Nana Kimati Dinizulu was an African-American percussionist. He performed with many great artists like Toni Morrison, Alvin Ailey, Donald McKayle, Gregory Hines, Sonny Rollins, Nina Simone, Harry Belafonte, Wynton Marsalis, Jackie McLean and Dizzy Gillespie and many more.
Life and career:
Nana Kimati Dinizulu began playing drums and percussion instruments in his early childhood. He was born in New York, New York on September 27, 1956. For many generations, the Dinizulu clan has been active in music and performance. Nana Dinizulu's father, the late Nana Yao Opare Dinizulu was a world-respected African drummer. His mother, Alice Dinizulu, was a key dancer for Asadata Dafora's Dance Company which was 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, Mr. 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, Mr. 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 worshippers of Trinidad and Tobago, Rada ritual musicians in Haiti and the Ring Shouters of the Georgia Sea Islands.
Mr. 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. Mr. 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, Mr. Kimati 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".
Kimati 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, Mr. 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 Mr. 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.
Nana Kimati Dinizulu died on July 7, 2013.
Performances by Nana Kimati Dinizulu:
Nana Kimati Dinizulu made numerous worldwide performances over the past decades for many diverse groups of people. Some of Mr. Dinizulu's performances include Broadway's Death and the King's Horseman which is a play written and directed by the legendary Wole Soyinka. Mr. Dinizulu has also undertaken many other Broadway productions. In addition, Mr. 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. Moreover, Mr. Dinizulu has co-written the composition "Divining" (Judith Jamison's first ballet for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater) which was a collaboration with artist/composer Monti Ellison. He was also commissioned by choreographer Judith Jamison for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to compose the music for the smash hit "Riverside". Both of these works have toured extensively throughout the world.
In the year 2003, Mr. 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. Mr. Dinizulu performed with artists such as Mavis Staples, Buddy Guy, Mos Def, and Angelique Kidjo in this concert.
Apart from all this, Mr. 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 which was recorded live at the General Assembly of the United Nations on World Environment Day. Mr. Dinizulu is also the percussionist in 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 Mr. 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, Mr. 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).