The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble
Ernest "Khabeer" Dawkins
Recorded live on February 9, 2008 at
The Sanctuary for Independent Media
PO Box 35 | 3361 6th Avenue
Troy NY 12181
Local presentation of the Kahil El'Zabar's Ethnic Heritage Ensemble is co-sponsored by the Arts Department at RPI, made possible by volunteer labor, small financial contributions from hundreds of patrons of The Sanctuary for Independent Media and support from the New York State Music Fund.______________________________Kahil El'Zabar's music-"intense, sublime and intelligent" according to AllAboutJazz.com- explodes with passion at The Sanctuary for Independent Media, as he brings a trio featuring the young trumpet titan Corey Wilkes and Chicago saxophone legend Ernest "Khabeer" Dawkins to celebrate 35 years of extraordinary creativity.
Kahil El'Zabar led the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble's first performance at Child City Arts Center in Chicago in 1973-a year after he returned from the University of Ghana. His goal then was combining concepts of African American music-making with the earlier roots of traditional African music to make something new... and this legendary band is still serving people worldwide with its special brand of 21st century Griot music.
Speaking from Chicago, Kahil El'Zabar said, "This music has enormous history and incredible love. We are all here to make a difference; we must be about the work of our hearts. Living out your dream is the greatest honor one can express. The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble is the real deal and we have truly done it our way! Let us celebrate the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble's 35th anniversary nowand forever. Aluta continua!"
Even though he is fully grounded in the history and music of the African American community, he has taken his studies deeper, incorporating African music and instrumentation to produce a unique and wonderfully engaging sound. He credits his community with providing some direction towards African sensibility. "I grew up in a period when African Americans, as a large body, finally started addressing our roots. With African drums there was such an appeal in the way of playing with the hands and the sense of the entire body being involved in the playing of the instrument." El'Zabar is an accomplished musician with mastery of a variety of
instruments, from the elementary-congas, bongos, African drums, shekere, gongs, and trap drums-to the esoteric-balaphon, marimba, sanza, kalimba and berimbau.
Music holds no boundaries for El'Zabar, who has not only played alongside a myriad of jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and Cannonball Adderly, but was in the bands of Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone (for whom he also designed clothes) and Paul Simon, as well as recording with rock bands like Sonia Dada and Poi Dog Pondering and heading up the jazz/house outfit, JUBA Collective.
Kahil El'Zabar was born in Chicago, on November 11, 1953. One of three children growing up in a South Side neighborhood where he heard music in the streets everyday-doo-wop, r&b, gospel, blues and jazz. After attending Catholic schools in Chicago, El'Zabar went to Kennedy-King College and later to Malcolm X and Lake Forest colleges. In 1973 while attending Lake Forest college, El'Zabar was given the opportunity to study mime with Marcel Marceau in Paris, but instead opted to use the money to attend the University of Ghana and study African music firsthand.
At the age of eighteen, he joined Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and by 1975 he was chairman of the organization. During the early 1970s, El'Zabar formed his own musical group, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, and later another group, the Ritual Trio, with both of which he still performs. His talents have also extended to the cinematic arena, scoring and appearing in three feature films-"Love Jones" (New Line), "Mo' Money" (Columbia Pictures) and "How U Like Me Now" (Universal Pictures), costarring in the feature film "Savannah", and starring in two independent films-"So Low But Not Alone," and "The Last Set."
El'Zabar was chosen to do the arranging for the stage performances of "The Lion King," he has published a book of poetry, "Mis'taken Brilliance" and he tailors clothing both for his band and for others. From 1996 to 1999, El'Zabar organized "Traffic" at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, an inter-arts program featuring music and poetry. In 1991, El'Zabar was commissioned by Germany's Leverkusen Jazz Festival to present a 20 year retrospective of his work, which showcased Orchestra Infinity-a 25-piece big band formed several years ago.
El'Zabar has served as an associate professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has been on the boards of several organizations, including serving as the chairman of The Sun Drummer, an African American drum society, the National Campaign for Freedom of Expression, the National Task Force of Arts Presenting in Education, Campaign for Freedom of Expression, Forum for the Evolution of Progressive Arts, Chicago Blues Museum and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund. He has also served as a panelist for the NEA's Commissioning and Interdisciplinary Programs. His efforts as a musician, educator, and community leader led to his being named "Chicagoan of the year" in 2004 by the Chicago Tribune.
Kahil's show last year with Hamiet Bluett at The Sanctuary for Independent Media made the NY Capital District publication Metroland's "Top 10 of 2007" list... and it really was spectacular too!
SanctuaryTV features original content produced at The Sanctuary For Independent Media, a community media arts center located in an historic converted church in Troy, NY. You can expect great music, compelling speakers, awesome workshops and much, much more on SanctuaryTV!