Olu Dara

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Olu Dara
Birth nameCharles Jones III
Born (1941-01-12) January 12, 1941 (age 81)
Natchez, Mississippi, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
Instrument(s)Vocals, guitar, cornet
Years active1964–present
LabelsAtlantic Records

Olu Dara Jones (born Charles Jones III, January 12, 1941) is an American cornetist, guitarist, and singer. He is the father of rapper Nas.

Early life[edit]

Olu Dara was born Charles Jones III January 12, 1941, in Natchez, Mississippi.[1][2] His mother, Ella Mae, was born in 1911 in Canton, Mississippi.[2] His father, Charles Jones II, also born in Natchez,[2] was a travelling musician, and sang with The Melodiers, a vocal quartet with a guitarist.[3]

As a child, Dara took piano and clarinet lessons. He studied at Tennessee State University, initially a pre-med major, switching to music theory and composition.[3]


From 1959 to 1964 he was a musician in the Navy, which he described as a priceless educational experience.[3]

In 1964, he moved to New York City and changed his name to Olu Dara,[4][5] which means "God is good" in the Yoruba language.[5] In the 1970s and '80s he played alongside David Murray, Henry Threadgill, Hamiet Bluiett, Don Pullen, Charles Brackeen, James Blood Ulmer, and Cassandra Wilson. He formed two bands, the Okra Orchestra and the Natchezsippi Dance Band.[1][4]

His first album, In the World: From Natchez to New York (1998), revealed another aspect of his musical personality: the leader and singer of a band immersed in African-American tradition, playing an eclectic mix of blues, jazz, and storytelling, with tinges of funk, African popular music, and reggae. His second album Neighborhoods, with guest appearances by Dr. John and Cassandra Wilson, followed in a similar vein.

Dara played on the album Illmatic (1994) by his son, rapper Nas, and on the song "Dance" (2002), also by Nas, and he sang on Nas's song "Bridging the Gap" (2004).[5]


As leader[edit]

With Material

As sideman[edit]

With Charles Brackeen

With Rhys Chatham

  • 1984 Factor X
  • 1987 Die Donnergötter (The Thundergods)

With Carlos Garnett

With Corey Harris

  • 2002 Downhome Sophisticate
  • 2005 Daily Bread

With Craig Harris

With David Murray

With Nas

  • 1994 Illmatic
  • 2002 God's Son
  • 2004 Bridging the Gap
  • 2004 Street's Disciple

With Jamaaladeen Tacuma

  • 1983 Show Stopper
  • 1984 Renaissance Man

With Henry Threadgill

With James Blood Ulmer

With Cassandra Wilson

With others


  1. ^ a b Dara, Olu (Winter 1998). "Olu Dara". Bomb (Interview). No. 62. Interviewed by Tracie Morris. Archived from the original on December 8, 2009 – via bombsite.com.
  2. ^ a b c Gates, Henry Louis Jr. (October 29, 2014). "Nas' Interactive Family Tree". Finding Your Roots. PBS. Archived from the original on December 10, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Skelly, Richard J. (January 30, 2002). "Olu Dara's Trip: From Natchez to New York". U.S. 1. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Kelsey, Chris. "Olu Dara". AllMusic. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Dreisinger, Baz (December 5, 2004). "Nas and His Dad's Jazz". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  6. ^ "Olu Dara | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved October 31, 2017.

External links[edit]