An ex-sprinter and half the size of her double bass, Chi-chi Nwanoku has gained a reputation as one of the finest exponents of her instrument today.
Chi-chi is the Founder, Artistic and Executive Director of the Chineke! Foundation, which supports, inspires and encourages Black, Asian and ethnically diverse classical musicians working in the UK and Europe. The Chineke! Foundation celebrates diversity in the classical music industry through its two orchestras, the Chineke! Orchestra and Chineke! Junior Orchestra, as well as its educational and Community engagement work. Ultimately, the Chineke! Foundation aims to give classical Black, Asian and ethnically diverse classical musicians a platform on which to excel, and by such methods increase the representation of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse classical musicians in British and European orchestras.
Chi-chi was a founder member of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and held the position of Principal double bass there for 30 years. She is Professor of Double Bass Historical Studies at the Royal Academy of Music, where she was made a Fellow in 1998.
Chi-chi’s career spans performing and recording in a diversity of styles from authentic baroque through to 21st century, as well as new commissions with many of Europe’s leading chamber orchestras and ensembles. Some of her notable chamber recordings include Schubert’s Trout Quintet (recorded three times), and Octet, Beethoven Septet, Hummel Piano quintet and Boccherini Sonatas. Her solo recording of Dittersdorf and Vanhal Concertos with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra (Hyperion) received critical acclaim.
In 2012 Barrie Gavin directed a documentary film about Chi-chi’s career, called Tales from the Bass Line.
As a broadcaster, Chi-chi presented BBC Radio 3 Requests for four years, she guest presents for the BBC Proms and was a Jury member of BBC 2 TV Classical Star. She presented a two-part series for BBC Radio 4 in 2015 which brought to life the stories and music of black composers and musicians from the 18th century, whose vivid presence on the classical music scene have slipped through the net.
Chi-chi was awarded the Black British Business Awards, Person of the Year 2016 and was the recipient of the ABO Award 2017, which is awarded for ‘the most important contribution to the orchestral life of the UK’. She was named in the Top 10 of the BBC Woman’s Hour, Women in Music Power List 2018 and in the same year was awarded the inaugural Commonwealth Cultural Enterprise Award for Women in the Arts at the Commonwealth Business Women’s Awards. Chi-chi was voted to the Powerlist of Britain’s 100 Most Influential Black People in 2019, 2020 and 2021.