Saturday, June 21, 2014

Focus On Percussionist Nana Kimati Dinizulu (videos & information)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides information about percussionist Nana Kimati Dinizulu and showcases selected videos of this musician. Some of those rare videos from the 1990s also include footage of Nana Kimati Dinizulu's Kotoko Society (band), and other renown musicians and performers such as master drummer Baba Chief Bey, Jazz singer & musician Olu Dara, Jazz drummer Roy Haynes, Dub Poet Oku Onuora, and others.

Information about musician Nana Yao Opare Dinizulu (Kimati Dinizulu's father), as well as information about The Dinizulu Center for African Culture and Research at Aims of Modzawe, Inc. and the Dinizulu Archives is found in the Addendum to this post. The Addendum also includes explanations about the meaning of the Ghanaian title "Nana".

The content of this post is provided for historical, cultural, educational, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the creative, educational, and inspirational legacy of Nana Kimati Dinizulu and all others who are featured in or mentioned in this post. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these YouTube sound files and videos.

"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...

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...

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...

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."

Example #1: Nana Kimati Dinizulu Rare Drum Solo # 1

The Dinizulu Archives, December 8, 2006

This rare drum solo of Nana Kimati Dinizulu took place in Japan in the 1990s.
Also, click this link for a video of Nana Kimati Dinizulu "Nana Kimati Dinizulu soloing on Gome, a hand and foot drum of the Ga people of Ghana, West Africa. This solo was performed around 1990."

Example #2: Kimati Dinizulu & His Kotoko Society @ New Orleans Jazz Fest

The Dinizulu Archives, Uploaded on December 8, 2006

Kimati Dinizulu & His Kotoko Society performed live on Congo Square stage of the New Orleans Jazz Festival. This is an excerpt and a scaled down version of an original musical work by Nana Kimati Dinizulu. With Brian Carrot on Marimbas, Michael Williams on Wooden Flutes, Nana Owusu on Dawuru, Claude Thomas on Akasa, the late Meshach Silas on djembe, and the late Zeleka Jenkins on vocals
“The late” means that that person so referred to is deceased

Example #3: Dub Poet Oku Onuora with Kimati Dinizulu & Kotoko Society

The Dinizulu Archives,December 9, 2006

Here you will find rare footage of Kimati Dinizulu & his Kotoko Society performing live at new York City’s Sob’s. Dub poet Oku Onuora is featured in this clip along with master drummer Baba Chief Bey and Olu Dara who is rapper Nas (Nasir Jones) father Circa 1990
According to Verbal Riddim: The Politics and Aesthetics of African-Caribbean Dub Poetry
by Christian Habekostto [Google Books] Jamaican dub poet first performed his poem "We A Come" in 1985.

Example #4: Roy Haynes and Kimati Dinizulu Duet

The Dinizulu Archives, uploaded December 8, 2006

An excerpt of a duet performed by Roy Haynes and Kimati Dinizulu

Example #5: Olu Dara with Kimati Dinizulu & his Kotoko Society

The Dinizulu Archives , Dec. 10, 2006

Rare footage of Kimati Dinizulu & his Kotoko Society at Sob’s featuring Olu Dara. Rapper Nas (Nasir Jones) is Olu’s son. The late Baba Chief Bey can be seen in this clip. Kimati Dinizulu is playing one of his one strings made from a coffee can.

Circa early 1990s.
The Nigerian word "Baba" (Father) and "Chief" are both used as honorary titles.

Information about Nana Yao Opare Dinizulu
From[published 2/16/1991]
... "For more than 40 years Mr. [Yao Opare] Dinizulu presided over the critically acclaimed company of dancers, drummers and singers that he termed "the oldest African dance company in America."

He was born in Augusta, Ga., and traced his lineage to Ghana. He traveled to Africa frequently and in Ghana received the titles of Omanhene and Okomfohene, or chief and spiritual leader, of the Akan tribe. Nana is a Ghanaian title of respect."
The Addendum contains additional information about the Ghanaian title "Nana".

Information about The Dinizulu Center for African Culture and Research at Aims of Modzawe, Inc.
"The Dinizulu Center for African Culture and Research at Aims of Modzawe, Inc., a non- profit tax-exempt organization, located in Jamaica, New York, was founded by Nana Yao Opare Dinizulu, to provide a mechanism for the study and teaching of African Culture. Nana Dinizulu was involved in the study, practice and dissemination of African culture and traditions for over four decades. He was instrumental in introducing hundreds of thousands of people to African culture, through his dance company and other appearances...

The Dinizulu Center for African Culture and Research at Aims of Modzawe, home of the Dinizulu Dancers, Drummers and Singers and The African Diaspora Children’s Museum, offers study and research in African History and Culture via an after school and evening program. The program includes African Dance instruction, master classes with African Dance Artists, lecture series featuring renown educators, and historians of the African world and instruction in African music, language, and arts and crafts...

In the early seventies, The Dinizulu Center for African Culture and Research at Aims of Modzawe was responsible for many African-Americans seeing Africa for the first time via inexpensive charter trips. During these trips. Many were introduced to the cultural and sacred life of Ghana and Nigeria...."

Information about the Dinizulu Archives
"The Dinizulu Archives is a series of various video clips which include a wide array of footage from field research he has conducted around the African Diaspora. Also you will find some excerpts of vintage and rare footage that has been collected throughout the years. All contents of the series can be seen at "

What the Ghanaian word "Nana" means
"In many parts of West Africa, there is an old chieftaincy tradition. The Akan of Ghana have developed their own hierarchy which exists alongside the democratic structure of the country. The Akan word for the ruler is nana. In colonial times, Europeans translated it to “chief”, which is not an exact equivalent. Other sources speak of “kings”, which is also not entirely correct. The term “chief” has become common even amongst modern Ghanaians, though it would be more correct to use the expression nana without translation wherever possible…
The title of Queen mother can relate to the rank of a paramount queen, a queen or a sub-queen. The Akan name is the same as for the men, “nana”. When using English, Ghanaians say “queen mother”. This woman is not necessarily the respective chief's mother. Her role in the system is to have an eye on the social conditions, and a personally capable Queen mother has been known to equal or even surpass a reigning Chief in terms of power and prestige. A good example of this happening is the case of Queen Yaa Asantewa."
The nickname "Nana" for grandmother is much more common in the United States than the honorific title "Nana". However, that title has been given to male and female African Americans, including Nana Yao Opare Dinizulu [male], Nana Kimati Dinizulu [male], and Nana Malaya Rucker, female African Dancer/instructor/lecturer, Washington, D. C. area.

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