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Chi-chi Nwanoku

2018-02-11 | 🔗
Chi-chi Nwanoku is a double bass player and founder of Europe's first professional majority black and minority ethnic orchestra, Chineke!. Chi-chi is the eldest of five children, born to a Nigerian father and an Irish mother. Early on, she discovered two competing passions: playing the piano and 100 metre sprinting. She was aiming to qualify for the 1976 Olympics when she suffered a knee injury which cut short her life as an athlete. Her music teacher then suggested that she could have a career as a musician if she took up 'an unpopular orchestral instrument'. She began learning the double bass a week later. She was a student at the Royal Academy of Music and for over 30 years has played with renowned orchestras, including the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, English Baroque Soloists, London Classical Players and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment , which she co-founded and where she was principal double bass for three decades. In 2015, she set up Chineke! to support, inspire and encourage black and minority ethnic musicians. Last year the Chineke! orchestra made its debut at the BBC Proms, and Chi-chi was awarded an OBE for her services to music. Producer: Sarah Taylor.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is the bbc. Oh I'm christiaan! Where come to desert island discs. Where every week I asked my gear, to choose the eight tracks, the book and the luxury item that they want to take with them. they were cast away on a desert island for rights, since the music on these podcast fashions is shorter than original broadcast, you can find Over two thousand more additions to listen to and download on the desert and discs website. My castaway this week is the musician chechen wanna, call a doubleday please she is founder of Europe's first blackened minority ethnic orchestra, sir.
stay to musicians. Thirty one different nationalities, my guest, contributes to the multicultural mix three times over born in london. Her mother was irish, her father nigerian. She the town to child and in the beginning it was sport that captured her heart. She trained as a splinter for the montreal olympics, but an stingy injury, put paid to her ambitions on the track, and so she swiftly turned our attention and ability to music. She shown as students at the royal academy and later was a founder member of the orchestra of the age of enlightenment and no in a classical world still notable for its pilumnus and malice she's chin, perceptions and challenging stereotypes with significant success. She says, we'd all born musicians. Since the beginning of time, we ve communicated with each other through a series of rhythms and sons, everywhere others has heartbeat that connection to the rhythm of the assets such an optimistic sought,
but for those of us who are not, who really dont feel that we naturally have musical town. You honestly believe that day, I d at any. If you ve got any sense of coordination and movement than that There is absolutely no reason why we recall to learn to do something physical and you ve, performed all over the world different audiences, indifferent places are, you know, do you sort of thing always gonna be good here, I'm ready for them, because they ll be ready for me or other places, regal anything tat, tricky punch, this country. Does it very lot. I don't ever go with Preconceived idea of who I'm having met me the core conversation with sharing that time. space in that order. Tore him given moment. I always work on two stage with hope and site meant I'm always easily really excited. Let's go your first piece of music man sheep its chance quintet its probably the most impasse what and insignificant piece of change music for double based plans. We
really don't feature in a lot of the great chamber: music. What's been written, when I was a student, the Veronica music in my first year, I noticed all the wind players got put into wind on symbols, and things like that and all the brass players got put into brass bands and the string class got put into string quartet's, the double these plans. We seem to be in a category of our own and we were just in orchestra that everybody else was in any way and so just hungered foot a set of broader let of music, I think by my fourth year, advantage to cobbled together for other people who agree to run it through with me. But ironically, since then, I've played it. So many times with them The extraordinary pen
in the world and many many of the most wonderful quartet
parts of schebitz troops quintet, performed by a manual acts, PAMELA, frank, rebecca young, you mamma and admire she didn't work who and he fifteen was when you decided that you would set up this, this orchestra, that would be majority black and ethnic minority players where does the name originate? What does it mean? The name of the orchestra connection? It's an elbow word and, my father was a both from the east of nigeria boat people. The word: She is a very important word in the upper language and cheese means god in the evening with, but not the gaunt. With long white beard sits on a fluffy counts, not the two thousand year old god, but more like a dog. guardian and be But people believe that everyone has their own guardian. That guides them for the cradle to the coffin and then Nicky means creation. The creation of all good things, even the rain and the trees and the grass, and diverse aspects, so those to cheat nicky too.
