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September 23, 1906|
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
|Died||October 29, 1981(aged 75)|
|Associated acts||Chick Webb|
He became master of ceremonies for the bands of Leroy Tibbs, Chick Webb, and Napoleon Zyas. He is credited with persuading Webb to hire Ella Fitzgerald. After a period leading his own band and touring England with Lew Leslie's hit show, Blackbirds of 1928, he returned to the Webb band, taking over as leader after Webb died. In 1940 he moved to California, where he became a business partner of Johnny Otis, performed in Otis's band and opened the Barrelhouse Club with him. He played an important role in the early career of Charles Brown and was Redd Foxx's business manager.
It has been widely reported that Ali was born September 23, 1910, or in 1906, in Mississippi. However, his older brothers and sister were born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Ella Blackman, a new Orleans native, and Moksad Ali, an immigrant from Hooghly, in the Indian state of Bengal. There were several children born to this union. Two of the older sons moved to Galveston, Texas, but Ella moved to the Bronx, New York, with her other children and her sister Fanny. In New York City, Bardu (originally spelled Bahadur) fell in love with acting and music. He got involved with the Black cinema in the late 1920s and 1930s. He eventually became the front man for Chick Webb. When Webb died, Ali formed his own band and moved to Los Angeles with his wife, Tila. He and his band were the master of ceremonies at the Lincoln Theater, on Central Avenue.
- Lipsitz, George (2010). Midnight at the Barrelhouse: The Johnny Otis Story. University of Minnesota Press. p. xxv, Google Books. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
- Bald, Vivek (2013). Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America. Harvard University Press.