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Photo credit: Eric Ryan Anderson

Chief Adjuah, a Journey to New Orleans

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This December Chief  Adjuah takes the stage at the Coolidge Auditorium (Friday, December 1 at 8 p.m.). Known for his dynamic and genre-defying music, Chief Adjuah will perform his latest studio-recorded album, “Bark Out Thunder Roar Out Lighting.” Chief Adjuah’s upcoming performance marks the first of two scheduled artists this season, both contributing to a powerful tribute to the vibrant history and culture of New Orleans, with a special focus on its Black Mardi Gras Indians. 

A son of New Orleans, Chief Adjuah brings a lifetime of musical heritage to his performances.  With an impressive discography of 13 studio albums, four live recorded albums, one greatest hits collection, six  Grammy Award nominations, and two Edison Awards, Chief Adjuah is a world-renowned artist whose profile is constantly evolving. He started playing trumpet at age 12 and joined his uncle, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr.’s band at age 16. Some of his collaborators include Elena Pinderhughes, Logan Richardson, Saul Williams, Prince, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, McCoy Tyer, Marcus Miller, Eddie Palmieri, rappers Mos Def (Yasin Bey), Talib Kweli and Vic Mensa. 

With a strong family lineage rooted in the New Orleans community, Chief Adjuah grew up as part of the Black Masking Indian tradition. He followed his grandfather’s steps by becoming a Chieftan and Idi of the Xodokan Nation. His grandfather, Big Chief Donald Harrison Sr., was the Big Chief of the Creole Wild West, White Eagles, Cherokee Braves & Guardians of the Flame.  

“White Eagles – Black Indians of New Orleans,” by Marilyn Nance, photographer, 1953

 

For Chief Adjuah, the traditions of his family and community are not confined to the past; they are living expressions woven into the fabric of his values and music. His identity is a true reflection of the multi-layered history and mix of cultures that defines New Orleans. 

In recognition of his commitment to acknowledge the history of the transatlantic slave trade, Chief Adjuah was bestowed the title of Grand Griot at the 2023 Maafa Commemoration. This annual ceremony serves as a poignant reckoning with the painful history of slavery and serves as a means of collective release from its enduring legacy. In his role as Grand Griot, Chief Adjuah utilizes his position to amplify the stories and experiences of those affected by this historical tragedy, contributing to the healing and remembrance process. Through his music and title, Chief Adjuah becomes not only a musician but also a cultural custodian, ensuring that the stories of the transatlantic slave trade resonate as powerful reminders of resilience, understanding, and growth. 

As the creator of “stretch music,” a jazz-rooted, genre-blind music style, Chief Adjuah has an inclusive approach to music-making. He incorporates instruments, rhythms, and sounds from the Black diaspora that break musical conventions and expectations of any predetermined sound.  In his latest album, “Bark Out Thunder Roar Out Light,” Chief puts down his horn and plays his string, harp-like instruments that he created, the Adjuah’s Bow and the Adjuah’s N’Goni. The combination of these instruments, together with the bolon and the kora, connects the listener to the sounds of West Africa. Another exciting element in this album is his voice which provides depth and texture, evoking the motherland. 

Photo credit: Maya Iman

 

Beyond his role as a musician, composer, and bandleader, Chief Adjuah is the creator of musical instruments, including the Adjuah trumpet, Adjuah horn, the siren and the sirenette, among others.  His motivation for this creative endeavor is clear, to provide contemporary instruments rooted in history for the younger generations. 

Chief Adjuah’s music is not just an auditory experience; it’s a profound connection to the culture of New Orleans, a heartfelt tribute to the ancestors. Listening to his music is an immersive journey that reflects his deep love and respect for culture, serving as both an inspiration and a tangible celebration of the rich tapestry of New Orleans. Chief Adjuah is scheduled on Friday, December 1, at 8 p.m. at the Coolidge Auditorium. Learn more at loc.gov/concerts. 

 

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