NYASA 41st Annual Conference – Performer Highlights!
Carole Boyce Davies—professor of English and Africana Studies at the Africana Studies
CALL FOR PAPERS: NYASA’S 42nd ANNUAL CONFERENCE: EMERGING AFRICAS: VERSIONS and VISIONS (CALL FOR PAPERS HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO FEBRUARY 15, 2017)
42nd Annual Conference of the NEW YORK AFRICAN(A) STUDIES ASSOCIATION at
42nd Annual Conference of the NEW YORK AFRICAN(A) STUDIES ASSOCIATION at
Flickr Photo Stream
Randy Weston is an internationally renowned pianist, composer, bandleader and cultural ambassador, whose compositions encompass the vast rhythmic heritage of Africa. Still a true innovator and visionary after six decades of active work, Randy Weston continues to inform and inspire. Randy Weston was born April 6, 1926, and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a Jamaican father and a mother from Virginia. As a boy he didn’t have to travel far to hear the early jazz giants that were to influence him. Although Weston cites Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Art Tatum as piano heroes, it was Thelonious Monk who had the greatest impact. ”He was the most original I ever heard,” Mr. Weston remembers. “He played like they must have played in Egypt 5000 years ago.” Weston’s lifelong connection with African music and culture is due in large to his father, Frank Edward Weston, who told his son that he was, “an African born in America.” “He told me I had to learn about myself, about him and about my grandparents,” stated Weston, “and the only way to do it was I’d have to go back to the motherland one day.” In 1960, inspired by Nigeria’s newly won independence from the United Kingdom, Weston began to experiment with elements of tribal music as well as those of High Life, Nigerian pop music. On his 1960 album Uhuru Afrika (for which Langston Hughes wrote the liner notes), Weston composed for large ensemble and employed traditional African percussion and rhythms as a framework for a jazz suite. Weston’s affinity for African music became the force behind dozens of albums released over the past five decades. During that time, he has never failed to make the connection between African and American music. In the late 60’s, Weston left the United States, but instead of moving to Europe like so many of his contemporaries, Weston went to Africa. Although he settled in Morocco, he traveled throughout the continent tasting the musical fruits of other nations. One of his 15 most memorable experiences was the 1977 Nigerian Festival, which drew artists from 60 cultures. “At the end,” Weston says, “we all realized that our music was different but the same, because if you take out the African elements of bossa nova, samba, jazz, blues, you have nothing. To me, it’s Mother Africa’s way of surviving in the new world.” After six decades devoted to music, Randy Weston continues to record, teach and perform throughout the Americas, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Europe. In 2006 he performed at the Pan African Dance Festival as Cultural Ambassador for the World Culture Open in Kigali, Rwanda. That same year he performed at the Panama Jazz Festival in Panama City and at the Queen Elizabeth Hall with his Quartet and the BBC Big Band in London. He had the honor of playing at the in Kamigamo Shrine in 2008. In 2010 he celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Uhuru Africa recording with a concert celebration. Randy Weston has been the recipient of many awards, including an honorary Doctor of Music degree from Brooklyn College, City University of New York, in June 2006. In 2009, he was added to the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame. On May 11, 2011 Randy received the award of Royal Wissam of National Merit of the Order of Officer by command of His Majesty the King Mohammed VI of Morocco for his lifelong engagement with Morocco. African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston, composed by Randy Weston, arranged by Willard Jenkins, was published in 2010.
Rashidah Ismaili Abu-Bakr is a poet, playwright, and a writer of fiction and nonfiction.Her work is widely anthologized and has been translated into; Arabic, Catalan, Dutch, French, Japanese, Mandarin, Papiamento, Spanish, Turkish and Uzbek. She is the author of five collections of poems. A play, “RiceKeepers” has been published and performed nationally and internationally. Most recently she has officiated at several memorials for Sathima Bea Benjamin, a South African Jazz singer and former exile, Jayne Cortez, and Amiri Baraka. She attended the 40th Anniversary of African Literature Association, in South Africa where she presented a paper on the Exile Community in New York of South African artists and activists. Her novel in linked stories; Autobiography of the Lower East Side has just been published by North Hampton Press. Ismaili-AbuBakr is active in the Harlem community and hosts Salon d’Afrique, where artists, cultural workers from all over the world gather. She is featured in the documentary movie; Zwelededumile, by Ramadan Suleman. The film is a tribute to the late visual artist Dumile Feni, who lived in exile in England and finally America for over twenty five years. He died on the eve of his return to South Africa. Her poem is a dirge she composed for him and is prominent in the film. She is currently completing a novel.
Chris Washburne is one of those rare musicians whose musical activities cross many styles and cultural borders. Chris is currently freelancing as a studio musician and performing trombone, bass trombone, tuba, didjeridu and percussion with various classical, jazz, rock and Latin groups in New York City. He also tours extensively with various groups and has concertized throughout the North America, Europe, Asian, Africa, South America, Central America and the Caribbean. He spent two months living in Zambia in 1985, studying the traditional music of that region, and in 1993, received a Mellon Fellowship to travel to and explore the rich musical traditions of Cuba.
In 1999 he completed his Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at Columbia University. He is currently Associate Professor of Music and Found Director of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program at Columbia University in New York. He has published numerous articles on jazz, Latin jazz, and salsa. He is author of the book “Sounding Salsa: Performing Latin Music in New York” (2008) and editor of the book “Bad Music” (2004).
He has performed with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Justin Timberlake, Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades, Marc Anthony, Gloria Estefan, They Might Be Giants, Chico O’Farrill, Ray Barretto, Roscoe Mitchell, Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D’Rivera, among many others.