that you make it to me, really sums up the spirit of all good creation. You know it's a day become subject to tackle this and I hope I can put it clearly enough, but given that, as you explain it, there are not enough examples of black and ethnic minority people learning instruments and having great players the cup to that they see on the constant stages. Has it been up? What are you getting players of a good enough standards, because there is not culturally that's environment those players have flourished his kids when it's been mine. playing for me on the journey. I've had to find the players because I count on the fingers of one hand, how many musicians of color I had worked with front my entire career on. the basis of three If those were seeing. As you know, we not white roderick Williams and patricia rosaria, so I had to be such on my hands, the assumption. Is that were not good enough? People cannot good enough, but of course, that's not true
people of color a great musicians. It's just having me access opportunity at the right age in life to learn I began with ask solar with friends of mine, who played with The rochesters around the country around the world, if they'd noticed players that looked like me playing in these wonderful orchestras. I spoke to the conservatives across the country and the odd name such coming at daylight onto other names. I discuss but that the more I searched the more I found that the wealth of tenant runs deep life? So that's the other question, Why don't we see more people kind of honor stages and there's a whole mixed with things going on how to people get through. audition processes not just for the orchestra, is ineffective. professional situation, but even get into music, courage and
learning an instrument is not cheap. I'm going to ask a little bit more about the addition process a little bit later on. For now. I want to really get get a flavour of your orchestra, an you first performed in london, size bank. Twenty eight finish: what was it like when you went on to the concert stage that evening it was them extraordinary. Failing that, I will never forget it of my days We had a standing ovation ass, we walked onto stage. We had no idea how we were going to be received, the com sold out, though accused Lee. outside of the building and that cheering and standing ovation before the first night, with hair, raising its excellent, Is it? You didn't want to tell me about yourself, your second peace, what we gonna hear when it has to be I'm your countries, china, the ballot in a minor discovering samuel college taylor was just it an extraordinary thing for me. You know he won. scottish on the violin at the age of fifteen to boycott of music, emerged as the greatest composer. This was coming.
and by the three class festival they had commissioned. L got to write something he was too busy at the time- and he said I suggested, Give this commission to arguably the most talented young composer in Britain today, samuel caused
The ban on in a minor is thirty. Three by the mixed drinks, composers, samuel, coleridge, taylor performed, thereby the boil liverpool philharmonic orchestra contacted by grant llewellyn issues that should she, because, importantly, because it was the first piece of music that was played in public by the china k orchestra. You mentioned chee chee that your dad was from nigeria, your mum from island they made in the fifties. How did they met their meeting with this epoch?
My mother had gone to the hammersmith Pele with a swiss friend of hers, both asking students and am they hadn't Don't leave me and, of course, in it these days you couldn't get up and dont. Trying to handbags like we do today. You have to to be asked, didn't, say they got fed up with me. eating and they made that they should. Let's go home, they were at the cloakroom leaving their coats when in walked my father and that just one look at hand he said wearing you going and she said I am not a dance all evening, I'm off and he said well done with you and that with it they danced for the rest of their lives and how to their respective families react to their romance and then their marriage, horrific fur, my mother's side and she was told, never to darken their doorstep again and she did ass. She was told, really never went back southern ireland, men did they, Whole communication happened. Yes, my mother carried on writing to her family
telling them hash was getting on and what was in her how life was going, and you know the man. her dreams came along those baby number one. She was still writing to them by the time I was born, an funnily enough when I was about three months old, about rang one evening on announced and my grandmother, goodness, unannounced and m she spent a week with us. So I know I've been held by my grandmother. She got unlike a house on fire with my dad that, with ass time. Mama ever saw her mother business lena sheet. She went back to her and she had to make up some story about. Why should come to london and that with it, and so that would indicate that the letters were being read. They were being made just now, about them as a young couple in london, either by the time you have come along or before that. You know that this was an area of
a casual daily in greens, racism? How hard was it for them to make a life to find a flat to live and to get employment, and so there were those signs that people were allowed to put onto that rental properties in my power would follow leads under the rim to rent heather's rimmed meant that they'd inevitably get and there would be a fine thing: no blacks, no dogs. No irish. They thought we'll take a chance. We haven't got a dog and then that is easy to laugh but I'll misery. The thing is because they had a sense of humor. They fill knock on the door, they say. Look, we haven't got a dog at three in the door. what slam, but I may know they were incredible and I think the more of the society try to push them apart, the more they can together and when they retired they, the house in berkshire, moved nigeria and built a beautiful family house in the village where my the gap in this area, ex piece of music, then we're going to hear your said. I was very, very to my dad- and it was one of those night- when there are so many stars packing
