Friday, 29 August 2014

The concatenation of African role in the war of 1914-1918 or World War I

Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe

THERE COULDN’T be a more appropriate text from which to embark on an on-the-spot reminder to the world of the role of Africa and Africans in the intra-European World war of 1914-1918 or the Great War or the First World War than Unbowed: One Woman’s Story, the inimitable memoirs of Wangari Maathai, the award-winning celebrated environmental activist and biologist (, accessed 28 August 2014). In those poignant passages memoralising on uncle Thumbi, conscripted by the British occupation regime in Kenya in 1914 to fight the Germans in neighbouring Italian-occupied Somalia and German-occupied Tanganyika (contemporary Tanzania), Maathai notes (Unbowed, 2008, 27-28):
In my family there was a missing member, someone I did not find out about until I was well into adulthood. During the First World War, Africans in the colonies were conscripted to fight or serve as porters. In Kenya, if parents had an able-bodied son old enough to go to war, they were … expected to surrender him to the authorities. My grandparents had such a son, Thumbi. My grandmother did not want her son, who was more than twenty at the time, to join the war. She was in despair. So she advised him to hide in the dense vegetation near a high waterfall in the Tucha River … [but Thumbi was eventually caught … and the British] went and seized him … “He will never come back,”  my grandmother … cr[ied]. And he never did. He became one of the more than one hundred thousand Kikuyus who died on the battlefield or from starvation or influenza during the First World War … My grandmother cried for her son for the rest of her life…
(John Coltrane Quartet, “Tunji” [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums; recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 11 April 1962])
All of Africa lost one million of its peoples fighting in this intra-European World war in battle fronts in East Africa, Cameroon (west Africa) and in Europe itself – for Britain, France, Belgium, Czarist Russia and their allies against Germany, Italy, Austro-Hungary, the Ottomans and their allies and for Germany, Italy, Austro-Hungary, the Ottomans and their allies against Britain, France, Belgium, Czarist Russia and their allies.

ESSENTIALLY, this was a war, in addition to the follow-up 1939-1945 confrontation, that Africa and African peoples had no business, whatsoever, fighting in. The two principal protagonists in each conflict, Britain and Germany, were lead powers in the pan-European World conqueror-states that had formally occupied Africa since 1885. Britain was indeed the foremost conqueror of Africa from the group, having occupied the continent’s prized lands – lands with major population centres and vast and multiple natural resource emplacements in south, central, east and west regions: South Africa, Namibia (proxy control, post-1918 – after the defeat of Germany in 1914-1918 war), Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania (post-1918, after the defeat of Germany in 1914-1918 war), the Sudan, Nigeria, south Cameroons (post-1918, after the defeat of Germany in 1914-1918 war), Ghana, Sierra Leone, Gambia. Britain is also the lead beneficiary of this same pan-European World states’ 400 years of enslavement of African peoples, mostly in the Americas, since the 15th century CE (Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, Readings from Reading: Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature, 2011, especially chap. 1). As for Germany, beginning in 1904 and ending in 1911, i.e., prior to the 1914-1918 war, it had carried out the genocide of the Herero, Nama and Berg Damara peoples in its occupied Namibia in southwest Africa with the following catastrophic outcome during the period: wiped out 8o per cent of Herero, 51 per cent of Nama, 30 per cent of Berg Damara (Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, African Literature in Defence of History, 2001: 37-38). For Belgium, an Anglo-French ally in the 1914-1918 war, indeed the state whose initial attack by Germany triggered this conflict, it, too, entered the intra-European war in 1914 in the wake of committing a 30-year trail (1878-1908) of genocide against Africans in the Congo basin in which it annihilated 13 million constituent peoples (see multiple research by historian and linguist Isidore Ndaywel e Nziem, especially Histoire générale du Congo: De l'héritage ancien à la République Démocratique, Paris: Duculot, 1998: 344).

