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Kahil El’Zabar

Guitar player illustration

Internationally renowned percussionist and composer Kahil El’Zabar is considered one of the most prolific jazz innovators of his generation. Indeed El’Zabar is a true “Renaissance Man,” with a musical style and content that flows from ancient Africa to the modern world. In his own words, “The spirit of one’s approach comes first before the technical. All the facility in the world with nothing that comes from the heart doesn’t make good music. The basis of the strength of any artistic evolution has come from ethnicity.”

Even though he is fully grounded in the history and music of his African American community, he has taken his studies deeper, ingeniously incorporating African music and instrumentation, producing 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.

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