the sky, we felt you could japanese plucked out of the sky. My top with holding me- and I was asking him about what we re looking at That's when he told me that they were called stars, and so he, to me twinkling. Committal star and of course, I think that, as my first meeting lesson
none about again playing parts of my sons- variations in c major and see your family, then she chee Monaco, moved to camp twenty. run about six m, tell me about primary school life be fitted in drastically as the only black family in Berlin county primary school. In my country, there was for us that primary school, and we were very I'll, come by our friends, many of whom have become friends her life and other friends. Me later told me because they know they can speak the truth to me that, until family arrived in the village, one of them judgments that the parents used to say to them that if they were naughty, a big black bogeyman
come and taken away and that the fund is how to drop that everyone loved, my dad, you said earlier. Your father gave you your first music lessened by well by saying to you: when did you actually start having piano lessons when I was seven years of age hidenwood? He joined recorder ensemble at school. A year later I was at a neighbor's house and I was just playing at her house and one day I just heard this sound coming out of another room that I've never been in to open the door and there sat have big brother trevor baby will be twelve ablaze. Now I need that in my life and I refused to leave the room until he showed it to me, proceeded to return to the house every single day after school and They finally, mrs, be wield the piano up the road. gave me my first instrument. There was a particular night when mom came to pick me up, because I think that state my welcome and as we out of the house. She said to me to tee. I know that when go to play with PAMELA. You don't play with
a tall do you, you just play that piano, and I thought o day I've been rumbled us that that said, and she said, don't worry we're going to do all we can and they would work overtime. They did everything they could to get me piano. Lessons tell me about your next he's too. She we're gonna, hear your force when discovered nina Simone. I was pretty blown away because we ve got lot in common and similarly, the song that I'm gonna choose my baby just answer me, because if certain fateful things not happened in my life. I possibly could not followed the classical music career that I was fortunate enough to follow. She was Sickly trained, a bar in her music and in her piano parts, and I m an extraordinary women.
Shit man baby member ma am reassured me came to please. This is not a simone. My baby just cares for me, I'm alongside the music lessons, then teaching you are also in the athletic steam youtube sprinter to those those who can think of nothing worse than wanting a hundred metres of any, for he could tell us what this sensation is when you're good at it. What does it feel like phrase abed just
at one with everything really and you had toiled for the munich olympics, but have been unsuccessful, and so the next goal was the montreal olympic. Yes, I didn't quite qualify from munich when our sixteen months, you would have been a sat looking at my times at the age of seventeen. I was eleven point, and getting faster, so a very realistic go getting my man and I lived in attracts eat all my school the former kendrick girls grammar school in writing by then, and I paid the facts, you first hockey team and the netbook second seven. I love tee games and but sprinting was was my absolute forty halfway through my last year, I got a phone call from Somebody representing redding ladys football club, so I got it cool thing. Could you be off main strike her for a couple of matches? We ve lost our main striker message: fine retirement the bull came, they mean I took off quickly with the ball. I would have about eight people trying to kick me,
and so he sustained this risk. Category may sustained an injury leg was in the air, typical football injury. Massive needs location. I was told in the hospital that evening, but I would never sprint again. I was site myself, as you can imagine the books the time for me to come in to have surgery that have cottage removed and also things, and during that time, latent time, I entered the school music competition, in which I played chopin on the pianist quite a good if I'd get back going as passionate hobby I was doing a level music and am I want the companies the next thing I know is in hospital for two weeks the day I came back, the school John descent, with my level music teacher, walked up to me as walking into school and such The whole school is devastated by what happened had mistress and I have put our heads together and we believe that you might not.
An orchestra instrument that you're in the school choir the magical, quieter record ensemble, we believe you could have a career in music. If you took up a very unfold orchestral kestrel instrument, didn't know what he was talking about midnight anybody to cut its in my life, and I was taken that by the school, and so he led me this tiny room in the school that I'd never benin and inside that room stood to double basis. And I look to hear- and I said, sir I'm- the shortest gonna sick form, I'm fine but nothing I mean they ve gotta, be the biggest instruments mucus too, and then he set the right thing. He said jasper, titty, wouldn't if you ever been put off by a chance, you knew you well clearly cannot as it lets within some more music. It has to be a piece of, I that really sums up being half nigerian- it's good high, music and the only time I ever heard this music was when we had
many parties gatherings with friends and extended family and we last dance to it, and it was very beautiful and very typical off my father's people. I love it and this particular track sweet mother,
can it sums up our amendments on drug money, man, my sweet mother by a prince nickel bog cheating and want to cool prejudicing the workplace very hot topic right, my as we know in recent years, when it comes to classical music, some work is to have introduced these things. blind or where prospective candidates.
