Singing Cultures Journey

Fela Sowande Archives

Key source material for Phase 1 was drawn from selective Fela Sowande archives which were generously shared by his former student Guy Pernetti. These included copies of original photographs; compositions; piano and organ performances; documentary films; and BBC lectures.

Guy Pernetti also shared personal insights and stories about Sowande. Like when Sowande enlisted in the RAF as a bug private during World War II. Word got around about Sowande’s musical talents and the fame and notoriety he had attained as a performer in London. One day Sowande got a phone call from the general or commander asking if he would perform at an event but the tone must have been uncomfortably authoritative as Sowande replied, ‘Look here how do you expect me to perform for the troops when you talk to me like that’ and hung up. The general phoned back and invited Sowande to a meeting at which Sowande was presented with a swagger stick as a kind of apology.
The general was Lord Mountbatten.

Guy also recalled a number of Sowande quotes and sayings that capture his philosophical thoughts and writings. Here are a few:

“The more diverse the elements the stronger the metaphor.”

“If you don’t know what your roots are how can you know what your flowers are?”

“We are not prepared to submit to the doctrine of apartheid in art by which a musician is expected to work only within the limits of his traditional forms of music.”

“We are all naked in this world except for the friends that clothe us.”

Listen to more of Guy Pernetti’s recolllections of Sowande in this podcast with excerpts from a skype call between Guy Pernetti, Bilkis Malek and Juwon Ogungbe (July 2016).