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
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, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Director Emeritus, Centre for Intercultural Musicology at Churchill
College, CIMACC, UK, email@example.com.