 (Wayne Shorter Octet, “Mephistopheles” [personnel: Shorter, tenor saxophone,  Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; Alan Shorter, flugelhorn; Grachan Moncur III, trombone;  James Spaulding, alto saxophone; Herbie Hancock, piano;  Ron Carter, bass; Joe Chambers, drums; recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 15 October 1965])
IT is against this cataclysmic background of history that Africans found themselves conscripted by both sides of the confrontation line in 1914-1918: clearly, the double- jeopardy of conquered and occupied peoples at once fighting wars for and against ruthless aggressors. In commemorations of a century of this war that have been underway across Europe recently, a recurring theme in the media (and academia) that has been used to articulate African role in the war is “hidden” or “silent”, even “unknown”. There was indeed an academic who appeared in one of the BBC frontline current affairs newsmagazine programmes who used the bizarre phrase “not really well known” in describing “African involvement”. “Hidden”, “silent”, “unknown”, “not really well known” – by whom?!

OF COURSE nothing about the role of Africa and Africans in this conflict is “hidden” or “unknown”. On the contrary. What has duly been the difficulty that the presumed “gatekeepers” of this history (who have all along been tireless “rationalisers” of the European conquest and occupation of Africa) have had is how to explain the very perverse role of desperately occupied peoples fighting a war of/for their occupiers. I have argued severally (see, for instance, African Literature in Defence of History, chap. 1 and Ekwe-Ekwe, Africa 2001: The State, Human Rights and the People, 1993, especially parts I-II) that two critical developments of the 20th century – the wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 – shatter the cardinal features of the position of these “rationalisers” irrevocably:

(a) The 1919 treaty of Versailles that ends the 1914-1918 war frees all subjugated European peoples in Russia, Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman whilst African peoples in German-occupied  Africa [Namibia, Tanzania, Cameroon, Togo, Rwanda, Burundi] do not  have the restoration of their freedom but are, instead, occupied by Britain, France and Belgium [ironically, latter two countries hardly withstood the 1914 German juggernaut!]

(b) Africans in mostly British-occupied, French-occupied and Belgian-occupied Africa are again conscripted, beginning in the autumn of 1939, to fight against Germany, as the new war erupts, even though Germany had, since 1918, ceased to be a conqueror/occupying-state in Africa  

(c) Africans in mostly British-occupied and French-occupied Africa are conscripted, beginning in the autumn of 1939, to fight against Japan, in the forests of Myanmar, even though the Japanese were not and have never been conquerors or occupiers of Africa

(d) Belgian king and state which barely resisted the German assault on their territory beyond three weeks in May 1940 had the entire financing of the Belgian war effort [including the entire expenses of the country’s exiled royal family and government in London], totalling £40 million, paid for by Belgian-occupied Congo; this is the same Belgian-occupied Congo where the Belgian monarch and state had murdered 13 million Africans in the 30-year old genocide cited earlier

(e) Thousands of Africans perish in the battle fronts of east Africa, Europe and south Asia fighting for Anglo-Franco-Belgian conquerors/occupiers of Africa

(f) Restoration of African independence in the post-war epoch is distinctly rejected by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in a November 1942 speech in London [I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire”, he stresses, “From our archive: Mr Churchill on our one aim”, The Guardian {London}, 11 November 2009] in his own interpretation of the August 1941 “Atlantic Charter”, formulated by him and US President Franklin Roosevelt, which declares unambiguously: “all people had a right to self-determination”

(g) In similar vein, Charles de Gaulle, leader of the “Free French Forces” who had been on exile in England since Germany overran France in 1940, rejects African independence in the post-war era during a 1944 conference of global French occupation-governors in Brazzaville, Congo

(h) Writing recently in The Mail on Sunday [London, 23 August 2014], George Carey, a former archbishop of Canterbury, recalls: “This year we are reminded by the commemoration of two world wars that the values of our democratic traditions are precious. Our fathers and grandfathers … fought against totalitarianism for the survival of democratic virtues”. Pointedly, Carey’s hearty summation does not incorporate the African experience as we have highlighted here. Such has been the asymmetrical character of this history that besides Japan, Czarist Russia/Soviet Union and Austro-Hungary, Africa has been largely under an unparalleled totalitarian straitjacket enforced, since 1885, by each and every dominant state across those two strategic battle lines that map the 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 wars.

