Drummer with dreams
Lawrence Okey Ugwu was born and grew up in Nigeria, but he found a stage for his artistic realization in the north of Poland. He brought his African inspirations here and since the 80’s he’s been working on popularizing cultural variety in Central Europe. As a dance instructor, actor, poet, singer and musician he made himself recognizable in the world of art.
In the 80´s, as a law student he made his first steps on the Polish music scene. Together with Gdansk musicians he established a reggae group “International Roots Reggae Band”. The same year (1984) he started another project, a rock band, “The Polish Ham”. His characteristical voice and way of singing - in both of these groups he performed as a vocalist - brought a new value to Polish music of that time.
Soon after it Larry Okey Ugwu in collaboration with Polish DJ, Tomasz Szczecinski founded a DJ group “Collective Intercontinental”. Tours with this group made him recognizable in Poland.
Sun´s Vibration and Biafra were other projects launched by Larry together with Jacek Staniszewski.
Apart from realizing his own ideas, Larry has taken part in many musical projects in Poland. He has co-operated with such artists as: Tymon Tymanski (album "Polowirus"), Andrzej Smolik (album "Smolik"), Leszek Mozdzer (album “Rewizor”), Leszcze (album "Wolne Miasto Dancing), Przemek Dyakowski, Wojtek Staroniewicz, Michal Erszkowski, Jan Erszkowski, Mikolaj Trzaska, Robert Usewicz and many others.
Equally he is an actor of the musical theatre in Gdynia. Lately he took part in two most spectacular Polish rock operas, "Hair" and "A Midsummer Night’s Dream".
Apart from the artistic work, he is also known as a social activist. Among the main goals of Pomeranian Workshop for Integration of Arts and Culture “One World” founded by him are promotion of cultural diversity and encouraging tolerance among youths of different races. He is also an initiator and organizer of “Music against Violence and Intolerance” festival.
In 2004 for his charity and artistic work Larry Okey Ugwu was honored as The Year’s Personality. The same year he started working as a Managing Director of The Baltic Sea Cultural Centre in Gdansk.
Larry´s last musical project is Ikenga Drummers, a group founded in 1998 that performs ethnic music. In Ikenga’s sounds the inspiration of West African gospel meets with the rhythm of the Polish folk songs. The drums that are self-made by the members of the group are the basis of the music. The rest of the instruments are original percussive instruments coming from Africa. The members of the group are:
Larry Okey Ugwu - vocal, djembe, flute, ekwe.
Tomasz Lipski– vocal, konga, djembe
Tomasz Dobies – kongi, udu, dum-dum
Grzegorz Welizarowicz – vocal and djembe
Monika Schroeder - vocal
Alex Schroeder - vocal
Janusz Mackiewicz – bas guitar
Przemyslaw Dyakowski - saxophones
Zuzanna Borucka – dance and vocal
Ewelina Kuc – dance and vocal
Zbigniew Namyslowski - saxophones
Leszek Mozdzer - piano
Cezary Studniak – vocal and djembe
Adam Wendt - saxophones
Lucek Szerpowicz - trumpet
Tymon Tymanski - guitar
Jacek Stromski - percussion
Arkadiusz Brykalski - vocal
Wojciech Rogowski - djembe,shekere
Bartlomiej Luniewicz - konga
Dominik Walenkiewicz - djembe
Author: Aleksandra Halicka
Lawrence Okey Ugwu was born on 26.01.1958 in Nigeria. He graduated from college there and became an English Literature tutor. In 1982 he came to Poland and in 1988 he did his Masters in law at the University of Gdansk. In 1984 he co-established “International Roots Reggae Band” and rock band “Polish Ham”. 1985 together with Tomasz Szczecinski he founded a DJ group “Collective Intercontinental” and 1993 ‘Sun’s Vibration’ together with brothers Erszkowski and Jacek Staniszewski. 1996 “Biafra” with Jacek Staniszewski and 1998 “Ikenga Drummers”.
2000 he organized the first festival “Music Against Violence and Intolerance”. In 2002 he found Pomeranian Association for Integration of Arts and Culture “One World” and became its first Director. He appeared in the first edition of the Polish encyclopedia of “Who is Who”. 2003 he realized a major national educational project promoted by National Geographic “The Rainbow Academy Project” based on stimulating and propagating cultural awareness among youths and children in Poland. Since 2004 he is the Director of the Baltic Sea Cultural Center. He is The Radio Gdansk Personality of the Year 2004. In the year 2005 he launched his first album with the group “Ikenga Drummers” entitled (“Lustereczko”) “The Mirror”.