).

Akin Euba finished his Master’s Degree at UCLA in 1966 and returned to Nigeria. He started a new career as a lecturer in the music department of the University of Lagos.

During the same year he joined the University of Lagos staff, he attended music conferences in both America and Ghana.

Moreover, he was a member of staff at the School of African and Asian Studies and had more free time with his new teaching job.

 So he used that privilege to focus more on creative work and research on ethnomusicology.

Also, he used the opportunity and registered with the University of Ghana in 1967 for his doctorate degree in ethnomusicology. Consequently, he acquired a deeper grasp of the music of his culture.

He resigned from his appointment at the University of Lagos to join the academic staff of the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) as Senior Research Fellow.

He later came back when he was appointed as the Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies at the University in the 1977/1978 academic session.

Subsequently, he became a full Professor in 1978 at the Centre for Cultural Studies, University of Lagos.

Akin Olatunji Euba was a Professor of Music at the University of Lagos from 1978 to 1981

Lecturing Job At University of Ife

Professor Akin Euba at Inaugural Faculty Piano recital of Professor Godwin Sadoh at OAU, Pit Theater Jan 1990

He later left the University of Lagos in 1968 and signed an appointment with the University of Ife which is now known as Obafemi Awolowo University.

At the then University of Ife, he was a Senior Research Fellow in the Institute of African Studies. Also, Akin Euba served as the coordinator of a semi-professional artists group of the University known as “Ori Olokun”.

During his time at the now Obafemi Awolowo University, Akin Euba spent the 1969’s summer at Howard University in Washington.

He was an external examiner at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and Makerere University in Uganda.  

While still at the University of Ife, Akin Euba did spread his academic excellence to the University of Ibadan as a lecturer. 

He was a part-time lecturer at the University of Ibadan in the Department of Theater Arts during the 1973/74 and 1975/76 academic sessions.

Professor Akin Olatunji Euba later became the founding Head of the Music Department of Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife) in 1976.

He created the Department of Music of the then University of Ife from scratch and developed its program of courses.

He was still at the University of Ife when he was seconded to the International Secretariat of the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ‘77) as Head of Music.

Also, he was the Music Director for Nigeria’s National Participation Secretariat in the 2nd World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture.

Akin Euba was the head of the Music department at the University of Ife till September 1977. He left Ife University to pick up another appointment at the University of Lagos.

Akin Euba’s Life at the University of Pittsburgh

Andrew Mellon Professor of Music, Akin Euba and Ayo Oluranti

Professor Akin Euba joined the University of Pittsburgh as Andrew Mellon Professor of Music in 1993.

Akin Euba’s specialties are in the field of African Music, Composition, and Piano Performance.

He taught courses like Music in Africa, World Music, and Introduction to Ethnomusicology at the University of Pittsburgh. 

In addition, his teachings cover Field and Lab Methods, Intercultural Musicology, and Creative Ethnomusicology.

The renowned African composer and scholar remained Andrew Mellon, Professor of Music, till the year 2011 when he retired.

However, he continues to serve as the Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emeritus in music till April 14, 2020, when he breathed his last breath.

Other Scholar Job Akin Euba Involved

The career of the Nigerian Composer-Ethnomusicologist Akin Euba extends from his mother country to other continents of the world.

The father of African Pianism was at IWALEWA House, Germany as a research scholar and artist in residence from 1986 to 1992.

Specifically, IWALEWA House is an African studies center at the University of Bayreuth in Germany.

Also, Akin Euba was the director emeritus of the Centre for Intercultural Musicology at Churchill College, University of Cambridge.

During the 2000-2001 academic year, Professor Akin Euba was at the University of Cambridge as an overseas fellow of Churchill College of the university.

He also spent ten days in Toronto during the spring semester of 2003 as a composer-in-residence. Professor Euba was with the Ensemble Noir during that period and many of his works were performed.

Akin Euba’s Compositional Works

Professor Akin Euba started his compositional career at Trinity College and is no doubt one of the top composers of African Art music.

Of course, he beautifully composed different pieces in different eras of his life. And his composition ranges from solo piano to opera and cuts across a variety of mediums.

His composition journey began when he composed his first major work as an orchestral piece in 1956 and called it “Introduction and Allegro”. Afterward, he wrote the String Quartet in 1957.

The composer and academia submitted a string quartet for the Composition Fellowship in 1957. He used both compositions specifically for experimentation with atonality.

