Chineke! Orchestra

Chineke! Orchestra (/ˈɪnɛk/[needs Igbo IPA]) is a British orchestra, the first professional orchestra in Europe to be made up of majority black, Asian and ethnically diverse musicians. The word Chineke derives from the Igbo language meaning "God".[1] The orchestra was founded by musician Chi-chi Nwanoku and their debut concert was in 2015 at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.


Nwanoku, the orchestra's founder, coined its name from the word "Chi'" in the Igbo language,[2] which refers to "the god of creation of all good things",[1] or "the spirit of creation".[3] She was inspired by the use of the term in the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.[4]

Nwanoku has acknowledged that inspiration for founding the orchestra came from a conversation with Ed Vaizey, then the UK Minister of Culture, who noted to her that she was one of the very few musicians of colour on stage in a classical orchestra.[4][5] She also took inspiration from attending a London concert of the Kinshasa Symphony, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the orchestra was all-black, but the audience was almost entirely white.[5][6]


The Chineke! Foundation was established in 2015, and its parallel orchestra followed in the same year, with the express purpose of providing "career opportunities to young Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) classical musicians in the UK and Europe". The ensemble debuted at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre in London in September 2015, conducted by Wayne Marshall, and highlighting works by Black British composers, such as Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade for Orchestra and Elegy: In memoriam – Stephen Lawrence by Philip Herbert.[3][7] The orchestra was initially an entirely BME-member orchestra, but has since included white musicians.[6] Chineke! became a resident orchestra at the Southbank Centre in 2016. The orchestra made its debut at The Proms in August 2017, conducted by Kevin John Edusei.[8]

Chineke!'s patron is Baroness Patricia Scotland QC.[9]

In 2017, the orchestra made its first commercial recording for the Signum label, conducted by Edusei.[10]

In November 2019, the Chineke! Foundation became the first-ever recipient of the Royal Philharmonic Society's Gamechanger Award, presented to an individual, group or organisation who in unique and contemporary ways has done inspirational and transformative work breaking new ground in classical music. [11]


Chineke! has given world premieres of new works by black composers including:



  1. ^ a b Jessica Duchen (2015-09-01). "Chineke! Europe's first professional orchestra of black and minority ethnic musicians launches". The Independent. Retrieved 2017-09-15. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Chi-chi Nwanoku and Imogen Tilden (2015-06-02). "Chi-chi Nwanoku: 'I want black musicians to walk on to the stage and know they belong'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-11-01. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b Michael Church (2015-09-14). "Review: Europe's first professional BME orchestra offers flashes of brilliance". The Independent. Retrieved 2017-09-15. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b Ginanne Bronwell Mitic (2017-04-24). "She Was the Orchestra's Only Black Musician, Until She Formed Her Own". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-11-11. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ a b Ivan Hewett (2017-08-16). "Inside Chineke!, Europe's first black and minority ethnic orchestra". Telegraph. Retrieved 2017-11-11. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ a b Cristina Burack (2017-09-15). "Chineke! champions black and ethnic musicians in classical music". Deustche Welle. Retrieved 2017-11-11. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ George Hall (2015-09-14). "Chineke! Orchestra/Marshall review – the beginning of something culturally inspiring". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-11-01. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Martin Kettle (2017-08-31). "RSPO/Oramo/Chineke!/Edusei review – rounded, exquisite, played to perfection". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-11-01. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  9. ^ Dhiren Katwa (2017-09-18). "Brum welcomes BAME orchestra, Chineke!". Asian Voice. Retrieved 2018-12-07. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Kate Molleson (2017-07-06). "Dvořák: Symphony No 9; Sibelius: Finlandia review – tasteful restraint and explosive dynamism". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-11-01. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ "2019: Gamechanger". Royal Philharmonic Society.
  12. ^ Liner notes for NMC album Spark Catchers
  13. ^ "Proms 2017 Prom 62: Chineke!". BBC. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  14. ^ "Daniel Kidane's 'Dream Song' is premiered by Chineke! at the reopening of the Queen Elizabeth Hall". Rayfield Allied. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  15. ^ "Chineke! and Wayne Marshall at Queen Elizabeth Hall – Julian Joseph premiere, Stewart Goodyear plays Rhapsody in Blue". ClassicalSource. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
  16. ^ Morton, May (2019-05-17). "Music Inspired by Bristol Civil Rights Campaigner". Bristol247. Retrieved 2020-02-26.
  17. ^ "Three Songs from Ethiopia Boy". ethiobeauty. 2019-06-08. Retrieved 2020-02-02.
  18. ^ "Orchestral creation inspired by iconic protest moment". BBC News. 20 October 2020.
  19. ^ "Black Legacies". Southbank Centre. Retrieved 20 October 2020.

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