The Sahel Opera’s artistic team gets to work

January 2006 -

"It’s challenging and stimulating but also very complex. We are four composers and over the next few days will discuss who is going to compose what." Tunde Jegede is a cellist, kora player and composer. He is of Nigerian stock and lives in London, where he pursues musical projects that span African and European cultures. Jegede is a member of the artistic team that is busy creating the Sahel Opera, the ambitious project conceived by Prince Claus as a top-notch showcase for the presentation of African talent to European audiences.Jegede maakt deel uit van het artistieke team dat de Sahel Opera gaat maken, het ambitieuze project dat Prins Claus bedacht om Afrikaans talent op hoogwaardige wijze te presenteren aan Europees publiek.

Sahel Opera

Tunde Jegede (left) and Wasis Diop

The first artistic discussions were held in Amsterdam in December. Jegede: "We are still discussing which languages to use. We want the European audiences to be able to follow the libretto (i.e. the text) properly, but if we don’t use any African languages this would make the piece less authentic. Perhaps we will use supertitles - we haven’t decided yet."
Of course, opera is almost unknown in Africa although operas have been put on in South Africa. ‘Nevertheless, we do have the tradition of the griots, the musical storytellers, which is a great starting point.’

The Prince Claus Fund isn’t looking for an African Mozart but instead wants to encourage African musicians and composers to use a concept that is new to them to promote the exchange of cultural ideas. Wasis Diop, Senegalese composer and guitarist, is the project’s musical director. "As far as I am concerned, the project has already been a success. This opera is ambitious in scope, and this and its large potential audience mean we have a golden opportunity to show everybody that African people have the same dreams and wishes as Westerners. This puts our team under great pressure but it also makes it very exciting."

The Sahel Opera is to premiere on 4 November 2006 in Bamako, Mali, with the Dutch première in Amsterdam on 13 December, to be followed by a European tour.