FOLLOWING from (f) and (g) [above], it is in fact no coincidence that Britain would wage two devastating wars against  two African nations at the forefront of terminating its occupation  of Africa  in the immediate post-1939-1945 war era: against the Gĩkũyũ in the east in the 1950s, with the death of tens of thousands of Gĩkũyũ and others and in co-perpetrating the Igbo genocide in west Africa with the state in Nigeria, 1966-1970, with the murder of 3.1 million Igbo or one-quarter of this nation’s population. Both the Gĩkũyũ and Igbo had spearheaded the liberation of Kenya and Nigeria respectively from the British occupation.

It should now be evident that on a broader stretch of examination, there can’t be any such thing as “hidden” history. Instead, what some practitioners wish to do is obfuscate or, worse, deny. Writing on the “Concept of History”, Walter Benjamin has argued that the “past carries a secret index with it, by which it is referred to its resurrection” (, accessed 19 August 2014). He poses two pressing questions: “Are we not touched by the same breath of air which was among that which came before? [I]s there not an echo of those who have been silenced in the voices to which we lend our ears today?” He is uncompromisingly forthright in response:
…The Angel of History must look just so. [Its] face is turned towards the past. Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, [itsees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before [its] feet … nothing which has ever happened is to be given as lost to history. Indeed, the past would fully befall only a resurrected humanity. Said another way: only for a resurrected humanity would its past, in each of its moments, be citable. Each of its lived moments becomes a citation a l’ordre du jour [order of the day] – whose day is precisely that of the Last Judgement. 
AT THE CRUX of trying to manufacture this phantom of  “lost to history”, as far as Africa and Africans are concerned, Chinua Achebe’s invaluable insight follows and we will quote him at length:
[The European conquest of Africa] may indeed be a complex affair, but one thing is certain: You do not walk in, seize the land, the person, the history of another, and then sit back and compose hymns of praise in his honour. To do that would amount to calling yourself a bandit; and you won’t to do that. So what do you do? You construct very elaborate excuses for your action. You say, for instance, that the man in question is worthless and quite unfit to manage himself or his affairs. If there are valuable things like gold and diamonds which you are carting away from his territory, you proceed to prove that he doesn’t own them in the right sense of the word – that he and they had just happened to be lying around the same place when you arrived. Finally if the worse comes to the worse, you may even be prepared to question whether such as he can be, like you, fully human. From denying the presence of a man standing there before you, you end up questioning his very humanity …[I]n the [European conquest] situation presence was the critical question, the crucial word. Its denial was the keynote of [this conquest’s] ideology. (Chinua Achebe, “African Literature as Restoration of Celebration”, Kunapipi, 12, 2, 1990: 4; emphasis added.)
In her closing testimony on uncle Thumbi, Wangari Maathai writes (28): “My grandparents … never received any official word about what had happened to their [son], or any compensation. This is still an open wound. I want to say to the British government ‘My uncle went to war and never came back, and nobody ever bothered to come and tell my grandparents what had happened to their son’”.

APPROPRIATELY, one would wish to modify Wangari Maathai’s note to the British government and then re-address it, on behalf of African peoples, to all the governments and parliaments of all states involved in confrontation in the wars of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945, bar Japan, Austro-Hungary and Czarist Russia/Soviet Union: “Our conscripted daughters and sons went to war to fight for you and never came back, and nobody ever bothered to come and tell us what had happened to them”.

Works cited

Achebe, Chinua. “African Literature as Restoration of Celebration”. Kunapipi, 12, 2, 1990: 4.

