Western classical music meets Nigerian cinema



Courtesy of Andrian Harabaru
Mitchell Hall was filled with students, families and other attendees eagerly awaiting to see “Cordelia”.


On November 5 at 8:00 p.m., the University’s Symphony Orchestra performed the soundtrack to the world premiere of the film “Cordelia” at Mitchell Hall. James Anderson, director of orchestral activities and the university’s Cultural Fusion Initiative, led the project. The film was created by Tunde Kelani, a well-known Nigerian filmmaker.

The preparation for this event took years, starting with Anderson’s initial intention to take the orchestra around the world.

“I had this vision to take the orchestra to all seven continents, and Antarctica is the most difficult, but Africa was next on our list, so I started looking for collaborations in Africa and [found] this particular project, ”Anderson said.

So far, the orchestra has already traveled to four continents. Anderson’s lack of knowledge of Nigerian culture is what spurred his interest in learning and traveling in Nigeria.

“I was talking to Senator Chris Coons, who has a great love for Africa and who is sponsoring the ‘Opportunity: Africa’ conference with the [U.S. Global Leadership Coalition,]”Said Anderson.” He invited me to this conference, and that’s where I met a delegate from Nigeria, and that’s what started this project, and his name is Wale Adelagunja.

After meeting Adelagunja, Anderson spent two weeks in Nigeria in 2018, traveling across the country and speaking with locals about his initiative and the idea of ​​combining Western classical music with traditional Nigerian music. He was fortunate enough to meet Kelani, and they discussed the idea of ​​traveling the world with students from Nigeria and the United States. Kelani said this idea would be a perfect subject for a documentary, and Anderson asked Kelani if ​​he would be interested in filming for the documentary.

“I said to Mr. Kelani, ‘If you can provide me with one of your films and extract the music for the film, I will show it on campus and my band will play a live version of the soundtrack,'” Anderson said. . “He did us a great honor. He said, ‘I’m going to do better. I will provide you with my last film. You can have the world premiere of it and your orchestra can play for it.

Thanks to Anderson’s interactions with Kelani and Adelagunja, he was able to present the world premiere of “Cordelia” on the university campus. Those involved in the project included the university orchestra of around 75 musicians, a team of transcriptionists and orchestrators working on the music for the film, and student composers, including junior Leia Sofia Mendez, who arranged two Nigerian songs that appeared in the end credits of the film. .

The project would not have been launched in the first place without the dedicated students of the orchestra.

“I found out about the Cultural Infusion Initiative through Dr. Anderson… I play tuba overall,” said Mikayla Vangelo, orchestra president and first-year graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in teaching and interpretation. “As a player my main job is to play with passion, precision and determination – the motto of our orchestra. I have to fully immerse myself in the musical experiences and be ready to be part of the big picture.

The main purpose of the orchestra was to improve the film and provide a fusion between two different cultures.

“Personally, I felt an inexplicable level of excitement to be a part of something so unique, so genuine,” Vangelo said. “We were able to forge such authentic relationships not only with each other, but [with] everyone involved in this project.

This level of excitement was not only present among the performers, but also among the 415 spectators who attended the premiere. Mitchell Hall was filled with students, families and other attendees eagerly awaiting to see “Cordelia”. Members of the audience chatted among themselves, made jokes about the film, and let out gasps of surprise as events unfolded.

The film itself had elements of suspense and action as it took audiences through a coup in Nigeria. The film also possessed great comedic relief and filled Mitchell Hall with laughter.

The film is estimated to be seen by tens of millions of people, not just college students.

However, the initiative is far from over and Anderson still has big plans for the orchestra.

“My source of inspiration for [the Cultural Fusion Initiative] really comes back to Fela Kuti who was the inventor of [Afrobeat]”Said Anderson.” What he did was take the best of jazz, reggae, rock and roll and jùjú and… merged them into his own recognizable style of music. “

Anderson and Femi Kuti, a Nigerian musician and son of Fela Kutis, discussed the university orchestra’s partnership with Nigerian orchestral students to support Kuti’s band.

“This is kind of the crown jewel of this Cultural Fusion Initiative project, and it, we believe, will take place in the summer of 2023,” Anderson said.



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