Exploring music: Aga Serugo-Lugo

Aga Serugo-Lugo – a London native with Ugandan parents – is a multi-instrumentalist, fond lover of music theatre and spearheader of en masse music training. His educational music workshops ‘In Tune Training’ have been inspiring participants of all ages over the last 8 years. These workshops cover a wide array of genres (such as classical, jazz, world music, pop and more), and focus on the interaction, inclusivity and accessibility of music, making them suitable even for complete novices. Apart from his workshops, Aga Serugo-Lugo also sings for funk band ‘Gefunkt’ and plays/composes for ‘Eclectiv’, a group that fuses musical influences from around the world. In preparation for his participation in the upcoming Opera Forward Festival, we sat down with him to discuss his inspiration and vision.

When was your seminal experience with music? The experience that made you think ‘this is my life’?

I used to sing in primary school all the time, with the school choir and music lessons. The music teacher there got us involved in many different instruments, and by the time I was eight my school asked me if I wanted to play a proper instrument. I asked to play the clarinet and I from there on out I was hooked on music.

And this need to interact with large groups of people, where did that come from?

It’s probably a mixture of things. In my secondary school we used to do big productions every November – musicals and such. There were 1400 children in the whole school, and nearly 200 children were involved in these big shows. I think it’s the spirit of that sort of thing, where you can simply get people together; people who are comfortable with singing and music, but also people who just want to be a part of something bigger. That has always stuck with me.

Another important moment was my time at university. I was involved in big productions like Bugsy Malone and Into the Woods, and I enjoyed all the structured stuff within the university: its symphony, jazz and chamber orchestras and its music groups. I also enjoyed dealing with people outside the department who brought in their own expertise. The whole point of the projects was that as many people could be involved as possible.

Is there a certain vision that you try to communicate during the workshops that you direct? Do you try to take such large groups of people to a certain point or goal?

(laughing) It’s an abstract concept. I suppose everything that I do is about connection, and there are certain levels to that. First, there’s me connecting with other people. If you’re standing in front of a group, the first thing you want is to connect with the people in front of you, or else nothing is going to happen. There are also other sorts of connection where you want the group members themselves to connect with each other. It may be a group of children who don’t consider themselves musicians, but in the context in which they work with you, you want them to feel like an ensemble.

So there’s your connection with the group, and then there’s the group’s connection with each other. The best projects that I’ve worked on had both of those qualities: you connect with the group and the group connects with each other, and collectively they create something new: they compose or create some kind of experience. I really like it when that happens.

What can we expect your workshop on Saturday 17th to be like?

We’re going to explore your memories, we’re going to explore the stories you know and the stories you don’t, and we’re going to create music through our collective imagination.