Untold story of African composer

WEST African composer and musician Tunde Jegede brings a dramatic and fascinating untold story to the stage of Bridport’s Lyric Theatre in Emidy: He Who Dared to Dream, on Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th July at 8pm.

Using dance, music, film, movement and theatre, Emidy: He Who Dared To Dream tells the story of a 19th century African composer who lived in Cornwall and crossed three continents in pursuit of his musical dreams –a story of survival, slavery and triumph of a composer and virtuoso violinist in the royal courts of Europe..

The innovative performance is a collaboration between Tunde Jegede, gifted young dancer and choreographer, Ishimwa Muhimanyi and the visual artist and filmmaker, Sunara Begum.

Joseph Antonio Emidy, Britain’s first composer of the African Diaspora, was also a violinist in the Lisbon Opera House and founded several orchestral philharmonic societies. He was born in Guinea in 1775 and was taken as a slave to Brazil as a consequence of the triangular trans-Atlantic slave trade.

As a young man he was brought to Portugal where he worked as a virtuoso violinist in the Lisbon Opera before being kidnapped by British sailors during the Napoleonic wars. He spent the next four years as a ship’s fiddler under Admiral Edward Pellew before being released at Falmouth in 1799.

For the next 36 years, Emidy lived and worked in Cornwall as a composer, teacher and virtuoso violinist writing chamber works, concertos and symphonies. One of the most celebrated and influential musical figures of early 19th century Cornwall, he organised concerts and set up harmonic societies, and eventually became the leader of the Truro Philharmonic Orchestra.

Joseph Antonio Emidy married tradesman’s daughter Jane Hutchins in 1802 and they had eight children. He died in Truro on 23rd April 1835 and his grave is in Kenwyn churchyard. He was survived by five children.

On Sunday 2nd July from 2 to 4pm, Tunde Jegede and Rafael Guel will lead a music workshop of singing, performing and musical collaboration, exploring African and South American (Amerindian) musical traditions, following Emidy’s musical trail. The workshop is open to musicians of all abilities. Participants should bring their own instruments but do not need to be able to read music.