Echezonachukwu Nduka, pianist and poet, was 12 years old the first time the sounds of a piano dug their way into his heart and created a longing. For almost two decades, Nduka has fervently pursued that longing and has gone ahead to release two piano music EPs and perform to sold-out audiences in both Nigeria and the United States.
What’s fascinating about Nduka’s pianism is its unique sound, a fusion of African and Western classical piano music. His focus on compositions by Africans encourages diversity. For his African audience, he gives them a platform to connect to their roots, and for the Western world, he introduces new names and makes them realize that classical pianism cuts across borders. He is changing the concept of classical music as we’ve always known it.
Nduka has managed to do just that in his six years of professional career. His first Extended Play (EP) called Choreowaves, for example, released in April 2018, has eight compositions, all of which are by African composers. Pieces like ‘Obodom’ by Peter Sylvanus and ‘Ufie III’ by Christian Onyeji are some of the featured compositions.
Choreowaves would eventually spark conversations about the performance of piano music by composers of African descent and get featured in BBC Newsday, where his sound was described as a “unique audio fusion”; Radio Nacional Clasica de Argentina, Classical Journey Ep 134, African Composers, and other platforms.
In 2019, guided by the same intent to represent African pianism, Echezonachukwu Nduka released his second EP, Nine Encores. Nine Encores, unlike Choreowaves that primarily comprised African compositions, is a fusion of Western classical pianism and African pianism. It comprises short pieces by Joshua Uzoigwe, Fred Onovwerosuoke, Christian Onyeji, Robert Schumann, Frederic Chopin, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Sergei Prokofiev, and Ludwig van Beethoven.
Nduka is also a poet. In his nine years of professional writing, he has authored two acclaimed poetry books, Chrysanthemums for Wide-eyed Ghosts (2018) and Waterman (2020), both published by Griots Lounge. His debut, Chrysanthemums for Wide-eyed Ghosts, explores the intersection of grief, death, love, music, wine, and the otherworldly. His second, Waterman, a highly rhythmic collection, is a commentary on the world through the lens of music. It explores innocence, memory, religion, music, and the complex corridors of political history.
For the inaugural episode of the Isele Writer Series, we engaged Echezonachukwu Nduka in his poetry and pianism. He reads excerpts from his books, shares with us his motivations, discusses African pianism, and much more.
About the Authors:
Echezonachukwu Nduka, poet and pianist, is the author of two poetry collections Chrysanthemums for Wide-eyed Ghosts (Griots Lounge, 2018), and Waterman (Griots Lounge, 2020). He holds degrees in Music from both the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and Kingston University London, UK. In 2016, he was awarded the Korea-Nigeria Poetry Prize on World Poetry Day. Hailed by Guardian Life Magazine as Artist Extraordinaire, Nduka’s literary works have been published in The Indianapolis Review, Transition, Bombay Review, Kissing Dynamite, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry Vol. II, and A Thousand Voices Rising: An Anthology of Contemporary African Poetry, among others.
A specialist in piano music by African composers, Nduka has performed at the National Opera Centre in New York, Gateway Playhouse (New Jersey), IMI Concert (St. Louis, Missouri), as well as numerous other venues. His work has been featured on BBC Newsday, Radio France International, Classical Journey Ep. 134, and Radio Nacional Clasica de Argentina.
Official Website: www.artnduka.com
Uchenna Emelife is a literary curator, an arts administrator, a bookseller, and a human rights advocate. He is the co-founder and creative director of Book O’clock — a literary platform in Sokoto that hosts a literary blog, book clubs, and a bookstore. In 2021, he co-curated the first Book and Arts Festival in Sokoto and was nominated as Mediapreneur of the Year in the Founder of the Year Awards. Uchenna Emelife is as well an advocate for Child Rights, Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, and anti-Sexual and Gender-based Violence. As a fellow of the African Youth Adolescent Network (AfriYAN), he has been contracted for various virtual campaigns to support the cause by Education as a Vaccine and United Nations Population Fund (UNPA).
Ukamaka Olisakwe is the author of Ogadinma.