The Joshua Uzoigwe African Spirit Award
Professor Joshua Uzoigwe PhD (1946 –2005)
Professor Joshua Uzoigwe was born in Umuagu, Umuahia, in Abia State on July, 1 1946. Evidence of his musical genius was apparent at a very young age. As a child he drummed and played the Oja, a traditional African flute of the Igbo people of Nigeria, for various churches and at different cultural events. He was the recipient of numerous awards in piano performance, music composition and orchestration. He won his first award in piano performance when he was a student at King's College Secondary School in Lagos, Nigeria, under the tutelage of his private piano teacher, Major J. J. Allen, who was then a Colonial Administrator. Uzoigwe's academic accomplishments and his first major work, Four Igbo Songs, won him a scholarship from the government of the then East Central State of Nigeria to continue his musical studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. In 1976, he won the prize in composition at the Guildhall School of Music with his Nigerian Dances for Chamber Orchestra. A much sort after product, Uzoigwe's works have been performed all over the world by people of diverse cultural and racial backgrounds.
Uzoigwe's study and practice of African traditional music, Western classical music, the compositional techniques of African art music of other western trained African composers, and his study of ethnomusicology under John Blacking at the Queen's University of Belfast, Ireland set the scene for his major contribution to humanity. Merging all his experiences, Uzoigwe originated a new style in African art music which captured the essence of the African spirit in a manner that had never been attained. His Ritual Procession for African and European orchestra, which premiered in 1980 while he was a student at the University of Belfast, marked the beginning of this new style. In his compositions for piano, voice, orchestra, flute, trombone, and African instruments, Uzoigwe's treatment of African musical elements evoked African scenes, smell, festivals, and ceremonies in a way that touched Africans and non-Africans alike. His Nigerian Dances evoke Igbo and Yoruba festivals, while his Talking Drums transform the piano into a series of African drums. Uzoigwe's works are truly a testament that beautiful things do come out of Africa.
The Joshua Uzoigwe African Spirit Award recognizes the genius, dedication, selfless sacrifice, promotion of African culture, and hard work of individuals in society who possess the characteristics that define the “African Spirit.”
Through his sojourns abroad as a composer, teacher, and scholar Uzoigwe never forgot his cultural identity. He collaborated with people of other ethnic and racial backgrounds, embracing their cultural gifts and exposing them to the beautiful music, food, and customs of Nigeria.
When some of his colleagues left Nigeria for other countries, Uzoigwe chose to stay in African teaching and encouraging his students to use elements in their culture to produce music of world appeal while retaining their African identity. Unfortunately, the country he loved so much was not adequately equipped to provide him with the medical care he required when he suffered a severe stoke. Professor Joshua Uzoigwe passed away on October 15, 2005.
The Joshua Uzoigwe African Sprit Award recognizes the genius, dedication, selfless sacrifice, promotion of African culture, and hard work of individuals in society who possess the characterizes that define the “African Spirit.”
Award recipients Congressmen Charles B. Rangel, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Member Mark Levine, volunteer Josana Frasier, vendor Imani Scott.