Music Research Institute

In Memoriam

  *Professor Mosunmola Omibiyi Obidike (Nigeria) d. May 2016

In some ways, Professor Omibiyi Obidike and I trod similar career paths. Indeed the similarities and differences in our careers are remarkable. There are two main differences and these are that Professor Omibiyi Obidike was not a composer and that her doctorate was in music education, while mine is in ethnomusicology.

The main similarity is that we both attended UCLA, but at different times, and were therefore both subjected to the immense scholarly influence that the Institute for Ethnomusicology at UCLA generated in its early years, during the 1960s. At that time the director of the Institute was Mantle Hood and the Institute was the place where such great scholars as Charles Seeger, Klaus Wachsmann, and Kwabena Nketia were based. I am sure that the Institute continued to generate considerable scholarly influence after these eminent people had departed, but only those who were connected with it can testify to how things were in the 1960s.It is no exaggeration to say that the Institute for Ethnomusicology at UCLA was the pride and envy of musicologists in the 1960s. Mosun (to use the first name by which she was popularly known in those years ) and I were indeed privileged to have been associated with the Institute in the 1960s. Although her doctorate was in music education, the Education building at UCLA was in those days very close to Schoenberg Hall in whose basement the Institute for Ethnomusicology was housed, and it must have been particularly convenient for Mosun to participate in the Institute's activities.

The reason why I place so much emphasis on the influence which the Institute must have had on her is because Professor Omibiyi Obidike appeared in the course of her career to have been a product of the Institute rather than of the Education Department. I more easily remember her as a pioneer of ethnomusicology in Nigeria than as a pioneer of music education. This is not meant to belittle her contributions to music education but to highlight the wealth of her contributions.

At the conclusion of her studies at UCLA, Mosun returned to Nigeria and joined the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University OAU. It was here that I first met Mosun, because I was also a member of the Institute.

I was very impressed a few years later when Mosun joined the University of Ibadan. The reason this made such a strong impression on me was that I had also hoped to join the University of Ibadan. In fact I had discussions with officials at Ibadan about the possibility of moving either to the Department of Theatre Arts or the Institute of African Studies, but in spite of being very well placed for two sections of the University of Ibadan, my anticipated move to the University never happened. Mosun eventually rose to become the director of the Institute of African Studies at Ibadan. In this position she not only had a chance to make contributions to African Studies but also to produce students and to extend the study of ethnomusicology in Nigeria. Music studies were not a strong feature of the University of Ibadan and in spite of its reputation as Nigeria's premier University, the institution had no Music Department. Indeed the first Nigerian university to have a Department of Music was the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where incidentally, Professor Omibiyi-Obidike did her undergraduate work. Professor Omibiyi-Obidike's contribution to the establishment of music at Ibadan must have been immense.

One of her students at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Dr. Mrs. Loko, became Professor Omibiyi- Obidike's constant companion at important international meetings. In fact it was through Professor Omibiyi-Obidike that I met Dr. Loko. I was organizing symposia and festivals at Churchill College, Cambridge, and Dr Loko attended some of these in the company of Professor Omibiyi-Obidike. I would like to acknowledge here that Professor Omibiyi Obidike was one of the strongest and most regular supporters of the events which I organized at Churchill College.

My activities at Cambridge eventually generated a series of international dialogue conferences, one of which was AMNA (Africa Meets North America..) The first AMNA was hosted by UCLA and it was in recognition of her monumental contribution to the study of African music that Professor Omibiyi-Obidike was invited to deliver one of the two keynote speeches, the other keynote speaker being no less than Professor J.H. Kwabena Nketia, who is an emeritus professor at UCLA and was no doubt Mosun Omibiyi-Obidike's mentor.

Mosun's career was full of surprises and the biggest surprise was probably the contribution she made to the scholarship of modern African art music. I suspect that she was attracted to this field when she discovered Fela Sowande, who is in widely regarded as the doyen of modern African composition. Sowande was for some years based at the University of Ibadan, although this was before Mosun joined the University. Since she was not a composer, it is unlikely that Omibiyi -Obidike viewed Sowande as a role model, but he must nevertheless have influenced her as an important predecessor.

When all her achievements are considered, we must conclude that Omibiyi-Obidike's career spanned much more than her training prepared her for. In my estimation, she did more in her career than a doctorate in music education would seem to prepare her for. In summary, she merits a position of honor as one of Africa's leading musicologists.

Akin Euba, Ph.D.
Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emeritus of Music,
University of Pittsburgh, USA,,
Director Emeritus, Centre for Intercultural Musicology at Churchill
College, CIMACC, UK,


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