Fela Sowande

Olufęlá Sowande (* May 29, 1905 in Oyo, † March 13, 1987 in Ravenna / Ohio) was a Nigerian composer, organist and music teacher. He is considered the father of modern Nigerian art music.

Sowande was born as the son of Anglican priest Emmanuel Sowande, of the St. Andrew 's College, a missionary school for training teachers, taught. When his father was transferred to Lagos, began a twenty- year-long Sowande training at Thomas King Ekundayo Phillips, the first London-trained Nigerian professional musician, first as a chorister in the church choir, and later as a music student. He completed his schooling at the Church Missionary Society Grammar School and later at King's College.

1932 Sowande heard on the radio for the first time the music of Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Teddy Wilson and Earl Hines know and founded out the Triumph Dance Club Orchestra. He also played the piano in the jazz band, The Chocolate Dandies. In 1935 he went to London to study engineering. He earned his living as a musician and founded a Jazzseptett with Caribbean musicians. Finally, he decided to devote himself to music and studied at the University of London and at Trinity College of Music. He also took lessons from George D. Cunningham, George Oldroyd and Edmund Rubbra.

He also took lessons in jazz piano with Jerry Moore and performed on the piano and the Hammond organ. He learned by traveling African-American musicians such as Paul Robeson and Fats Waller know and resulted in the show Blackbirds of 1936, George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. This brought him into contact with J. Rosamond Johnson, who introduced him to the work of the composer Robert Nathaniel Dett. Furthermore, he was influenced by the works of musicians Thornton Jenkins and Samuel Coleridge- Taylor, who had worked in England, and the American Harry Freeman, Will Marion Cook, Clarence Cameron White, Florence Price and William Grant Still.

1940 joined the Royal Air Force, but was then added as music director for the Colonial Film Unit. In 1943 he received a diploma from the Royal College of Organists and the Bachelor degree from the University of London. From 1945 to 1952 he was choirmaster and organist of the West London Mission of the Methodist Church. 1953 published his Six Sketches for Full Orchestra and in 1944 formed African Suite for Decca Records.

On his return to Nigeria in 1953 Sowande became musical director of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation. For the Lagos Musical Society, he composed the Anthem Out of Zion, for the coronation of the kings of Elizabeth II. Late 1950s originated gospels as Roll de Ol ' Chariot, My Way's Cloudy, De Ol' Ark 's a- Moverin and De Angels are watchin '. Designed for Nigeria's independence celebrations in 1960, his Nigerian Folk Symphony but not premiered in Nigeria, but from Bournemouth Orchestra conducted by Charles Groves.

After he had already given the late 1950s organ concerts in New York, Boston and Chicago, he studied in 1961 as a visiting student anthropology at Northwestern University and composition at Princeton University with Roger Sessions. From 1962 to 1965 he was a research associate at the University of Ibadan, then a professor at the Institute of African Studies. He taught until 1972, then at Howard University, to 1976 at the University of Pittsburgh and until his retirement at Kent State University. He spent his final years in a nursing home in Ravenna, Ohio.


  • Six Sketches for Full Orchestra
  • African Suite
  • Africana
  • Snow- Capped Kilimanjoro
  • Six African Melodies for Western Instruments
  • Valse Galante
  • Koronga
  • An Evening Procession