Benjamin, Walter. “On the Concept of History”. 1940,, accessed 19 August 2014.

Carey, George. “Why I, as a Christian, believe we have to banish evil British jihadists from these shores”. The Mail on Sunday, London, 23 August 2014.
Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. Africa 2001: The State, Human Rights and the People. Reading: International Institute for African Research, 1993.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. African Literature in Defence of History: An Essay on Chinua Achebe. Reading and Dakar: African Renaissance, 2001.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. Readings from Reading : Essays on African Politics, Genocide, Literature. Reading and Dakar: African Renaissance, 2011.

Ekwe-Ekwe, Herbert. Daughter-of-the-soil”. Rethinking Africa, accessed 28 August 2014.

Guardian, The From our archive:  Mr Churchill on our one aim”. London, 11 November 2009.

Isidore Ndaywel e Nziem. Histoire générale du Congo: De l'héritage ancien à la République Démocratique. Paris: Duculot, 1998.

John Coltrane Quartet. “Tunji”. Recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 11 April 1962, accessed 29 August 2014.

Maathai, Wangari, Unbowed: One Woman’s Story. London: Arrow Book, 2008.

Wayne Shorter Octet. “Mephistopheles”. Recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 15 October 1965, accessed 29 August 2014.


94th birthday of Charlie Parker

(Born 29 August 1920, Kansas City, US)
Alto saxophonist genius and composer who plays an instrumental role in inaugurating the bebop revolution in jazz, African American classical music, in the 1940s/early 1950s, channelling its creativity and outcomes crucially to this epoch of African American human rights affirmation


Thursday, 28 August 2014

76th birthday of Alexander Obiefoka Animalu

(Born 28 August 1938, Okuzu, Igboland)
Distinguished theoretical physicist, expert on solar energy, professor emeritus and prolific multidisciplinary author including a set of biographical studies on leading Igbo intellectuals, one of which is on mathematician Chike Obi aptly subtitled: The foremost African mathematical genius of the 20th century


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

105th birthday of Lester Young

(Born 27 August 1909, Woodville, Miss, US)
“Pres” of the tenor, influential tenor saxophonist whose unique, more introverted tone has had an immense impact on several successive lead players of the instrument including, especially, Gordon, Getz, Mulligan, Cohn, Sims, Quinichette and Stitt


77th birthday of Alice Coltrane

(Born 27 August 1937, Detroit, United States)
Perspicuous harpist, pianist, organist, bandleader and versatile composer which includes the ethereal work, Ptah, the El Daoud (personnel: Coltrane, piano; Joe Henderson, tenor saxophone; Pharoah Sanders, tenor saxophone; Ron Carter, bass; Ben Riley, drums [recorded: Impuse! Records, New York, 26 January 1970])


Tuesday, 26 August 2014

96th birthday of Katherine Johnson

(Born 26 August 1918, White Sulphur Springs, W Virg, US)
Iconic mathematician, physicist, computer scientist and space scientist, with expansive work in the US space programme


Monday, 25 August 2014

81st birthday of Wayne Shorter

(Born 25 August 1933, Newark, New Jersey, US)
Cerebral tenor and soprano saxophonist, member of the Miles Davis Second Great Quintet (1964-1968; personnel: Davis, trumpet; Shorter, tenor saxophone; Herbie Hancock, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Tony Williams, drums)) and arguably the most prolific living composer in the repertoire – compositions include standards “Lester left town”, “Footprints”, “Nefertiti” and “ESP” and  Schizophrenia, Speak No Evil  and the classic, The All Seeing Eye


Saturday, 23 August 2014

Minimalist 5-year task for the state in contemporary Africa: 24 August 2014 – 24 August 2019

