The trailblazing minstrel, folk music collector and performer, Gerald Eze Mmaduabuchi, recreated the archetypal Igbo lore of Egwu Onwa (moonlit games) with his youthful Ichoku Academy in Awka, the capital city of Anambra State on September 12, 2021. The Egwu Onwa Concert of the Ichoku Academy featured multiform performances of choral music, instrumental music, drama and dance.
The Ichoku Academy is remarkably made up of young pupils and students who in truth had never witnessed the rural moonlit games of yore. Gerald Eze and his fellow teachers of the Ichoku Academy deserve mighty kudos for ensuring that a principal aspect of Igbo culture has not been left to die.
Chinua Achebe famously said in Things Fall Apart: “A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes. When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.”
So the kinsmen and women as it were gathered in the cool ambience of the Awka evening to partake of the Egwu Onwa concert of the Ichoku Academy.
The ever rendering teachers of the Ichoku Academy are: Bruno Okafor (Performance coordinator), Alex Ugwu (Choral music director), Paschal-Zion Akaenyi (Drama director), David Chiedozie (Drum instructor), Macpherson Muoka (Piano instructor), Somto Paul (Guitar instructor), and Benita Amaluwa (Voice instructor).
The epochal event kicked off with a drama piece “We Are One” written and directed by Paschal-Zion Akaenyi.
The highly entertaining drama was followed by riveting musical performances such as “Where the Gentle Avon Flows” or “Elizabethan Serenade” by Ronald Binge, “Enyimba Kwenu” by Prof. Laz Ekwueme, and “Tetaanu N’ura” by Christy Essien-Igbokwe.
The evening was spiced up with some Igbo folktales. Songs like Omalugo, Inine, and Nwinine were also performed.
The recently deceased Victor Uwaifo’s classic song “Joromi” was the climax of the performances as it served as a grand tribute to Victor Uwaifo.
Astonished by the abilities of his wards, Gerald Eze said: “I was particularly excited watching children and teenagers play Oja, Ubo-aka, Ngedelegwu (Xylophone) along with the piano, guitar and drums, in a style that is so modern and sophisticated. My own musical performances are not enough to assure me of the continuation and growth of the Igbo musical traditions. The performance of the students of Ichoku Academy was sufficient assurance. I am certain they will do wonders in future with music, especially in the aspects of harnessing that which they have acquired from the Igbo culture and taking it to the global stage as well.”
Special guests who graced the occasion included Prof Ike Odimegwu (the Director Academic Planning, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka) and his wife, Mrs. Christy Odimegwu; Dr. Martha Egenti (Deputy Director, Awka Window on America); and Dr. Patrick and Amaka Ezeno (Esq) (the art patrons who granted the Academy the space they use for training and concerts).
Incidentally, these personalities have their children and relatives in the Academy.
The impressive Oluoma Odimegwu gave special renditions of “Never Enough” from the movie Greatest Showman and “Let it Go” from the popular animation Frozen. She also entertained the audience with Igbo classic “Tetanu N’ura by Christy Essien Igbokwe.
The adorable Chikaima Ezeno was a special revelation as she entertained the audience with Oja, an instrument that is generally seen to be the exclusive of men.
Irrepressible Kamsi Obiamalu was very proficient in her delivery of the Ubo-aka, the ancient Igbo musical instrument that is almost extinct).
The redoubtable duo of Chimamanda and Chiamaka Umejih shone spectacularly in their graceful dancing steps.
The theatre wizards Ikechukwu Mbagwu and Chidalu Obiekwe were of course the star actors of the day who humoured and enlightened the audience as they performed the short drama “We Are One”.
“I believe that if we get it right at the level of creating quality family values, we will certainly have a better and working society,” Gerald Eze said in coclusion, adding, “Ichoku Academy is therefore committed to helping families design and realise their unique and quality values. And by connecting these families who live in the same community, a network of healthy, creative and quality human relationship is the result. Such is the legacy of Egwu Onwa.”