Odyke Nzewi

Odyke Nzewi, a classical (literacy) African ‘mother’ drummer, composer, choreographer, and scholar.

He is a foremost literacy African classical drummer and composer who is as well an accomplished oral mother drummer. He is specialized on the single membrane drum represented by the djembe for his primary professional and academic activities. His first formal study in African drum music started with the ese tuned drum row, when in 1990 he studied under Tom Ohiaraumunna a renowned Igbo traditional ese mother drummer. The ese tuned drum row is the mother instrument in the event-musical arts type (ese) of the Igbo of Nigeria, which marshals the composite funerary and canonization (into ancestry) theatres of meritorious adult men. His study with Tom resulted in his specializing on the ese tuned drum row as his major instrument during his undergraduate music studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria. He next started specializing in the single membrane drum (the djembe), and co-designed (with Prof. Meki Nzewi) the symbolic (staff) notation for Modern African Classical Drumming (MACD). He thus also became a mother membrane drummer (literacy and oral), and has composed many modern classical (literacy) drumming pieces. Odyke was a member of the Igba Joli 4, a foursome popular music group that performed with only indigenous instruments, and toured Europe in 1996. In the ensemble he was the mother membrane drummer. Since 1995 Odyke has been giving concerts of solo modern classical drumming and inter-cultural drum & saxophone/trumpet duos. He has given numerous African drum ensemble workshops in his professional career and has equally travelled extensively in Africa, Europe, North America and Asia over the past 20 years, giving concerts and running workshops.

Odyke has been involved in African indigenous musical arts research over years since his graduation, and became a resident staff of the Ama Dialog Foundation in 1994. As a music dramatist, mother (African modern classical) drummer, composer and choreographer he was involved in the re-orientation research and performance practices of Africa’s cultural arts heritage, which the Foundation was undertaking, including study-visit programs for international students and teachers. He was the Director of the Otu Ozi Mmanwu (Spirit-manifest theatre) produced by the Ama Dialog Foundation to perform community-based folklore and educational drama.

In 2005 Odyke moved to South Africa to help run the Centre for Indigenous Instrumental Music and Dance practices of Africa (CIIMDA) – Research, Education and performance as the Education and Research officer, and from 2008 served as the Manager of the project. While with CIIMDA he obtained a Masters Degree (Performance) in Music on modern classical drumming at the Music Department of the University of Pretoria. CIIMDA was primarily running re-orientation and re-training education courses and activities on the theory, philosophy and practice of African indigenous musical arts for teachers and learners from 9 South African Developing Community (SADC) countries worked in 9 countries (Namibia, Malawi, Zambia, Lesotho, Botswana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe). While at CIIMDA Odyke was traveling internationally to give lectures and workshops on African instrumental ensemble music and dances. He has authored as well as co-authored publications on the theory and practice of African indigenous musical arts along with producing written compositions for concerts in MACD. He is currently pursuing a PhD Arts Practice at the Irish World Academy for Music and Dance, University of Limerick.

He is married to Ebere Nzewi and together they have 4 children.