Many would probably adjudge as “too modest” the following 12 tasks* that states in contemporary Africa are called upon to accomplish for their peoples in the next five years starting tomorrow, Sunday 24 August 2014. Despite such reservation, the tasks are available here for the challenge. Can any of these states achieve the set goals? Which? Which cannot? Why not? If any of the states can’t, then a citizen should endeavour to ask its head of regime the following pressing question: “What attainable level have you prescribed for yourself whilst you exercise control over this polity?”      
(John Coltrane Quartet, “The Last Blues” [personnel: Coltrane, tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner, piano; Jimmy Garrison, bass; Elvin Jones, drums; recorded: Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, US, 10 June 1965])
1. Cut by 50 per cent prevalence of communicable ailment in the population

2. One hundred quality primary health care centres with excellent facilities, equipment and medicine

3. One hundred quality primary and secondary schools with excellent world-standard 
curriculum content, equipment, staff and study environment

4. One university of worldwide standard, attracting staff and students from across the region and world

5. One thousand apprenticeship opportunities to study at excellent technical schools, producing skilled workforce of electricians, builders, welders, plumbers, mechanics

6. Fifty per cent of young people, 18-25, have access to small-scale loans to start business ventures

7. Fifty per cent of women have access to small-scale loans to start business ventures

8. Pave 1000 kilometres of well-constructed road linking towns and cities and country

9. Engage 1000 new farmers in agricultural work, providing technical and financial support 

10. Fifty per cent of population have access to clean pipe-borne water supply

11. Fifty per cent of population have access to power 24 hours a day, seven days a week

12. Fifty per cent of homes connected to the internet

*I wish to thank Dr Okwuonicha Nzegwu for her contribution to this commentary


Thursday, 21 August 2014

86th birthday of Art Farmer

(Born 21 August 1928, Council Bluffs, Iowa, US)
 Very distinguished lyrical flugelhorn player and trumpeter with grace and sensitive tonality, composer and bandleader


110th birthday of Count Basie

(Born 21 August 1904, Red Bank, New Jersey, US)
 Pianist, organist, composer, arranger, his salutary majesty of the big band and swing whose orchestra for 50 years, beginning in 1935, becomes a conservatoire for the distinguished graduating array of instrumentalists and singers of the age including, particularly, tenor saxophonist Lester Young, trumpeters Buck Clayton and Harry Edison and singers Billie Holiday, Helen Humes, Big Joe Turner, Joe Williams and Jimmy Rushing


Sunday, 17 August 2014

127th birthday of Marcus Garvey

(Born 17 August 1887, St Ann’s Bay, Jamaica)
Preeminent pan-African thinker, journalist, publisher, organiser, entrepreneur


Saturday, 16 August 2014

84th birthday of Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo

(Born 16 August 1930, Ojoto, Igboland)
Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo is Africa’s most celebrated and most influential poet. He occupied the poetry chair of the continent’s post-(European)conquest literary academy in the 1960s with Chinua Achebe the head of the novel institute and Wole Soyinka, head of drama.

Okigbo’s scholarship and influences are extensive and varied: Igbo history, mythology, art and philosophy, ancient world religious and spiritual heritage encompassing Kemet (“ancient Egypt”), Nri, Idemili,  Babylon, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Greece and Roman as well as the poetry of Ovid, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Yeats, Mallarmé, Eliot, Pound, Hopkins.

Right from the outset, Okigbo’s perspicacious intellectual contribution in mapping out the tenets of Africa’s renaissance scholarship is his focus on both redeeming the European World-occupation’s assault on the spiritual embodiment of African existence, in the wake of the conquest, and confronting a ruthless genocide state-in-the-making in Nigeria at the first half of the 1960s. Okigbo’s worldview does not tolerate any excuses for either the perpetration or perpetuation of any forms of tyranny and subjugation of peoples. Consequently, Okigbo’s poetry has had a profound impact on the work of several poets of his generation as well as on the ever-expanding stretch of the “post”-Igbo genocide generation of poets and writers in other genres.