He leads his own highly acclaimed groups SYOTOS and NYNDK and is a member of FFEAR (Forum for Electo-Acoustic Research).
has performed with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Justin Timberlake, Celia Cruz, Ruben Blades, Marc Anthony, Gloria Estefan, They Might Be Giants, Chico O’Farrill, Ray Barretto, Roscoe Mitchell, Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D’Rivera, among many others. He leads his own highly acclaimed groups SYOTOS and NYNDK and is a member of FFEAR (Forum for Electo-Acoustic Research). In 1999 he completed his Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at Columbia University. He is currently Associate Professor of Music and Found Director of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program at Columbia University in New York. He has published numerous articles on jazz, Latin jazz, and salsa. He is author of the book “Sounding Salsa: Performing Latin Music in New York” (2008) and editor of the book “Bad Music” (2004).
Banning Eyre is Senior Editor of Afropop.org, a music commentator for National Public Radio, and the author of three books on African music the most recent of which is his 2015 Lion Songs: Thomas Mapfumo and the Music That Made Zimbabwe(Duke UP). His first two books were AFROPOP! An Illustrated Guide to Contemporary African Music (1995 with Sean Barlow) and In Griot Time, An American Guitarist in Mali (Temple UP, 2000). Banning has researched music in 16 African countries publishing articles in over a dozen journals as well as a 2001 report for the Danish human rights organization Freemuse entitled Playing With Fire: Fear and SelfCensorship in Zimbabwean Music. Banning Eyre currently performs with his fusion 9 band Timbila whose roots are in the music of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and he is a contributing musician on numerous CDs by Thomas Mapfumo as well as Taj Mahal and Toumani Diabate’s 1999 Kulanjan.
Imani Uzuri has collaborated with a cross section of artists across various disciplines including Herbie Hancock, John Legend, Vijay Iyer, Sanford Biggers, Carrie Mae Weems, Wangechi Mutu and Robert Ashley. In 2012, Uzuri released her critically acclaimed second album, The Gypsy Diaries. Uzuri was a 2015 Park Avenue Armory Artist-in-Residence. March 2016 will mark Uzuri’s Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series debut.
Innov Gnawa is a young musical collective dedicated to exploring Morocco’s venerable gnawa music tradition in the heart of New York City. Formed in the summer of 2014 by Moroccan expat Samir LanGus, the group draws on the considerable talents and expertise of Hassan Ben Jaafer, a Maâlem, or master gnawa musician, originally from Fes, Morocco. Under the guidance of Ben Jaafer, Innov has delved deep into the roots and rituals of gnawa music, and made a big splash in NYC, playing some of the city’s most prestigious rooms including Lincoln Center, Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bowl and the storied backroom of Brooklyn’s Barbès.
Kewulay Kamara, poet-storyteller, multi-media artist and lecturer, has been the subject of articles in The New York Times and has appeared on A&E Television, PBS, and other outlets. Kewulay has performed at St. John the Divine, Symphony Space, City Center, Oxford University, and the Dodge Poetry Festival. He narrated the TBS documentary, Legends of the Bushmen. He directed In Search Finah Misa Kule: the story of a people who live by the word, a documentary of epic poetry, history and music. Mr. Kamara is a senior consultant, expert facilitator, for UNESCO.. He was recently featured in TEDx, A Foresight Storytelling Experience and in Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting (AIB)’ s Sacred Sounds.
Kevin Tucker has been described as having both a “very expressive and smooth vocal style”. Kevin has performed in musicals, opera and choral ensembles like the Georgia State University Opera and Americolor Opera Alliance of Atlanta, and with The Lawrence Weaver Choral, Atlanta Voices and The Luke Frazier City Singers of New York. In recording and television, Kevin has performed and recorded with Christine Horn an indie label Alternative R& B artist, Malcolm Caulori a contemporary composer of the recording Dangerous Liaisons, LeSean Lewis’s recital recording concert, and the 2010 American Idol Show jingle for Fox News.
Rene McClean was born in New York City, Renè Profit-McLean (a/k/a Muhammad AlAmien Abdul Kariem) world renowned Multi-reed Instrumentalist (Alto, Tenor, Soprano saxophone, Flutes, Ney, Shakuhachi), Composer, Band leader, Educator and Producer, began his musical training at the age of nine under the tutelage and guidance of his father, world renowned alto saxophonist and educator Jackie McLean. Renè recounts: “My father began giving me the saxophone in stages beginning with the mouth piece then the neck and finally the horn”. As an adolescent, the young McLean was already performing with local Jazz, R&B, Calypso, Latin and other bands of varied musical traditions, making his debut with Jackie McLean’s band in the early-1960’s as well as leading is own band’s. Renè has performed and recorded as a leader and featured sideman with the crème de la crème of Black Musical tradition such as: the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, Lionel Hampton – All Stars, Tito Puente Orchestra, Caesar Concepcion Orchestra, Frank Foster’s Loud Minority, Sam River’s Harlem Ensemble, Ray Charles Orchestra and the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra; to the smaller ensembles of : Jackie McLean, Horace Silver, Woody Shaw, Dr. Bill Taylor, Doug and Jean Carn, Baba Olatunji, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln, Arthur Prysoc, Little Jimmy Scott, Dexter Gordon, James Moody, Yusef Lateef, Jaco Pastorius, Jerry Gonzales’ Forte Apache Band, Hamza El Din, as well as incollaboration with premier poet-activist Amiri Baraka (Leroi Jones), Jayne Cortez/Fire Spitters and as Musical Director/ Composer for the production of Ntozake Shange’s play “For Colored Girls…”, choreographed and directed by George 12 Faison and Oedipus the King directed by Jonathan Wilson, Mclean has also appeared in the movie Cotton Club and advertising adds for BASF and Smith & Barney Investments.