Post Trinity College Study Era

When he returned to Nigeria the iconic composer wrote another two works about his experience at the time.

The first work was “Six Yoruba Songs for voice and piano” and the second was “Two Yoruba Folk Songs for unaccompanied Choirs”. The two compositions were completed in 1959.

Thereafter, he composed “The Wanderer: for violin, cello, and piano” in 1960. The Wanderer was the first composition by Akin Euba that explores African material in his music.

Personally, Professor Akin Euba’s comments on The Wanderer are as follows:                   

Hitherto,” he confirms, “It was in arrangements of folk songs that I made use of African material.  My original compositions were composed in European terms.  The Wanderer was the first composition in which I attempted to explore elements of African music.

UCLA Study Era

Studying ethnomusicology at the University of California was a turning point in his career. Also, it formed a major part of his development as a composer.

During his studies at the university, he started to work on the development of what he called an African idiom.

The African idiom he developed was used in the composition of “Igi Nla So: For Yoruba Drums and Piano” in 1963. The Yoruba drums used in the composition are Gudugudu, Kanango, lya-ilu, and kerikeri.

Also, he used the African idiom to compose “Three Yoruba Songs: for baritone, piano, and Iya-ilu” in the same year 1963. Iya-ilu is a Yoruba dundun popularly known as Yoruba ‘talking drum’.

He further utilized the African idiom he developed to write “Five Pieces (for English horn and piano)” in 1963, and also “Dance to the Rising Sun” in 1963.

His Dance to the Rising Sun composition is an orchestral piece. That particular work by Professor Euba was commissioned by the conductor, Robert Boudreau, and the American Wind Symphony Orchestra.

Furthermore, he studied the rhythmic nuances of conventional Yoruba music in conjunction with the twentieth-century European atonality to compose a piece.

The result of his exploration gave birth to Four Pieces for African orchestra, which he composed for his Master’s degree thesis in1966.

Akin Euba Piano Work for African Pianism Development

Akin Euba

Professor Akin Euba composed several piano works in 1964 to explore the “African” or “percussive” aspects of the piano.

He just started his journey to develop a distinct piano playing idea he called “African Pianism” at that time.

As a result, Akin Euba composed a piece with traces of African pianism In 1964 called Four Pictures from Oyo Calabashes. 

Other pieces he composed for piano in that same year to explore African pianism he was developing are Impressions from an Akwete Cloth and Saturday Night at Caban Bamboo.

In the same 1964, he wrote other pieces for other instruments and the piano. In particular, Tortoise and the Speaking Cloth for narrator and piano, and Four Pieces for flute, bassoon, piano, and percussion.

Furthermore, he studied the rhythmic nuances of conventional Yoruba music in conjunction with the twentieth-century European atonality to compose for his Master’s degree thesis.

The result of his exploration gave birth to Four Pieces for African orchestra, in 1966.

University of Ghana Study Era

At this time, Euba has acquired a deeper knowledge of the traditional music of his culture. 

He utilised this knowledge to compose Olurombi, for a symphony orchestra in 1967. Oluronbi is a symphonic tone poem about a Yoruba legend.

In all these works, Euba explores the rhythmic nuances of traditional Yoruba music in combination with twentieth-century European atonality.

The piece, Oluronbi was performed in 1967 by the Portland Maine Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Arthur Lipkin.

Also in 1967, he composed Morning, Noon, and Night for Nigerian instruments as well as Wind Quintet.

That same year, the Theatre Express of Lagos performed Morning, Noon, and Night in Edinburgh. 

His Wind Quintet was also performed in 1967 by the Bavarian Wind Quintet in Nairobi, Kenya.

In 1970, Professor Akin Euba composed an Opera in Two Chants titled Chaka. 

Chaka is a two-chants composition that blends West African percussion and atenteben flutes with a twelve-tone technique.

This particular composition (Chaka) was recognized as his most ambitious composition. 

Akin Euba Life at University of Cambridge

During the little time he spent at Cambridge, Professor Euba came out with a new composition called Orunmila’s Voices in 2000.

This song Orunmila’s Voices: Songs from the Beginning of Time is a music drama for soloists, chorus, chanters, dancers, and symphony orchestra.

Typically, the composition used non-Yoruba musical instruments to describe the aspect of Yoruba culture.

The composition (Orunmila’s Voice) was premiered during the second annual international festival of African and African American music (FESAAM 2002).

