A Tribute to Ugonna Igweatu

DirectorBTR freelance video editor and contributing writer, Ugonna Anthony Nnoluka Igweatu.

All photos by Phillip Nguyen.

Ugonna Igweatu was a beloved team member at BTR, working as a freelance video editor and contributing writer here for the past three years, while simultaneously maintaining a position in the New York City Mayor’s Office. At the young age of 24, the talented musician, filmmaker, son, and friend was taken from the world after a severe asthma attack a few weeks ago.

In honor of a beautiful soul we all came to know and love, we bring you some kind words from a fellow BTR team member, Jess Westberg:

Yesterday, I found out that my friend had passed away. I’ve had few experiences with the deaths of loved ones, so it’s a new feeling for me to stand face to face with realizing that I will never see him again, that I should have tried harder to spend time with him more recently, if only I could have gotten to enjoy one last day with him, and that all the petty things in life I’ve been frustrated with lately now make me feel so small. Death is a hard thing to wrap our heads around, when all we know is living. It is hard to believe that I am about to write this obituary for my friend, Ugonna.

Ugonna Igweatu was a young gentleman, soft spoken, but incredibly brilliant; he graduated from Yale and worked in Mayor Bloomberg’s office. He was always a pleasure to be around. With a gleaming smile, he had excellent comedic timing when inserting his most witty comments.

The last game of scrabble I played was with Ugonna. I’ve always had a tough time getting people to play, but when I called him up to invite him over for a beer, he was all for it. He got to my apartment, and the whole game he insisted, with that smile on his face, that he had never played scrabble before, but I knew he was just joshing me; pretending he didn’t know something was his longest running joke, and it was funny because everybody knew how smart he was.

But there are things that I didn’t know about Ugonna. I didn’t know that he had asthma, and I didn’t know that he was an incredible musician. I listened to the tracks he played, sang, and recorded just today, and they are the most original and beautiful songs I’ve heard in a long time. I feel guilty I didn’t know these things, and that I still cannot pronounce his last name, because I really liked Ugonna.

I didn’t know him as well as I should have, but I wish I could tell him how he affected my life in such profound ways. When he went out of his way to meet me in East Harlem to lend me his camera last year, I was able to complete a freelance video I was making when I really needed the money. He also gave me the project files for a program called After Effects and encouraged me to learn it, and I did. Because of this, I was able to get an interview for a major motion designer position, a job that would change my life. I will never forget how these small gestures have added up. I will never forget him for his sensitivity, kindness, humor, talent, ambition, style, intelligence, and creativity. The world has truly lost someone special.

ThinkerUgonna and his Director of Photography set up lights at the The Brooklyneer for Kenneth Harris’s “Rough Club” video.

Before Ugonna’s passing, he spent the weekend with his good friend and fellow musician, Jamie van Dyck. They recorded his last, untitled track hours before his died.

“This visit was the most open, earnest, and fun time we ever spent together,” says van Dyck. “I know he felt super accomplished when we finished this. It’s surreal to me that he was no longer with us just hours later as he was so alive and enthusiastic to be recording this song. I want to share this song to remind people that he was creating and inspiring right up to his final moments. He said that he did not have a title for the song, so I’m not going to give it one. I’ll always love you, man.”

Van Dyck decided to release the track on an EP, titled In Loving Memory, with all proceeds from the record’s sales directed towards Ugonna’s family. The track is also available on SoundCloud.

Kenneth Harris Ugonna (far right) working on the Kenneth Harris video for “Rough Club”.

Despite his physical departure from us, his memory will continue to endure in the hearts and memories of those who loved him. On behalf of everyone here at BTR, we wish our dear friend a peaceful and everlasting rest.

Finally, we welcome you to enjoy these videos Ugonna helped edit as a part of the BTR video team that we feel exemplify his exceptional talent.

Bird Courage – BTR Live Studio [ep 115]


Low Roar – BTR Live Studio [ep 91]


Guards – BTR Live Studio [ep 90]


Dad Rocks – BTR Live Studio [ep 77]


“The Middle” by Nick Freitas – BTR Live Studio [ep 58]


“Puzzle Pieces” by  Saint Motel – BTR Live Studio [ep 60]


“Heart Attack Kid” by Bass Drum of Death – BTR Live Studio [ep 38]


“Vocal Chords” by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – BTR Live Studio [ep 32]