Roger by applying for a place in the orchestra play behind a screen, so the people who dishing can't see their identity and in it said that to combat bias, whether less unconscious or otherwise. What do you make of is a good idea a contentious issue is contentious, isn't it, but I know it's comes as no Surprise to me that, since that's been introduced, there are twenty five per and more women in orchestras in america, for example, in its not join for, though the kind of his skin. It's your gender as well, because you know one of the things that was said to me I mean I remember as a first german, I finally got into the wrong account of music. My first consulate, geeks whole map its came down from boxer, to see me playing in my very first concept. There when I went to join them after the concert. My mother was particularly distressed because a tooth had told them that was not gonna have a career because playing a man's instruments at that concert at that conference,
teach and want to do the people would look at you and think. Will she did it? Why do we need all this stuff about president? If you're good enough, you'll get there? She got there. I think the very comfortable with one mixed race person on the stage there playing a double base is breaking not so perceptions double base, five foot tall, mixed race or all of those things now many colleagues have color is a handful who actually have positions with symphony extras and most of those one positions in the united states because they ve won them. Behind the screen to appointment Every single one of them have been eliminated from audition rounds as soon as spain has gone away. That's not occur, It is absolutely true that this is an incredibly claw fast trumpet clapped billy hunter he's principle trumpet in the new york met office over mister one, the principle job in Utah our first and the sooner principal bassoon in Atlanta one positions from behind a screen. We all
suffer from a little bit of unconscious bias, and we just got we could work set that not Tom pretend that we don't wear at the stage now where we need to just accept it, and, let's look at We can try and identify it and then work with it. Tell me about you: ex peace, then? What are we gonna hear? Ninety two, it was very rare thing for us to go to a cinema, didn't have spent money like that when we never once went out for dinners or things like that, for example, but Even the parents got caught up in the whole excitement about this. Sound of music coming to canterbury. We got tickets, They were in the very front row right in the middle and we were heads cranes right back. Looking at this huge screen, we of wants to be every single child. In that film we rushed at and got them they can. We sang it all our lives. We all know every single word of it. My children of being with me, too, bag for a couple of weeks,
had bicycles and we ve done everything that the two or the whole thing and sang songs, and now I've just come back from a wonderful in australia, and my grand daughter whose five is also singing to adhere let's stop at the very bade me very good place to start when you read you begin with. When you see you begin window re me, don't re me. The first three notes just happened to be dough. Re me to re me fast, so lahti, let's see if I can make it easier,
during me son, budgeting andrews from the sound of music words and music, thereby rogers and how much time so she didn't want to cool. You set up this orchestra, as you have described so well, to give a professional platform. four musicians of color. I'm wondering to what degree is provided springboard for them to go off and do more than they would have been able to do before. I'm seeing it happen, bacon the profession was, and the junior doctors to orchestra and the chinik, a junior orchestras is just bringing too do I really am while one. What you need is one that baby the young musician, twenty sixteen take Jake mckenna, mason he's gone on to do extraordinary things in continuing to do so. For this year, competition. We ve got three arguably for chinik a genius category finals, which is just unprecedented. Its extraordinary do You have any worry about this in a special orchestra.