Crucial site

Fifty years on, the state in contemporary Africa is inherently a genocide-state – exemplified most catastrophically by Nigeria, the Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Okigbo’s incisive scholarship (see, especially, Christopher Okigbo, Heavensgate, Silences, Limits, Distances, “Laments of the Masks”, “Laments of the Deer”, “Four Canzones” and Path of Thunder), to the poet’s eternal credit, anticipates the nature and characterisation of the multifocal crises of this development and rigorously interrogates their tragic consequences. For Okigbo, given the operationalising backdrop of the European conquest and occupation, the spiritual is a crucial site of the African resistance and campaign for the restoration of sovereignty. This is because the eventual goal of the occupation’s assault is aimed at burrowing a cataclastic fault-line in the soul of the people to pre-empt or complicate their determined process of recovery on the morrow of the triumph of freedom. Evidently, Okigbo responds to this emergency, in his scholarship, by weaving a multilayered and panoramic landscape of often-complex fabric of overarching architecture of ideas that meditates on the variegated spiritual universe of the people.

 (The New York Contemporary Five, “Trio” – personnel: Archie Shepp, tenor saxophone; Don Cherry, pocket trumpet;  John Tchicai, alto saxophone; Don Moore, bass; JC Moses, drums [recorded: live, Jazzhus Montmarte, Copenhagen, Denmark, 15 November 1963])

In the 1960-1966 Nigeria historical context particularly, Okigbo’s scholarship of resistance pitches its tent squarely on behalf of those who would confront blatantly-rigged election results and imposed parties and leaderships, rigged census returns, arbitrary arrests and detentions, rabid and rampant authoritarianism and, most tragically of all, the Nigeria state-organised genocide against the Igbo people, Africa’s post-conquest foundational genocide. The poet himself was killed defending his beloved motherland. 3.1 million Igbo people were murdered during the 44 months of the genocide – 29 May 1966-12 January 1970.

In the gripping lines of his last poem cycle, Path of Thunder, written before the outbreak of the genocide but published posthumously, Okigbo breathtakingly presages the contours of the cataclysmic consequences of the genocide and his own likely death during the slaughter (Labyrinths with Path of Thunder, 1971: 71-72):

AND THE HORN may now paw the air howling goodbye …

For the Eagles are now in sight:
Shadows in the horizon –

THE ROBBERS are here in black sudden steps of showers, of
caterpillar –
THE EAGLES have come again,
The eagles rain down on us –

POLITICIANS are back in giant hidden steps of howitzers, of
detonators –
THE EAGLES descend on us,
Bayonets and cannons –

THE ROBBERS descend on us to strip us of our laughter, of our
thunder –

THE EAGLES have chosen their game …

POLITICIANS are here in this iron dance of mortars, of
generators –
THE EAGLES are suddenly there,
New stars of iron dawn;

So let the horn paw the air howling goodbye …

O mother mother Earth, unbind me; let this be
my last testament; let this be
The ram’s hidden wish to the sword the sword’s
secret prayer to the scabbard –

BEYOND the iron path careering along the same beaten track –

THE GLIMPSE of a dream lies smouldering in a cave,
together with the mortally wounded birds.
Earth, unbind me; let me be the prodigal; let this be
the ram’s ultimate prayer to the tether …

AN OLD STAR departs, leaves us here on the shore
Gazing heavenward for a new star approaching;
The new star appears, foreshadows its going
Before a going and coming that goes on forever…

Many a season

Christopher Ifekandu Okigbo would be appalled by the devastation of Igboland, 44 years after the end of the third phase of the genocide. He wouldn’t rest on his laurels, though, in response to challenge and overcome what is undoubtedly a clear, conscious, fiendishly-scripted and targetedly-driven haematophagous monster to destroy one of the world’s very talented peoples. Okigbo, who believes in the power of words, would head for his keyboard … and more …

History testifies that the quest for human freedom is not often an engagement pursued over just one season. For many, and the Igbo appear to be incorporated in this group, it is rather much more painfully drawn out; it could entail a cast of over several, long seasons. This trajectory, therefore, inevitably, encapsulates its vivid vicissitudes of pain … grief … opportunities … turmoil … setbacks … triumphs … turmoil … grief …  opportunities … breakthroughs …  What is at stake here is for a more focused, more steadfast, and a more enduring understanding of the huge tasks ahead. Surely this is music in the ears of the resourceful and resilient Igbo people.