This event took place on 23 February 2002 in New Orleans and he gave a festival talk there.

Other Composition by Akin Euba

Find some other compositions of Professor Akin Euba below.

  • Below Rusumo Falls, voice, dancer, kayagum, flute, drums, and piano, 2003
  • Wakar Duru: Studies in African Pianism 1–3, piano. 1987
  • Black Bethlehem, soloists, chorus, Nigerian drums, and jazz ensemble, 1979
  • Ice Cubes, string orchestra, 1970
  • Scenes From Traditional Life, piano, 1970
  • Alatangana, ballet for singers, dancers, and Nigerian instruments, 1975

Akin Euba’s Achievements

L-R: Ayo Bankole Jr, Glen Inanga, Christopher Oyesiku, Akin Euba

Professor Akin Euba is one of the people who did well to a significant extent in their chosen field. His achievement as a composer and scholar of music was indeed remarkable.

Unquestionably, his significant contributions to Africanist music scholarship and the growth of African art music are well known and recognized.

Also, he was renowned for the experimental and development of different theories which include and are not limited to African Pianism, Intercultural Musicology, and creative ethnomusicology.

African Pianism

Professor Euba is known as the pioneer of African pianism because he invented and conceptualised the concept.

The term African pianism is a theory behind using the Western piano to reinterpret the intricacies of African music.

This concept allows composers to create music that reinterprets the structural and performance features of African music with the Western piano.

Creative Ethnomusicology

Furthermore, he invented and popularised what we know today as creative ethnomusicology. This he did to form a concept for the connection between musical composition and ethnographic research.

Centre for Intercultural Music Arts and Elekoto Ensemble

Professor Akin Euba founded the Centre for Intercultural Music Arts in London in 1989 and he was the first director of the organisation.

Also, he was the founder of the Elekoto Ensemble. The group has brought musicians from Nigeria, the United States, Germany, Malta, China, and India together.

Akin Euba Symposium On Music in Africa

Professor Akin Euba is known for the regular organisation of symposia on music in Africa majorly at Churchill College, Cambridge. Also, he organised the same symposia regularly at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing as well.

Within his capacity, Professor Akin Euba has mentored different scholars and musicians within the soil of Africa and beyond.  

Moreover, his works are invaluable and irreplaceable academic and creative resources for students, scholars, and composers.

Award And Honours

In terms of awards and honours, Professor Akin Euba received an honour from home and abroad. The earlier award and honour he received was the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in 1962.  

And after that several awards and honours have followed. Notably, he was the Emeritus Andrew Mellon Professor of Music at the University of Pittsburgh in the United State.

In recognition of the job well done by Professor Akin Euba, an international symposium was held in 2019 from January 16 to18 to honour him. A music concert followed the symposium to finalise the program.

Both the symposium and the concert were jointly sponsored by the University of Lagos and the Musical Society of Nigeria.

Specifically, the special event was organized to celebrate the remarkable achievements of Professor Akin Euba for his invaluable contribution to world music.

The three days symposium and a one-day concert was a special event that attracted scholars and lovers of art music around the world.

People came from the United Kingdom, United States, Ghana, South Africa, Nigeria, and other countries to honour him.

The concert tagged “AKIN EUBA TRIBUTE CONCERT” was held on January 19, 2019, at Agip Hall, MUSON Center, Lagos in honour of the renowned music scholar, Prof. Akin Euba.

and it paraded top Nigerian classical music performers.

The concert featured majorly the works of Professor Akin Euba and also the works of other prominent Nigerian composers.

The “AKIN EUBA TRIBUTE CONCERT” also attracts musicians from Ghana and the United States like David Kafui (Ghanaian pianist) and John Robison (University of Florida).

By the same token, Professor Akin Euba recived honour with his biography published in the International Dictionary of Black Composers, 1999. His biography was also published in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed., 2001.

In Conclusion

Professor Akin Euba has had a commendable professional career both in broadcasting and academic space.

He has several academic publications and musical compositions to his credit. Much of Akin Euba’s music falls into the genre termed “modern music”.

This kind of musical composition does not necessarily contain sweet passages. The dissonant sounds and atonal passages marked their characteristics and this often appears harsh to the uninitiated ear.

In addition, his compositions involve a synthesis of African traditional material (often from his ethnic group, the Yoruba people) and contemporary classical music.

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