Silos, performers of color. Where are you europe is disabled evening from doing turn against when there's a place for them and that actually it could per. Firstly, in it's sort of least optimistic inclination end up in a way working against what it is you're trying to do. You have any concerns and worries about that. That's a really good question and of course I dont want china to be the only place where musicians of car feel welcomed and at home, and that's why our doors, a completely open so far the rest of the industry's being very supportive, the orchestra reaching out we're going to be doing joint projects with all other orchestrating the country at some stage, future we ve got a virus putting thing on the boil amount can only go like exclusive. No, not yet it's very, very important that there is a place where people can really grow their skills and grow their confidence. the sign with the juniors. For example, there
the first day, which is very like of the professional very first day, which is basically one day apart from each other, the end of six thousand hustle. Nobody wants scare him and a public mason family two musicians play together. Each of them are like me, the only one in their town or their youth orchestra wherever they live. Seven genius of one's gonna ships into london, music colleges this year and music colleges around the country. At least half a dozen have got into the national youth orchestra. This was not happening. Two years ago said these children are there. It's just a different state isn't your grubbing knife. I think people s daughter, become conscious of your future and you might look the tv might look at the bbc. Problems is the biggest festival of the world and and its on tv. the only music programmes on the tv and then Look you looking you look, you don't see yourself visual message is a very powerful and I think, what's happened with china. K has been
powerful. Let's have you seven's piece of music. Then teaching wanna go. What are we gonna get no well exe. many come anywhere without sir papa Haydn, Joseph Haydn, I've chosen an exit from his creation that he wrote shortly after he had been them in spite of he had handles messire at she falling his second visit to england. He had also been invited. To visit her telescope, He saw into the galaxy he saw into space, and I am convinced that inspired him for some of this meeting
rising nada go out and was partial, heightens creation perform their by the city of Birmingham symphony orchestra, philip language was singing conducted by sir Simon rattle, achieved china have their first performance at the BBC proms last season. The tuna daddy and soprano Janine too big joined the orchestra to perform rejoiced greatly from the messiah by handler wasn't set in the council would have watched it online pretty extraordinary. I also took a moment to check the latest figures of that online. Clip of her son, they stand run about sort of four point. One four point: two million views and rising well, must bring a great joy to do that. Vs is laws with enjoyed it. It bore me such joy, but still The joy around me and hearing the joy from the audience and people that have written since an janine herself,
with her london debut. Discovering her and bringing her to all audience and sing that music. the scale is something extraordinary. It must have The huge amount of your time. How much time do you have for your music, I'm working there eight days week at the moment I have to get up earlier than normal to get my press, no practice in I've, got in all kinds of things on the boil, but I've and so many new skills in the last couple of years administer scales, fixing an orchestra running a management team. It is its grand to talk about legacies. Isn t always was rather trends thing to put our minds to, but here we are used. said something with an absolute purpose. You are as driven to do this, as you were, has a fifteen year old to get past the hundred metre tape in the best time. I think when will you able to sort of does your hands together and think right. Job done has to do with being saved us, an equal, not just me,
I can cope. I can get on with my life, I'm such a survivor in that sense, but everyone else, while we don't have enough diverse the on boards and management, and things like that. I think we're always kind struggling. We're always condemn climbing, and I hear it has been proved that in a big businesses in the city, results have been greater for those organisations that have got more diverse workforce. Yes- and I I leave the same- goes to say for the arts and music- I don't want it to. It seemed like a novelty I don't feel like it will teach and it is not enough novelty divest shouldn't be a novelty way all here together and I think we ve so. much energy is used up, justifying itself or finding ways to not include that. I think we could we'll get along a lot further. If we could just join hands. Tell me about you
Finally, disk of you rate than to tee what are we gonna here? We are many wise. This list, a sledge family is we to me my call family my extended family and then, when I first left home, and I lived in the house with for the girls other music students, they became like my next family. I have learned four or five friends from my plan the and then my book club, we set lost a member of the book club just recently, but I've got them all with me through everything I can be, who I want to be when I'm way these people, who I call my family, whether the wealth blood related on it,
our sister sledge and we are firmly to cheat it's time for me to send your ways or the silence. As you know, you get the books, I will give you two books, the complete works or shakespeare and the boy and you get to take another book along. What will you be black shamrocks by gas in one equal? Ah, you by your brother, you only need just briefly. What is the story is quite right and it basically charts the life of a mixed race
growing up in the uk. Ok, that's your book than you're allowed. A luxury is well it to be my temper pillow expecting that it had to be ok, other posture predict pillars are available. I should say that you can well, you know when you sleep in so many different beds around the world as an international concert, artist, the all the thing is, if you tossing and turning it, you ve got a concert weighing on your mind for next day. If your active slightly out is very, very difficult that little worth bit for me sleeping my head and neck, and so and shoulder travel version. You see. I know what I take with me everywhere and that's why it's going next. That's your luxury and uniform. It is just one of these eight. I note was difficult enough getting attend to aids but which one would you choose to save it has, heightens creation. Ok, it's he was teaching HU. Thank you very much for letting us here. You're desert, island discs, and thank you for having me.
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Transcript generated on 2022-06-12.