Jeannine: Intercultural music is described as that in which elements from two or more cultures are integrated. Please describe your compositional technique and how it exhibits intercultural tendencies?
Dr. Sadoh: My compositions exemplify the process of intercultural music as three distinct cultures are vividly and copiously utilized in them; these cultures are Nigerian/African, European, and American. Jazz idiom in some of my early piano works is the major American influence on my music. As regards Nigeria, it could be further broken down to the influence of the Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa cultural traits. In terms of Africa as a continent, I have incorporated elements from South Africa and Ghana into my piano works especially the ten-movement Childhood Dreams. The Nigerian musical elements are quite glaring in my music because I always want my music to be conceptualized in that way, music written by a modern Nigerian composer. I deliberately make painstaking efforts to infuse a lot of Nigerian musical flavors into my music. Hence, I employ Nigerian traditional, popular, and church music resources in my compositions. Some of these elements are the rhythmic patterns, tonal organizations, parallel harmony, formal structures, timbres, folk melodies, instrumental resources, indigenous languages as exemplified in my Five Nigerian Songs for Vocal Solo and piano, Three Wedding Songs for Soprano and piano, and most of my choral songs that are in Yoruba.
Quite a number of my organ works are based on indigenous church tunes, traditional, and folksongs. In terms of tonality, I combine European pitch collections with indigenous Nigerian tonal schemes such as diatonic, pentatonic, hexatonic, and octatonic scales, atonality, as well as the 12-tone row method. For illustration, Memoirs of Childhood for piano is a three-movement work based mainly on pentatonic scale. My Nigerian Organ Symphony is largely influenced by 19th century French organ symphonic techniques, in particular, Louis Vierne and Charles Marie-Widor. Even though the character, style, and registrations of the five movement work are influenced by French music, the Nigerian Organ Symphony is infused with distinct African music creative and performance procedures such as scales, ostinati, call-and-response, interlocking rhythmic patterns, dance nuances, folk melodies, bell patterns, foot stamping, and hand clapping rhythms. Structurally, the forms of my music ranges from simple binary, ternary, rondo, theme and variations, sonata form, aria, strophic, through-composed, canonic imitation, contrapuntal forms to other free styles. In the area of instrumental resources, I do conjoin Western and Nigerian traditional instruments, such as the Fisherman Song for Flute and Organ, African Nostalgia for Xylophone, Harmattan Overture for Symphony Orchestra and Nigerian Instruments, and Folk Dance for a Percussion Ensemble of Four Players.
One of my most successful intercultural compositions is The Misfortune of a Wise Tortoise for Organ and Narrator (An African Folktale). It is a work created to introduce kids to the nature and workings of the pipe organ. This composition could be regarded as a “Nigerian program music,” in which the organ replicates the narrated folk story in sonic space. There are 8 short pieces that are actually variations of the original song that goes with the folktale. Each organ piece is given divers registrations to introduce the children to the various sounds that the pipe organ is capable of producing. I am always excited to hear comments from organists around the world telling me how much they enjoy playing my music and that my compositions are practically different in style from all the other organ repertoire they have ever played. That is so cool to hear. They could feel the Africanesques in my music. Here are some comments from selected organists and pianist:
- i) In a letter on March 17, 2008, American organist, John Abuya, writes: “Dear Dr. Sadoh, . . . Your music is interesting and delightfully refreshing. I have nothing like it in my repertoire. I am entranced by the authentic African melodies and rhythms. You can be assured that I will use them in my service playing at church and my organ recitals. God has truly blessed you with a great gift. . .”
- ii) In The Organ, a British journal, August 2008, No. 345, A review of the Nigerian Organ Symphony, Roger Rayner, writes: “Sadoh makes an important contribution to our repertoire in introducing African rhythms and a style of playing possibly unfamiliar to most of us.”
iii) From Michael Vollmer, German organist, Bielefeld, Westphalia: “Godwin, let me tell you briefly about last Sunday. We had a feast with our congregation, we had fellowship the whole day. My best friend and I lead the Gospel Choir and we sang some songs. I had your Nigerian Suite No. 2 with me and we were so full of Gospel music that (when everyone was having lunch outside) I pulled out your Suite and started playing. Of course, I held back “K’a Juba,” this is for tomorrow. 🙂 But I played the last movement, the “Royal Dance.” My friend grabbed a pair of Bongos and joined me. It was so much fun, so vivid, so full of life. We played the entire suite *three times* and hearing us from the outside, people would pop in and listen. When we finished, the church was a quarter full and your music earned much applause! 🙂 Thank you for this music, it is new to me and although I may not always understand the background, I feel the life and the spirit behind every written bar!” [April 14, 2011].
- iv) Stephen Jenkins of the American Guild of Organists, Holland, Michigan Chapter, writes: “I find Godwin Sadoh’s work fun to play and refreshing. I love the way he uses Nigerian riffs on the pipe organ. Dude rocks.” He made this remark after listening to the recording of “Konkonkolo” from Five African Dances for organ solo. [February 24, 2015].
- v) E-mail message on February 10, 2016, Italian international concert pianist, Silvia Belfiore, comments on my compositional style: “Your music plays an important role in my repertory. The interest that it arouses is extraordinary. Your music is characterized by metric mixtures, syncopation, rhythmic counterpoints, and above all, clarity and transparency. Through your music, I discovered that the process of composing music and creating hierarchies within the voices of a piece are the dichotomy between traditional practicum and modern expressionism. I can also attest that the public reactions were amazing everywhere I played your music, in any country, and for any type of audience.”
- vi) Facebook comment on February 20, 2016, American musician, Daniel Walton, writes, “This is super cool. I’ve never heard these definitely African sounds out of an organ, and it’s such a joyous noise.” Reacting to Mark Pace’s performance of “Ijo Oba” (Royal Dance) from Nigerian Suite No. 2 for organ.
vii) Chase Castle: “Looking forward to playing selections from Godwin Sadoh‘s Impressions from an African Moonlight. Sadoh is a Nigerian organist, composer, and ethnomusicologist, who offers trans-cultural and exciting modern organ repertoire.” [October 8, 2016].
viii) Monty Bennett: “Godwin, they loved your pieces! You should have heard the applause after the toccata!!!! The best part was that because the console is turned so the organist looks at the auditorium, there was a camera placed on me and was shown on a big screen at the front of the hall. They could see my feet playing the toccata and the fast pedal work.” This is a report of the audience response to the Middle-Eastern Premiere of Nigerian Suite No. 1 for solo organ, at the prestigious Israel International Organ Festival 2016-2017, under the auspices of the Israel Organ Association, at the Hecht Museum Auditorium, Haifa University, Israel, on February 24, 2017.
Dr. Jeannine Jordan, concert organist, and David Jordan, media artist, are the creators and performers of three organ and multi-media concert experiences, Around the World in 80 Minutes, Bach and Sons, and From Sea to Shining Sea. Contact Dr. Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.