Tunde Jegede is a composer, producer, cellist and kora player who has been steeped in the traditions of European and African Classical music for the last 30 years.
From an early age, Tunde was uniquely schooled in both Western and African Classical Music. He attended the Purcell School of Music, UK’s first specialist music school conservatoire and also studied the music of the Kora (African Harp-Lute) and the Griot tradition under the Gambian Master of the Kora, Amadu Bansang Jobarteh. From this unusual parallel education, Tunde gained a deep understanding and appreciation of both forms of music and their distinct legacies, and all these strands and influences have since informed his music and work as an instrumentalist, teacher, and international classical composer.
As a child Tunde wrote poetry at the Keskidee Centre, where his father was the resident artist. There at the UK ‘s first Black Arts Centre, he was surrounded by singers, writers and poets such as Bob Marley, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Edgar White, Len Garrison and Walter Rodney. At the same time, he was also a chorister in a boys’ choir that toured Cathedrals across the country and all these early influences contributed to his growing perception of music and the word.
By the age of 15 Tunde had been exposed to various musical idioms and his love of Western and African Classical music, gave birth to a growing interest in Jazz and its related art-forms. He was particularly interested in the connections between African Music and that of its Diaspora. He formed a Jazz trio at school and began to do arrangements as well as his own pieces and songs. These musical explorations added to Tunde’s already diverse musical vocabulary and his understanding and appreciation of melody within composition began to take root. He then founded the Jazz Griots, a group that explored the connections between Kora music and jazz and began working with members of the Jazz Warriors including; Orphy Robinson, Cleveland Watkiss, Talvin Singh and Courtney Pine. It was through this circuitous route working with artists between the worlds of improvisation and spontaneous composition that Tunde came to composition.
In 1999 Tunde was appointed Innovations Composer for Orchestra Live (Formerly Eastern Orchestral Board) which brought him into contact with many orchestras in UK. As a composer his music has since taken him all over the world working in film, theatre and opera collaborating with filmmakers, choreographers and theatre directors. His commissions for dance companies include; Random Dance Company (UK) Richard Alston Dance Co. (UK), Forces of Nature Dance Theatre (USA) Jant-Bi (Senegal) and Q Dance (Nigeria). He has also written many film soundtracks including the award-winning feature documentaries 500 Years Later and Hopes on the Horizons. Tunde has released four albums as a solo artist including his seminal debut album, Lamentation, Still Moment, a meditative album of solo Kora, Testimony and Heritage. He has written three full-scale operas, twenty symphonic works and his music has subsequently been performed in concert halls internationally by orchestras and artists including; The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, The Philharmonia, London Sinfonietta, Brodsky Quartet, Smith Quartet and the percussion soloist, Evelyn Glennie.
Through his work he has collaborated with some of the finest institutions, artists and musicians in classical, jazz and contemporary music including; the Royal Opera House (UK), Lyon Opera House (France), St Denis Festival (France), Silk Road Project, Trilok Gurtu, Caron Wheeler, Nana Vasconcelos, Muta Baruka, Kasse Mady Diabaté and Des’ree. In 2012 he was nominated as a TED Fellow and as an educator he has given many talks, lectures and presentations on his work at universities, schools and colleges including; Harvard (USA), Cape Town University (South Africa), University of Pittsburgh (USA), Cambridge University (UK), University of London (UK), St Augustine College (Trinidad & Tobago), Trinity College (Eire), Purcell School of Music (UK), Berklee College of Music (USA) & Royal Northern College of Music (UK).
As a pioneer of African Classical Music, he has a deep knowledge of traditional music and culture and he is a purveyor of Manding music as it interfaces with wider culture. Through his work as an African musician he is dedicated to reviving local traditions and building sustainable relationships between diverse artists and art-forms. He has achieved this by maintaining dialogues and crossing the boundaries of nation states by creating a legacy of global connections. His aim through all of this is to highlight each culture’s positive attributes by reaffirming its rich heritage and confronting similar cultural paradigms and issues worldwide. Tunde founded the African Classical Music Ensemble and has gone on to perform and record with some of Africa’s finest artists and ambassadors of heritage including; Toumani Diabaté, Oumou Sangaré, Juldeh Camara, Bodé Lawal, Bheki Mseleku, Seun Kuti and the Pan African Orchestra.
In 2014 Tunde was appointed Artistic Director of the MUSON (Musical Society of Nigeria) Centre and School of Music in Lagos where he set up the Art Ensemble of Lagos and the NOK Orchestra. He is also the curator of Living Legacies, Gambia’s first traditional music archive, and the director of New Horizons, an international music festival and educational initiative offering performance opportunities for young musicians from West Africa, through education programmes, cultural exchanges and international artist residencies.
Tunde Jegede is a C21 renaissance man and his life and work is a testimony to the extraordinary journey of a composer, cellist and master kora player. From his early beginnings in England and West Africa, to his many travels and musical encounters across the globe,it is a story that parallels the myriad journeys of music itself. One of origins and diasporas, traditions and renewals, and cycles that weave together to form a single voice and a musical legacy.