Uzuakoli in Music and Medicine

Modulations – Uzuakoli in Music and Medicine – 12th June 2015

Dating from 1932, the Leprosy Centre at Uzuakoli, Nigeria, was a medical site of global significance, offering home and shelter to its rejected residents, and carrying out groundbreaking research into drugs still used to treat leprosy, until interrupted by catastrophic civil war in 1967.

Today housing a much reduced medical and rehabilitation programme, it is renowned as home to Ikoli Harcourt Whyte (1905-1977), a leading choral composer who transformed his experience of suffering and segregation into songs of worship and wonder, and whose school at Uzuakoli attracted choirmasters from across Nigeria.

In this programme, John Manton explores the story of Uzuakoli, of visionary and hopeful science, of pain and dislocation, and of musical transcendence. Blending documentary, feature and sound art, Uzuakoli in Music and Medicine draws upon and assembles found and field recordings including original vinyl as remastered recordings of Harcourt Whyte’s choir; contemporary recordings of Harcourt Whyte’s work arranged by his scholarly biographer Achinivu Kanu Achinivu; oral historical testimony; and field recordings of sung and spoken passages of Harcourt Whyte’s music.

This programme was authored by John Manton, Anthropologies of African Biosciences, University of Cambridge, and co-produced with The Arts & Culture Unit; it was engineered by Vivien Jones.

It was originally broadcast in June 2015 as part of the first series of Modulations: Broadcasting Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, on Resonance 104.4fm.