Chi-chi Nwanoku: A classical legacy and an African heritage

Chi-chi Nwanoku: A classical legacy and an African heritage

Music Africa Magazine

Ed Keazor

A short biography of Chi-chi Nwanoku MBE, world-renowned classical baroque bassist and Professor of Music, covering her life, influences and deep connections to her African roots.

Dr Michael Nwanoku adjusted himself in his seat as the next announcement was about to be made. He and his wife Margaret had looked forward to this day for several weeks and he had made the point of wearing his full Igbo Chief’s regalia, complete with the “Ozo” Cap and Coral beads. After all it was not every day one visited Buckingham Palace, neither was it every day that one witnessed one’s daughter receiving the award of a national honour from Queen Elizabeth II herself. His daughter, through sheer talent and hard work, had conquered years of adversity and some might say, prejudice to emerge as one of Britain’s finest Classical Musicians and academics. Almost in the same way, he and his Irish wife had conquered racism and ignorance in the course of their long and happy marriage. Dr and Mrs Nwanoku had too many good reasons to be proud of their eldest daughter, the talented Chi-chi Nwanoku, now Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) as she received her award from the Queen.

Chinyere (Chi-chi) Adah Nwanoku, was born in Fulham, London, in 1956 to Michael Nwanoku and the former Margaret Ivey. Her parents had met at a chance encounter at a dance in London, in 1955 and were inseparable from then on and they got married shortly afterwards. The young couple faced prejudice on account of their Interracial relationship at the time, recalling a period in Britain, where signs on Houses, advertising lodging vacancies, would boldly state, “No blacks, no dogs, no Irish”. The couple humorously recalled thanking God they didn’t have a dog (since they were both black and Irish)…

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