How did you get here?
Through following my nose and being genuinely curious about things. I’ve always been interested in finding out why the human race has created spaces for the appreciation of music, stories, re-enactments, visual images, symbols, poetry, proverbs, colour, texture, line, shapes moods etc. My curiosity makes me feel inclined towards experimenting with these symbols, so I’m a musical artist who is drawn to the new, untried and untested. I leave the comforting, obvious musical statements to those that draw energy and inspiration from what’s already there.
What led to you working with this film –Siliva the Zulu?
My first encounter with Siliva was in 2008, when I was asked to create a score to perform with it at the London African Film Festival, in the Barbican Centre. I was initially approached by Keith Shiri, who knew my work from many years before, when I presented my music theatre pieces at The Africa Centre in Covent Garden, where he used to be the programmer. I met Dr Jacqueline Maingard of University of Bristol’s Film and TV Department at The Barbican. Dr Maingard took an interest in sustaining the life of this project, which led to a UK Tour last autumn and the Wilton’s Music Hall screening/performance, happening on April 17th.
Why should people come to see this event?
Siliva, the Zulu is a beautiful film that tells a sweet story. Considering that it was made in 1926-27, one could regard it as a forerunner of the modern art movie. Made in a rural Zulu community, there is something spiritual and graceful about the fact that we can see the performers in the freshness of their youthfulness, almost a century later. The babies in the film are probably in their eighties and nineties if they’re still alive. I loved creating the music for this film and it is a total joy to perform with.
Are you stressed?
No. I am used to multitasking and I have been a self employed musician for a long time, so I think I know the drill, for the most part!
What is a typical day in your life like?
My hours are not orthodox. I’m a nocturnal creature. Having said that, I always practise during the day, into the early evening and I try to stay on top of my administrative tasks during office hours. I also work in education quite a lot, so I have to be available for work during school hours at least a couple of days a week. I attend lots of theatre, opera, concerts and other arts events. The gym also plays an important role in my life these days.
What’s the worst piece of advice anyone’s ever given you?
Some of my colleagues were alarmed when my singing voice started changing, after several years of training. They said I was ruining my career chances by continuing with the training. I didn’t listen to them, I’m happy to say.
Which film character do you most identify with?
This is a very difficult question to answer! My favourite film actor is Jack Lemmon, and I love the character he played in Some Like It Hot.
Is there a book you think everyone should read?
I’m a member of ARG!: The London African Reading Group, that meets at Book and Kitchen on All Saints Road in Notting Hill/Ladbroke Grove once a month. We’re currently reading Helen Oyeyemi’s most recent book Boy, Snow, Bird. I was told before that Ms Oyeyemi is a genius, and didn’t know what to expect. Now that I’m half way through reading the book, I’m inclined to agree with that notion.
If you were president of Africa for a day – what would you make happen?
I would set up an online/video conference for Africans from all the nations to contribute to a brainstorming session on how make progressive strides into the future together
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness for me would be to live a community where people from all over the world could interact and share their cultural riches, allowing a fair amount of space to every type of ethnicity to express their ideas openly. This community would also allow private space for individuals to explore new possibilities and it would give every inhabitant a sense of security and peace of mind.
A rare screening of Siliva the Zulu will be accompanied by live music from composer-performer Juwon Ogungbe. Drawing its influences from folk, township jazz, popular and art music genres from South Africa, Juwon Ogungbe’s composition will be performed on piano, marimba and mbira – April 17th, 7.30pm, Wilton Hall, London