The Igbo can and will rebuild their battered towns and villages, and economy, which was one of Africa’s fastest growing power houses on the eve of the genocide. Unquestionably, the Igbo will restore their sovereignty. As the Okigboan œuvre demonstrates, human freedom eventually prevails most luminously. Okaa Omee.


89th birthday of Mal Waldron

(Born 16 August 1925, New York, US)
Versatile composer, bandleader and pianist with a distinctive minimalist approach, producing, during a career stretching 50 years, over 100 albums under his leadership and over 60 as accompanist in bands elsewhere especially those led by luminaries Holiday, Lincoln, Mingus, Ammons, Burrell, Coltrane, Roach, Dolphy and Little


Friday, 15 August 2014

89th birthday of Oscar Peterson

(Born 15 August 1925, Montreal, Canada)

Award winning pianist, bandleader and composer (including the human rights classic, “Hymn to freedom”) whose resplendent duo (piano, bass/guitar/piano/trumpet/voice) and trio ensembles (piano, bass, drums) establish an authoritative space in the jazz repertoire for well over 50 years starting from the late 1940s


139th birthday of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

(Born 15 August 1875, Holborn, London, England)
Distinguished prolific composer whose landmark works embody African-centred themes including, especially, “Land of the Sun”, Op. 15 (1897), “African Romances” Op.17 (1897), The Song of Hiawatha, Op. 30 (“Overture to The Song of Hiawatha”, 1899; “Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast”, 1898; “The Death of Minnehaha”, 1899; “Hiawatha’s Departure”, 1900), “African Suite”, Op. 35 (1899), Toussaint LOuverture, Op. 46 (1901), “Ethiopia Saluting the Colours”, Op. 51 [2?] (1902), “Moorish Dance”, Op. 55 (1904), “Four African Dances”, Op. 58 (1904), Kubla Khan, Op. 61 (1905), “Symphonic Variations on an African Air”, Op. 63 (1906), Thelma, Op. 72 (1907-9), The Bamboula, Op. 75 (1911)


Thursday, 14 August 2014

72nd birthday of Molefi Kete Asante

(Born 14 August 1942, Valdosta, Georgia, US)
Communication theorist, cultural theorist, academic, one of the most prolific African-centred scholars of all time


Thursday, 7 August 2014

79th birthday of Rahsaan Roland Kirk

(Born 7 August 1935, Columbus, Ohio, US)
Celebrated multiinstrumentalist, composer, bandleader and human rights activist who often plays more than one tenor saxophone in addition to some other wind instrument simultaneously


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

84th birthday of Abbey Lincoln

(Born 6 August 1930, Chicago, US)
Acclaimed lyricist, actress, human rights activist, plays central role in Max Roach Decatet’s classic album, We Insist!: Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite (1960)


Monday, 4 August 2014

113th birthday of Louis Armstrong

(Born 4 August 1901, New Orleans, US)

Trumpet and cornet virtuoso who contributes immensely to charting the role of the soloist in the jazz ensemble


Sunday, 3 August 2014

182nd birthday of Edward Wilmot Blyden

(Born 3 August 1832, St Thomas, Virgin Islands)
 Renowned Igbo-St Thomas intellectual, prolific author whose books, essays, commentaries and speeches, whilst working in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, France, Britain and the United States between 1850 and 1912, inaugurate the epistemology of pan-Africanism


Saturday, 2 August 2014

90th birthday of James Baldwin

(Born 2 August 1924, Harlem, New York, US)
Novelist, essayist, commentator, dramatist, arguably African America’s leading writer and intellectual during the liberatory age of human rights affirmation, 1950s-1990s