Concert Celebrates Music of Africa


Courtesy of Paul Irabor

Journey to Africa features the SJCC African Combo (shown here) along with guest performers, the African Hymn Project.

The music department of San Jacinto College Central Campus offers students the opportunity to participate in many ensembles ranging from the Calypso-Caribbean style music of the SJCC Steel Band to the groovy sounds of the Jazz ensemble.

In spite of all the choices, one music student, Paul Irabor decided that the root of all music, the music of Africa, was a genre the department should also showcase. Partly due to Irabor’s efforts, the music department is presenting Journey to Africa, a concert taking place April 4 featuring the SJCC African Combo along with guest performers, the African Hymn Project.

Irabor said the idea for creating the SJCC African Combo first came from former San Jac student Olanrewaju Alaba Ilesamn. Later, Eric Late, Chair of Central Campus’s music department lent his support, and the pair started the group in 2016.

“The aim was to revive and relive the memories of the African roots in the areas of music and dressing for the people here in this part of the world,” Irabor said. 

Coordination and rehearsal efforts to stage the concert took nearly two months. Graham Tobin, music professor and director of the wind and Jazz ensembles, sponsored the event and according to Irabor, played a vital role in preparing student performers for the joint concert with the African Hymn Project. Together, Irabor and Tobin put together a smooth Jazz feel with the subtle sounds of African percussion and singing.

“Professor Graham Tobin… has been very wonderful with his method of allowing students the liberty to bring out what they have on the inside,” he said.

The African Hymn Project is a group of students from Africa that came together to help promote African culture in the United States, according to Irabor. He, like most of the performers from the African Hymn Project, came from Nigeria a few years ago to attend a university but enrolled in San Jac based on the reviews he read about Central Campus’s music program. He said the experience lived up to his high expectations.

“My two years in San Jac have been mind-blowing,” he said crediting “the awesome and seasoned professors in the music faculty.”

Journey to Africa featuring the African Hymn Project and the SJCC African Combo starts at 7 p.m. on April 4 in Corbin Hall of the Monte Blue Music Building (C5) on the Central Campus.