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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

King of jazz: The Nigerian saxophonist inspiring generations by Will Ross

Will Ross 
Follow on Twitter as @willintune
Photo: BBC
Will Ross went to visit Nigeria's school for aspiring musicians and meets the staff and students at Peter King's College of Music.

In a small practice room in the Nigerian city of Lagos, a young drummer breaks into sweat as he energetically thumps out rhythms for hours on end. In the next room, a tenor saxophonist is soaring through scales and arpeggios in pursuit of perfection.

"I play two or three hours every day. I'm working hard because I don't want to be mediocre," says the saxophonist, 21-year-old Joseph Shaibu.

"I'm trying out different genres of music so I can get my own voice out of it," he adds, before blowing some more.

The students at Peter King's College of Music in Lagos do not have to look far for inspiration - the college is run by a Nigerian great. 

Will Ross meets the staff and students at Peter King's College of Music. 
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Peter King's musical career took off in the pre-independence 1950s when the highlife music style ruled. Back then, there was no music school and budding musicians had to learn on the job.

Boney M music director 
It all began when King, aged 18, walked into the Central Hotel in Ibadan to watch Roy Chicago's band.

"It looked exactly like the American films we used to watch at the cinema - people's clothes and the way they danced holding each other like ballroom," he says, at his home opposite the music school.

King, known affectionately as PK, spied some maracas and claves on the stage at the Central Hotel and casually mentioned to his friend that he used to play them at home in his family band.

"That's when the trouble started. My friend told me I must get on stage and join in, but I was afraid to go on stage without talking to the bandleader.

"He started dragging me and it looked like we were going to fight. When it became too much I had no choice than play with the band."

He must have been spot on with the rhythm because before long he was drumming and taking lessons on the double bass while performing with the band every night.

The other musicians chipped in money from their own salaries to help.

Next came lessons on the trumpet but King had his eyes fixed on the saxophone and borrowed one to practise every morning.

After touring all over Nigeria with various groups, he joined the band behind the most popular musician of the day, Victor Olaiya.

By 1961 King was a very accomplished saxophonist. He headed to London to study at the Trinity College of Music.

He later came up with his own unique blend of highlife, jazz, Afrobeat and funk, toured with his African Jazz Messengers band and was still in Europe as disco was taking over the dance floors in the 1970s.

He dived into the genre and served as director of music on Boney M's first European tour.

'Music is no joke' 
His philosophy of learning from all different types of music is clearly evident today at his music school in Nigeria.

Students at the Peter King College of Music learn all types of music.
"Mozart has lots of nice compositions and when you hear them there is this joy that comes within," says one of the teachers Nelson Taiwo, who was himself taught by King.

"When you talk of the history of music, it is something many people do not want to study because they feel they want to do popular music not classical. So you have to find a way of making them like it - use examples they can relate to," says Taiwo.

Source: BBC News