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Congo Square
Photo by Michael Farrell

Musical Collaboration Inspires Hope for Rebuilding

This April, just eight months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, Yacub Addy, adjunct professor of Ghanaian drumming at Rensselaer, and world-renowned jazz musician Wynton Marsalis traveled to the city for the world premiere of their musical collaboration, “Congo Square.”

The musicians played the piece with the help of Odadaa!, Addy’s group of percussionists and dancers from Ghana, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, which Marsalis directs. The performance was held in the place for which the composition was named, New Orleans’ Congo Square—a place many consider the birthplace of American jazz.

“I knew about New Orleans and Congo Square long before I came to the United States, and I’ve always imagined the music that was played there,” said Addy—a native of Ghana—during an interview with the Albany Times Union earlier this year. “Without the Congo Square music there is no jazz or blues.”

The 80-minute composition was co-written by Addy and Marsalis in an attempt to fuse together traditional African music, rhythms, and chants with American jazz music.

“It’s been very interesting to bring our different grooves together,” Marsalis told the Times Union. “I think ‘Congo Square’ is different than anything that’s been heard before, [and] hope this music is a step toward bringing New Orleans back from the disaster of Katrina.”

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