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|Birth name||Kimati Dinizulu|
|Also known as||Nana Kimati Dinizulu|
September 27, 1956|
New York City
|Origin||New York, New York|
|Died||July 7, 2013(aged 56)|
|Genres||Folk, African, Jazz|
|Occupation(s)||percussionist, artist, musician|
|Labels||African Room Music|
|Associated acts||Sonny Rollins, Nina Simone, Alvin Ailey, Gregory Hines|
Nana Kimati Dinizulu (27 September 1956 New York City – 7 July 2013) was an American virtuoso percussionist, widely acclaimed for his artistry with African percussion (including apentemma, apente, sankofa, kyene, djembe, and caxixi) in jazz, folk, classical, popular, ballet, and musical theater. He did studio recordings and performed live with artists that included Toni Morrison, Alvin Ailey, Donald McKayle, Gregory Hines, Sonny Rollins, Nina Simone, Harry Belafonte, Wynton Marsalis, Jackie McLean, Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Winter, Lonnie Liston Smith, Steve Turre, Danilo Perez, Stefon Harris, Clifton Anderson, and Vanessa Rubin.
Life and career
Dinizulu was born September 27, 1956, in New York City. He began playing drums and other percussion instruments in his early childhood. He drew inspiration from the musical heritage of his family. For many generations, the Dinizulu clan had been active in music and performance. Dinizulus's father, Nana Yao Opare Dinizulu (aka Gus Dinizulu, né Augustus Edwards; 1930–1991), an American, was an internationally acclaimed African drummer. Dinizulus's mother, Ohema Afua Owusua (née Alice Brown; 1930–2007), also an American, was a principal dancer for Asadata Dafora's Dance Company — the first dance company to put African dance and music on Broadway in the United States from the 1930s to the 1950s.
To gain a deeper knowledge of African traditions, as a young man, Dinizulu, traveled to Ghana where he lived and learned for two years and then he moved back to the United States. Since then, he has made over 30 trips to Africa, where he now resides part of the year. While in Ghana, he studied with expert drummers, Kofi Nabenadi, C. K. Ganyo, and Sully Emmorro. He also learned from elders of the Fanti people, master drummers whose tutelage proved invaluable in his development as a leading practitioner of African drumming. A major influence on his musical growth and creative energies was his involvement with the Fanti’s Asafo (warrior) music, a tradition dating back many centuries.
Apart from this, Dinizulu studied extensively with Haitian master drummers, Louis Celestine, Frisner Augustin, and Alphonse Cimber. He also studied various forms of traditional music from Brazil with the late Loramil Machado. Additionally, Dinizulu studied African and African-American hand drumming with his father, Baba Chief Bey (James Hawthorne Bey), Baba Kwame Ishangi, and many others. In addition, he has conducted extensive research with the Maroons of Jamaica, the Ewe of Togo, the Orisha worshipers of Trinidad and Tobago, Rada ritual musicians in Haiti and the Ring Shouters of the Georgia Sea Islands.
Dinizulu worked with several domestic and international cultural organizations, including UNESCO. UNESCO declared 2004 to be the International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition by the United Nations General Assembly. Dinizulu performed and lectured on endangered African-American instruments as a part of a UNESCO conference of scholars from around the world gathered at Tulane University.
Furthermore, Dinizulu worked with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, an organization for documenting, preserving, interpreting, and celebrating the culture and history of black people worldwide. He has performed music and conducted traditional African rituals for the Schomburg Center. He performed at the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Schomburg Center which included pouring libation for the grand opening of the “Lest We Forget: The Triumph over Slavery Exhibit”.
Dinizulu also performed libation and drumming at “A Harlem Tribute to the Freedom Schooner Amistad”. He performed the drum rituals to help bring the Amistad into port in Harlem, New York.
Besides this, Dinizulu was a participant in the African-American delegation at the First Annual Emancipation Day Celebration in Ghana, Africa in 1998 which was sponsored by the government of Ghana. The African-American delegation was responsible for the re-interment of one escaped slave, Samuel Carson with a full state funeral. Emancipation Day is a remembrance of the abolition of Chattel Slavery.
The learning of drumming and African culture is a lifetime process for Dinizulu. His encyclopedic knowledge of drums, percussion, and the art of drumming comes from his worldwide travels and studies of the music of other cultures as well as his heartfelt love for music and learning. He assembled a group of musicians from around the world, called the Kotoko Society with whom he composed and performed with regularly.
Selected performances by Nana Kimati Dinizulu
Dinizulu made numerous worldwide performances over the past decades for many diverse groups of people. Some of Dinizulu's performances include Broadway’s Death and the King's Horseman which is a play written and directed by the legendary Wole Soyinka. Dinizulu has also undertaken many other Broadway productions. In addition, Dinizulu worked with prominent artists such as author Toni Morrison in her production N’Orleans - A Storyville Musical in which he scored music for the Congo Square scene and Satchmo’s last international concert in Ghana scene. He also performed as a percussionist with Odetta, Carmen de Lavallade and Antonio Fargas in this production. Dinizulu co-composed with Monti Ellison Divining, (Judith Jamison's first ballet for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater), which was premiered by the company in 1984. He was also commissioned by choreographer Judith Jamison for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to compose Riverside, which premiered in 1995 and became a smash hit. Divining and Riverside have toured by Ailey extensively throughout the world.
