Tunde Jegede popularly known as Kora master is a versatile cellist and kora virtuoso. He is also a talented composer, brilliant music producer, and songwriter. The multi-instrumentalist musician was born in London on the 28 of January 1972 to the family of Mr. Emmanuel Taiwo Jegede and Galina Chester. His father was the Artist and an indigene of Ekiti, the western part of Nigeria. In addition, his mother is an English Painter and Film-maker of Irish descent. Tunde’s musicianship was uniquely influenced by Western classical music and African music from the Griot Tradition of West Africa.
Tunde Jegede started his education at the early age of 8 at Purcell School of Music in 1980. The specialist training school for young Classical Musicians between the ages of 9 and 18.
In 1982, he traveled to the Gambia in Africa for an apprenticeship in the music of the West African harp-lute known as Kora. The instrument he fell in love with at first sight during a performance when he was six years old. He studied the ancient griot tradition of West Africa under the tutelage of Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, Master of the Kora. Of course, he has a deep understanding and appreciation of the Kora music directly from his master. Specifically, he started playing the ancient instrument professionally after his two years of apprenticeship.
Eventually, he returned to the United Kingdom after his apprenticeship in Kora and continue his education. Tunde Jegede continued his Classical Music studies at the Purcell School of Music where he specialized in the Cello. He passed through the tutelage of some of the world’s accomplished teachers like Joan Dickson, Elma de Bruyne, Alfia and Bekova.
Thereafter, he studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. The ancient conservatoire and drama school located in the City of London, UK, where he was schooled by Raphael Wallfisch. The school offers undergraduate and postgraduate training and regarded as one of the best Music and Drama Conservatories in the world.
Journey Into Music
Tunde Jegede started his musical journey at a very early year because he started playing drums before the age of one. Of course, he was obsessed with banging drums as a baby. In addition, he was influenced by his father’s artistic expression in percussion and visual art.
The iconic musician journey into music was further influence by visitors at Britain’s art center for the black community known as Keskidee Centre. A place where his father stands as the artist-in-residence. There he met musicians like Bob Marley, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Bouli Cissokho as well as the activist Angela Davis. In fact, one can say that the Keskidee Centre is the place Tunde’s artistic influences were first nurtured as a child. grew up around the influence of music
Moreover, Tunde Jegede was also influenced by his grandfather who was a Church Organist. Actually, he drew Tunde’s interest in Classical music. Besides, Tunde Jegede was also a member of the boys’ choir that visited Cathedrals across the country. All these encounters with music and musician influences his interest in music and contributed to his growing attention to music.
In fact, Tunde’s interest called for his supportive mother’s attention that she enrolled him at Purcell School of Music, London in 1980. A place he spends years learning Cello and rudiments of Classical Music. Later, he had an encounter with the Kora and also developed so much interest in the sound of the instrument. The interest further increased when he saw Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, old Gambian virtuoso of the Instrument, performing in his United Kingdom tour. The Kora master, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh noticed Tunde Jegede’s deep interest to learn Kora and advised him to join him in the Gambia for the apprenticeship. The young Tunde jumped into the opportunity and today he’s also the master of the instrument.
However, during his stay with Bansang Jobarteh, he refused to cross over and learned Cello in parallel with the Kora. The talented musician established a form of schizophrenic existence between the African instrument on one side and the Western instrument on the other side.
Music And Career
Tunde Jegede as a young man exhibits his genius bright and early when he worked with his mother to author a book in 1987. The title of the book is ‘Silenced Voice: Hidden Music of the Kora’. The book tells a story about the Kora and also analyses how the Western music establishment takes advantage of it. The content of the book is an extensive work of erudition. However, it caused serious disagreement because it deals with themes that many refused to talk about. It was a huge surprise to see it coming from a 15-year-old instrumentalist.
At the same age of 15, Tunde Jegede was influenced by the development of Jazz music in London around that time. Also, he was inspired by other talented musicians like Courtney Pine and Wynton Marsalis that came around at the same time. Tunde Jegede jump into Jazz music and started to use cello to play picked bass in his school jazz trio. This paved way for him to explore the music of jazz musicians like John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and so on.
Indeed, Tunde Jegede took a deep interest in Jazz Music experimentation. In fact, in 1998, he started performing and recording with other distinguished jazz musicians like Cleveland Watkiss. Thereafter, he formed his own Jazz group called the Jazz Griots. With this group, he continues his experimentation with African and African diasporic music and tried to pinpoint the connection in their origin. He later established a theory that African Classical Music is on the same level as European Classical Music in terms of content and quality.
Furthermore, he noted that the right of African Classical music to the ancient harmony structures that exist in instruments like Kora. This ancient harmony structures in African Classical music is dated back to over 750 years in comparison to European Classical Music with a little span of over 500 years. With this in mind, he established a group called the African Classical Music ensemble in the year 1991. This is actually based on the idea to play more or less of African traditional repertoire only with a defined audience. The group traveled around the United Kingdom in its debut year and performing original music composed by Tunde Jegede.
