Shabaka Hutchings

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Shabaka Hutchings
Shabaka Hutchings performing in 2018
Hutchings performing in 2018
Background information
Birth nameShabaka Akua Lumumba Kamau Iyapo Hutchings
Born1984 (age 39–40)
London, England, UK
Years active2013–present
Formerly of

Shabaka Hutchings (born 1984) is a British jazz musician, composer and bandleader. He leads the band Shabaka and the Ancestors, and used to lead Sons of Kemet before its dissolution in 2022.[1] He is also a member of The Comet Is Coming, performing under the stage name King Shabaka. Hutchings has played saxophone and other wind instruments with the Sun Ra Arkestra, Andre 3000, Floating Points, Mulatu Astatke, Polar Bear, Melt Yourself Down, Heliocentrics, London Brew and Zed-U.

Background and early years[edit]

Hutchings was born in 1984 in London, England,[2] but moved to Birmingham at the age of two.[3] From the age of six, he was raised in his parents' native Barbados. There, as a nine-year-old, he picked up the clarinet and practised along to the hip hop verses of Nas, Notorious BIG and Tupac, as well as the rhythms of Crop Over.

Returning to England, at the age of 19 he went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he received a classical-music degree on the clarinet.[4] In London, he joined the Tomorrow's Warriors programme,[5][6] a blues workshop led by British bassist Gary Crosby, Janine Irons and expat New Orleans trumpeter Abram Wilson, where Hutchings met many of his future collaborators in the burgeoning South East London jazz scene.

Hutchings was a BBC New Generation Artist from 2010 to 2012.[7][4][8] He has also spent time in South Africa.[9][8]


Hutchings and many of his contemporaries shrug off the "jazz" label, eschewing the restriction especially as the many groups reflect influences ranging from acid house and drum & bass, to hiphop and soca, with less of a blues influence than jazz, which reviewers have noted marks a distinction between the London scene as represented by Hutchings and American jazz music.[10]

Hutchings with The Comet Is Coming, Glastonbury Festival, 2019

Shabaka and the Ancestors debuted in 2016 with the album Wisdom of Elders on Gilles Peterson's Brownswood Recordings label. The Comet Is Coming, a trio with keyboardist Dan Leavers and drummer Max Hallett, received a Mercury Prize nomination for their debut album Channel the Spirits, released on The Leaf Label in April 2016.[11] Sons of Kemet, a quartet of saxophone, tuba and two drummers, launched with the album Burn in 2013, followed up with Lest We Forget What We Came Here to Do in 2015, both on the Naim Jazz label, before moving to Impulse! for Your Queen Is a Reptile in 2018, which coincided with a breakout into wider public consciousness of the UK jazz scene, captured by the attention on the Hutchings-directed compilation We Out Here on Brownswood.[10]

In November 2018, Hutchings curated part of the programme for the Dutch Le Guess Who? festival.[12]

In March 2020, Shabaka and the Ancestors released We Are Sent Here by History under Impulse! Records.

In May 2022, Hutchings released his debut solo EP, Afrikan Culture, under the mononym Shabaka.[13]

In December 2020, Hutchings joined a band of British jazz musicians to play on the Bitches Brew-inspired, self-titled album London Brew, which was released on 31 March 2023 by Concord Jazz.

On New Year's Day in 2023, Hutchings issued a statement on his Instagram page, that he would take a hiatus from playing the saxophone from the end of 2023.[14] He later clarified his reasons for doing so, citing the physical and emotional strain that comes from performing on the saxophone on tour. [15]

On 28 February 2024, Hutchings announced his solo debut album, Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace, set for release on 12 April by Impulse![16]

Awards and honours[edit]

Hutchings has won a MOBO Award for best jazz act with the Sons of Kemet in 2013,[17] the Paul Hamlyn Composer Award in 2014,[18] and Jazz Innovation awards from Jazz FM.[19]


  1. ^ Bllom, Madison. "Sons of Kemet Breaking Up After Final Shows". Pitchfork. Condé Nast. Retrieved 21 November 2023.
  2. ^ Kahn, Ashley (13 May 2020). "Shabaka Hutchings: Before & After". JazzTimes. Retrieved 5 September 2023.
  3. ^ "Biography | SHABAKA HUTCHINGS".
  4. ^ a b Ghadiali, Ashish (17 June 2021). "Transcript: In conversation with Shabaka Hutchings". Sarah Parker Remond Centre. University College London. Retrieved 5 September 2023.
  5. ^ Orlov, Pyotr (2 March 2018). "Jazz's New British Invasion". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  6. ^ Edwards, Tina (5 December 2021). "A Great Day in London, review: a dizzying array of talent proves the UK jazz scene is alive and well". Daily Telegraph.
  7. ^ "Shabaka Hutchings- BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist". London Jazz News. 8 September 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2023.
  8. ^ a b "Shabaka Hutchings | London's jazz visionary on recording his album Wisdom on Elders in Johannesburg with the Ancestors". Retrieved 5 September 2023.
  9. ^ Coldwell, Will (23 September 2016). "'Small pockets of cool all around': jazz star Shabaka Hutchings on Johannesburg". The Guardian.
  10. ^ a b Russonello, Giovanni (28 March 2018). "With Sons of Kemet, Shabaka Hutchings Brings London Jazz Into the Spotlight". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  11. ^ Whitfield, Robert (14 September 2016). "Mercury Surprise: An Unlikely Award Nomination for Jazz Act The Comet Is Coming". Bandcamp Daily. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  12. ^ "Revealing the curators & initial line-up for Le Guess Who? 2018". 24 May 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  13. ^ Helfand, Raphael (20 May 2022). "Listen to Shabaka's major label debut, Afrikan Culture". The Fader. Retrieved 29 February 2024.
  14. ^ "Instagram". Retrieved 7 January 2024.
  15. ^ Malt, Andy. "Shabaka Hutchings explains decision to stop playing saxophone at the end of 2023 | Complete Music Update". Complete Music Update. Retrieved 7 January 2024.
  16. ^ DeVille, Chris (28 February 2024). "Shabaka Hutchings Announces Debut Solo Album Feat. André 3000, Moses Sumney, Floating Points, & More". Stereogum. Retrieved 28 February 2024.
  17. ^ "Winners 2013 | MOBO Awards". Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  18. ^ Doble, Stephen (17 November 2014). "Shabaka Hutchings & Pat Thomas Win 2014 Paul Hamlyn Awards". Jazz Line News. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  19. ^ "2018 Jazz FM Award winners revealed". M magazine: PRS for Music. 1 May 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2018.

External links[edit]