In the year 2003, Dinizulu performed for the Blues Music Foundation at Radio City Music Hall in New York in the "Salute to the Blues" concert produced by Martin Scorsese and directed by Antoine Fuqua which was filmed for television broadcast. The Blues Music Foundation is a non-profit, international organization and is dedicated to the preservation of blues history and the celebration of blues excellence. Dinizulu performed with artists such as Mavis Staples, Buddy Guy, Mos Def, and Angelique Kidjo in this concert.
Apart from all this, Dinizulu also performed during Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute. He was also an active member of UNESCO’s efforts to promote knowledge about the slave trade in the world and has given several lectures such as on "African-American Endangered Musical Instruments" and performances on UNESCO’s behalf.
He also performed with the Paul Winter Consort which combined elements from various African, Asian and South American cultures with jazz. Together they performed A Concert for the Earth (1985) which was recorded live at the United Nations General Assembly on World Environment Day. Dinizulu was also the percussionist with the Sonny Rollins band.
The Kotoko Society
Dinizulu established the Kotoko Society to promote traditional African music and awareness of African culture throughout the world and to continually explore musical styles from Africa, the Caribbean, Brazil, and all places where African music has found a new home. This society consists of musicians from countries such as Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Haiti, Trinidad, Barbados, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, St. Martin, Panama, and the United States of America. The main emphasis of this society is to promote a new musical style called “Sankofa music” which has been created by Dinizulu. Sankofa is a proverbial term from the language of the Akan people of Ghana.
The traditional instruments used to perform Sankofa have been gathered from a wide variety of lands and cultures and are represented in his Kotoko Society's performances. However, Dinizulu not only used these traditional instruments, he also continually introduced new musical instruments of his own design and construction, to complement those, which are already employed by the Kotoko Society. Playing over 500 traditional and modern instruments, the Kotoko society regularly performs at leading concert venues as well as major universities and cultural institutions. They have performed at Lincoln Center, the American Museum of Natural History, Columbia University, Medgar Evers College, Long Island University, as well as other diverse environments such as the Trump Tower and the Philadelphia Folk Festival and toured in Japan and the Caribbean. In addition to these, the group regularly appeared at major nightclubs such as The Sounds of Brazil (S.O.B.’s).
- "Auction Blocks & Slave Ships"
Featuring Yolanda Lee
- "Blackman Blues"
From The Pyramids To The Projects
Featuring Olu Dara
- "Africa Aye!"
Featuring Yolanda Lee
- "Africa Aye!"
Featuring Rene McLean & Lamont Savory
- Ancestral Spirits (2010)
- "Africa Aye!"
- "The Coffle"
- "Auction Blocks & Slave Ships"
- "Plantation Blues"
- "The Journey"
- "African Heroes & Sheroes"
- "500 Years"
- Nassau Community College Folk Festival (1989, 1990)
As sideman and (or) arranger
- Concert for the Earth (1984)
- Silhouettes (1984)
Lonnie Liston Smith
- Wolf Eyes (1988)
- Don't You Know I Care (1992)
OCLC 36194063, 644757157
- Anthems (1992)
- Undocumented Dancing (1992)
- Pontius Pilate's Decision (1992)
- Sanctified Shells (1992)
- The Journey (1993)
- JLW (1994)
Joe Louis Walker
- Mental Images (1994)
OCLC 63166860, 873660510
- Jungle Swing (1995)
OCLC 36436639, 873545569
- Rhythm Within (1995)
- 20th Anniversary Collection (1996)
Green Linnet Records
- Unforgivable Blackness:
The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson (1996; 2004)
- So Far (1997)
Eileen Ivers Collection 1979-1995
- New Horizons (1997)
- A Cloud of Red Dust (1997)
- Steve Turre (1997)
- Reeltime (1996)
- Lotus Flower (1997)
Steve Turre (1996)
OCLC 689533619, 662229954
- Wild Blue (1996)
- 80th Anniversary: (1997)
RCA Victor, Vol. 8
- Celtic Music Today (1997)
OCLC 37894436, 872094600
- Collected (1998)
OCLC 45062730, 873051620
- Joyful Noise:
Celtic Favorites from Green Linnet (1998)
- Green Linnet Records:
25 Years of Celtic Music (2000)
- Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert (2001)
Berklee Performance Center
September 15, 2001
OCLC 61411411, 593798314, 725319057
- Love Like Fire (2001)
- Road Shows, Vol. 3 (2001)
- Lightning in a Bottle:
A Salute to the Blues (2003)
Series: Martin Scorsese Presents a Film
Antoine Fuqua (director)
- Slavery and the Making of America (2005)
Original Soundtrack PBS Series
- Sonny, Please (2006)
- Decade (2007)
- Sonny Rollins in Vienna (2008)