Professor Mosunmola Omibiyi Obidike is at the leading edge of teachers and researchers in ethnomusicology in Nigeria. Also, she remained the first female professor of music in sub-Saharan Africa. She was known not in the music composition field but as a pioneer of music education in Nigeria and abroad. She was born to the family of Deacon John Otunla Omibiyi and Mrs. Ruth Mojirade Omibiyi on January 20, 1943, in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.
She was one of the students admitted to the Reagan Memorial Baptist Girls’ School, Yaba, Lagos, in 1956. There she learned the rudiments of music, singing, and piano playing. Professor Mosunmola was a member of the School’s choir, which featured her in singing competitions at various Baptist Conventions, concerts, and radio programs.
Professor Mosunmola was a student of Fela Sowande College (now Department) of Music, University of Nigeria, Nsukka in from 1963 to 1966 on Western State Scholarship. That made her the first female student in the department. However, her admission experienced a temporary interruption by the Nigerian political crises in 1966. She finished her degree program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1968. She achieved that on full Scholarship of Western State Government of Nigeria., majoring in ethnomusicology and music education.
Professor Mosunmola Omibiyi-Obidike obtained a BA in music at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in1968. . Also, she got an MA in African Music Educatione in 1969, and a Ph.D. in Music Education in 1972 from the same University. Professor Mosunmola was beneficiary of the Western State Government Scholarship from 1964 to 1968 and was also awarded the University of California Scholarship in 1969. In addition, she was a fellow of Alexander von Humboldt between the years 1981 and 1982. Omibiyi-Obidike worked and eventually became a Research Professor at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, in 1989. In fact, Mama African Musicology as she is popularly called was the first female professor in music across Sub-Saharan Africa.
Career and Life
After finishing her studies at UCLA, Mosunmola Obidike went back to Nigeria and joined the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University OAU). A few years later, she joined the Institute of African Studies of the prestigious University of Ibadan as a Research Fellow I on 2nd January 1978. Thereafter, she gained promotion to Senior Research Fellow in Musicology on 1 October 1981. Eventually, she got a promotion to the rank of Research Professor of Musicology on 1 October 1989. This marked her as the first Nigerian and African Woman in that position. She served as the Director of the Institute between1995-1998 and also 2001-2004.
Her career was a load of something amazing. However, her contribution to the scholarship of modern African art music probably appeared as the biggest. Furthermore, Professor Omibiyi-Obidike’s input to the creation of music at the University of Ibadan can also be considered as great. Because studies of music were not a core feature of the University of Ibadan been a premier University in Nigeria.
In terms of artistic performance, Professor Omibiyi-Obidike has performed on different occasions as a soloist. Also, she has performed in notable concerts and operas on many occasions. Professor Mosunmola played a major role in ‘The Sound of Music’ operetta organized by NBC in 1962. She gave the special NBC’s invited-audience an outstanding solo performance. Also, between 1968 and 1970, she gave multifarious solo performances in Los Angeles with her unique soprano.
Moreover, “Mama African Musicology” as she was popularly called, has served in different capacities. These include Consultant to Creative Arts of Africa, Black Studies Project, Department of Music, Fisk University, Nashville Tennessee USA, in 1974. And also as Consultant to Ethnic Heritage Project Bowie State College, Bowie, Maryland, USA, from 1974-1975.
In addition, Professor Mosunmola was among the members of the committee on Music for the Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ’77). She served as a Chairperson of the National Committee of the Nigerian Musical Instrument. Also, she was a member of the Women’s Research and Documentation Centre (WORDOC) of the Institute of African Studies. She was as well a Former Coordinator of the center at the University of Ibadan. Professor Mosunmola was also the Coordinator of the Nigerian Secretariat of the International Centre for African Music and Dance at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, an Institution set to coordinate musical activities in Nigeria. She was the President of the Association of Nigerian Musicologists (ANIM) from 2004-2008.
Equally important, Professor Omibiyi-Obidike was an esteemed scholar of global repute. She has taught and gave lectures in Nigerian and foreign institutions, on the nature of African music. Also, on African-American music, Nigerian folk music, and the linguistic influence on music in Africa. Despite her retirement in 2008, she still delivered her service to the University of Ibadan by supervising students on a higher degree in ethnomusicology. Besides, she has over seventy publications in her area of specialization in Local and Internal journals. Specifically, the bulk of her publication is focusing on music education, cultural reconstruction, and documentation of Nigerian music and musicians. In fact, two of her publications: Nigerian Musical Instruments and Children’s Songs from Nigeria are in press.
Awards and Honours
Professor Omibiyi-Obidike was a recipient of several awards, scholarships, and fellowships. These include the University of California Regents and the Alexander Von Humboldt-Stiftung Foundation from 1981-1982 and between 2006-2007. Also, The Fellowship of Alexander Von Humboldt-Stiftung gave Professor Omibiyi the privilege to conduct research in Germany and Europe on African Musical Instruments in European Muscums.
Works Omibiyi-Obidike’s works were published in books and learned journals like African Music, Pan-African Journal, Universities, and Nigerian Magazine.
Professor Omibiyi-Obidike bid this world goodbye on 6 May 2016 at the age of 73. She survived by children and grandchildren. Professor Omibiyi-Obidike left this world but not without a mark. Indeed, her contributions to the preservation of the folk traditions of African music and dance remain. Also, her intervention to ensure that indigenous musical is forms and practices, remain the essence of the curriculum of music education in Nigeria and Africa, and will not be forgotten.
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