Moreover, he cited the entitlement of African Classical music to be called such to the ancient harmony structures, which instruments like the Kora permit, and which are dated to at least 750 years, as compared to European Classical Music, which has had a time span of a little over 500 years. To this end, he formed the African Classical Music ensemble in 1991, which toured the United Kingdom in the same year, performing many of Jegede’s original compositions.
Simultaneously, he keeps working as a classical composer and build a solid reputation for himself. Consequently, the Eastern Orchestral Board appointed him as the Innovations Composer. Interestingly, he uses this office to work with outstanding Orchestras like the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, and The Philharmonia. Also, he worked with the London Mozart Players, Viva Sinfonia, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. As a result, they all performed compositions by Tunde Jegede. In addition, he was appointed to compose for the famous British string quartet, Brodsky Quartet, and many others.
Besides other ensembles that Jegede has founded, he also founded the Art Ensemble of Lagos. Also, he established the first traditional music archive known as the curator of Living Legacies in the Gambia. Specifically, he built a database of both past and present traditional musicians of Gambia. With the aid of archive footage and photographs dated back to the ’70s, and a collection of recordings. The work features his late tutor Amadu Bansang Jobarteh and others.
Also in 2015, he founded New Horizons as a brand of concert series that dish out his operatic, African, chamber, and Jazz music. The institution also stands to develop young musicians and create a platform for solid musical expression. For this purpose, New Horizon brings skillful international and local artists together to collaborate with young musicians and singers of MUSON school of music in Lagos.
In 2014, he was appointed as the artistic director of the MUSON center, Nigeria music conservatoires that specialize in classical music and based in Lagos. This was ahead of the groundwork for the 18th edition of the annual MUSON Festival. Consequently, he launched NOK Foundation, a charitable organization committed to raising consciousness through music, arts, and culture.
Equally important, Tunde Jegede also keeps up with lecturing around the world in noble institutions like the University of Pittsburgh, Churchill College in Cambridge, and Trinity College in Dublin. Also, he has lectured at Goldsmiths College, Birkbeck College at the University of London, St. Augustine College in Trinidad, and many others. Besides lecturing, Tunde Jegede is also a household name in musical talks and masterclasses.
Tunde is also a producer and he has worked with talented musicians around the world in urban music and Jazz. Specifically, he worked with Courtney Pine, Oumou Sangare, Cleveland Watkiss, Toumani Diabate, and Talvin Singh.
The modern Kora master has released up to six-album with his creative diversity in music. To begin with, Tunde Jegede’s first album is Cycle Of Reckoning and was released on cassette in 1991. The Subsequent album is “Lamentation” that he released with Members Of The London Sinfonietta in 1995. Lamentation was produced by Tunde Jegede and Paul Balmer under Triciom Records. Also, he released 8 tracks CD called Malian Royal Court Music under the label of Triciom Records in 1996.
Thereafter, he released a meditative album of solo kora music title still moment that in 2006. Later in 2009, he uncovered another album with the African Classical Music Ensemble called There Was a Time. Also, in that same year 2009, he released another album How Many Prophets with the Nomadic Mystics. Afterward, he released Heritage, Testimony, and The Elements in the year 2014. And then Mali in Oak where he worked with Derek Gripper in 2015 before The Emidy Project he did with Diana Baroni Trio in 2018.
AS A Composer
After years of study Kora, cello, and mastery of the two ancient and complex Instruments and genres combine with the rudiments of Classical Music, Tunde Jegede eventually realized the essence of composition to his creativity. Of course, he understood that composition is the only vehicle that will allow him the kind of creative expression he wanted.
Tunde’s talent as a composer came into play at age of 15 when he composed for Crummles Theatre Company, London, in their 1987 live performance production of Othello. He also composed for a channel 4 television production called Ouaga in 1988 and performed alongside Sona Jobarteh. This he did without the formal study in composition.
With the success of these little efforts, he keeps developing his artistic competency through the years in the space of African Classical music. And he put all his journey experiences together to create a form of music that depicts his journey altogether. This actually shows in his work that fussed western and African music together. Obviously, we can trace this to his knowledge of Western Instrument Cello and African Instrument Kora.
Consequently, he wrote several pieces of music that eventually marked him as one of Africa’s greatest living Classical music composers. In short, Tunde has composed musical pieces for theatre and opera, filmmakers, theatre directors, TV production, and choreographers. Also, most of his compositions have been performed all around the world.
As a composer, Tunde Jegede was commissioned to write for dance companies like Richard Alston Dance Co. in the UK, and Random Dance Company also in the UK. In addition to the list are Forces of Nature Dance Theatre in the USA, Q Dance in Nigeria, and Jant-Bi in Senegal.
Also, he was commissioned to write for many leading classical music artists and orchestras in the United Kingdom. In addition, he has written several soundtracks pieces for film and documentary. For instance, Tunde Jegede wrote for the award-winning feature documentaries 500 Years Later and also Hopes on the Horizons. Besides, Tunde has written numbers of full-scale operas and up to twenty symphonic works.
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