NEW YORK — Since his death on July 9, the life of musician Ugonna Igweatu ’09 has been honored by thousands who shared an appreciation for his artistic work.
Shortly after Igweatu died of an asthma attack in his Bronx home on July 9, Jamie Van Dyck ’10 posted a song he had recorded with Igweatu just days earlier on the music-sharing website SoundCloud, and Max Lanman ’10 posted the link on the social-networking website Reddit. Since the original July 11 post, the song has been listened to over 143,000 times, and has climbed as high as No. 10 on Reddit’s front page.
A funeral was held on Saturday for Igweatu, a member of Calhoun College and a son of Nigerian immigrants who had lived in the Bronx with his family since graduation as he pursued a career as an artist. At the well-attended, Catholic service, Igweatu’s family members and middle school principal shared memories recalling his intelligence, dedication and humility. The recording of his final song was also played.
Van Dyck said he initially posted Igweatu’s song to SoundCloud as a way to help Igweatu finally achieve his goal of becoming a musician.
“What’s given us strength in this time has been fighting for Ugonna’s dreams,” he said, “even though he’s no longer here.”
A budding filmmaker as well as a musician, Igweatu entered Yale intending to specialize in the sciences but soon devoted his attention to music after teaching himself to sing and play the guitar during his sophomore year, close friend Stephen Brandes ’09 said.
Anne Xu ’09, a classmate and close friend of Igweatu’s, said she thinks Igweatu’s music has gained popularity because of his compelling personal story and “amazing” voice.
Igweatu’s love of music developed “organically,” starting when he played the flute in the high school band, said his friend and high school classmate Justin Muirhead ’09, who attended the funeral. When Muirhead visited the set of a music video Igweatu was shooting, he said he was “blown away” by his friend’s talent.
“He talked with such enthusiasm and you could tell he was only happy doing what he did, music,” Muirhead said.
Igweatu’s cousin, Soochie Nnaemeka ’09, said Igweatu was able to nurture his creative side because of an environment at Yale that fosters musical talent. Though Yale can often be overwhelming, Nnaemeka said, Igweatu was able to “come out of his shell” through music and embrace his college experience.
Igweatu was living with his mother and siblings when he died.