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The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals

Musical Composition As A Cultural Conversation With English Identity

Dr Gillan Evans is joined in conversation with percussionist and composer Sola Akingbola, exploring questions such as:

  • As a composer whose cultural roots are partly located in Yoruba-land, South Western Nigeria, how is Sola freed or inhibited by the expectation that an ‘African’-inspired production of Hamlet should focus heavily on certain kinds of drums and rhythmic structures?
  • How does the focus on diverse racial, ethnic and cultural outputs in English theatre commissioning create or restrain the possibility for stepping outside of stereotypical music associated with ‘blackness’ or ‘African-ness’?
  • What opportunities are there in English theatre for musical composition that goes both ways – creating more unexpected and perhaps more intriguing engagement with the English ways in which ‘African-ness’ shows up for both white and black Britons?
  • How might a post colonial sensitivity allow for a critique of the current state of play in British theatre, if understood through an evolution of ‘black productions’ and the soundscape they evince through composition?

    Workshops and masterclasses in Utopia Theatre’s Creative Hub are for people of African origin aged 16 and above.

Click here to book your place.

Sola Akingbola is best known for the way in which he brings the particular sensitivities of a Yoruba cultural background to his compositions for English theatre. He has written music for the RSC’s 2016 production of Hamlet, directed by Simon Godwin. He co- arranged and performed music for the Young Vic production Feast in 2013 directed by Rufus Norris. Sola also performed as an actor and was composer for the Duchess of Malfi (Iyalode of Eti) production by Utopia Theatre in 2015 directed by Mojisola Elufowoju.

Sola is interested in the ways in which English theatre can be understood as one of the central places in the nation for the staging of discussion about what it means to be English. Interestingly, Sola considers this staging to be a repeating ritual act for the English. The question that Sola brings to this conversation, through his work, centres around the contemporary focus in English theatre on multiculturalism.

Sola is interested in what is highlighted and what is obscured in theatre and music that creates a particular kind of cultural and political tension around the issue of social integration. Inspired by the provocation of an anthropological perspective on the cultural politics of Englishness, Sola will engage in this online gathering in response to questions from Dr Gillian Evans.

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