“Music is part of who I am, coming from Nigeria,” said Joe Agu, who walks around his Santa Clara neighborhood daily and shares his passion for music with neighbors he encounters. “Music is almost innate to Africans.”
Agu also shares his love and knowledge of music with students at the schools his three children have attended — from Sutter Elementary and Buchser Middle School in Santa Clara to Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, where his family has established a music endowment for students.
“Anywhere I show up, I come with music,” said Agu, who now assists several times a month in a music class at Mitty, where one of his twin sons is a senior.
An ethno-musicologist specializing in African music, he discusses the origins of music with students, the history of instruments and how they are made, and life experiences that guide him and, hopefully, them. His belief is that music can promote cultural understanding.
“I like working with young people,” said Agu, whose expertise includes the history of Afro music coming to America and instrument making. He makes udu ceramic drums from Nigeria in his Rhythms Exotic Afro Percussions studio in Santa Clara.
“I’ve been to many places, and I always seek out music,” he said.
His most recent trip was in December and January to Australia and New Zealand. There, he encountered the Maori culture and music. On earlier trips, he explored the culture and music of China and Cuba.
“Our house is a house of music,” said Agu, who plays percussion. His wife, Cheryl, plays the violin; his daughter the piano and his sons, drums and bass.
“How can you live without music? You’d go crazy,” said Agu.
“Music is the soul of humans. It’s a binding force for everything humans do. It has a spiritual aspect.”