World Music Ensemble concert with Randy Weston

Saturday, November 18, 2017 @ 7:30pm - 9:30pm

Location: Grant Recital Hall

Please note: this event is at capacity

Jazz legend Randy Weston visits Brown University for a concert with Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng and the World Music Ensemble. While Randy Weston began his career performing the modern jazz style of his contemporaries in the 1950’s, Weston made a unique and lasting imprint on the history of jazz with his connection of American and African music. This concert features performances by Weston on piano in duet with percussionist Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng and with the Brown University World Music Ensemble.

Related event: Randy Weston Discusses his Life and Music

About Randy Weston

Randy Weston, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926, didn’t have to travel far to hear the early jazz giants that were to influence him. Though Weston cites Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Art Tatum, and of course, Duke Ellington as his other piano heroes, it was Thelonious Monk who had the greatest impact.  “He was the most original I ever heard,” Weston remembers. “He played like they must have played in Egypt 5000 years ago.”

Randy Weston’s first recording as a leader came in 1954 on Cole Porter in a Modern Mood (Riverside Records). It was in the 50’s when Randy Weston played around New York with Cecil Payne and Kenny Dorham that he wrote many of his best loved tunes, “Saucer Eyes,” “Pam’s Waltz,” “Little Niles,” and “Hi-Fly.” His greatest hit, “Hi-Fly,” Weston (who is 6’ 8”) says, is a “tale of being my height and looking down at the ground.

Randy Weston has never failed to make the connections between African and American music. His dedication is due in large part to his father, Frank Edward Weston, who told his son that he was, “an African born in America.” “He told me I had to learn about myself and about him and about my grandparents,” Weston said in an interview, “and the only way to do it was I’d have to go back to the motherland one day.”

In the late 60’s, Weston left the country.  But instead of moving to Europe like so many of his contemporaries, Weston went to Africa.  Though he settled in Morocco, he traveled throughout the continent tasting the musical fruits of other nations.  One of his most memorable experiences was the 1977 Nigerian festival, which drew artists from 60 cultures.  “At the end,” Weston says, “we all realized that our music was different but the same, because if you take out the African elements of bossa nova, samba, jazz, blues, you have nothing..........To me, it’s Mother Africa’s way of surviving in the new world.”

Official website:

About Kwaku Kwaakye (Martin) Obeng

Kwaku Kwaakye (Martin) Obeng is a composer, master drummer, dancer and educator who has worked internationally for the past 25 years. Born in Ghana, West Africa, Kwaku began drumming at the age of five, and by seventeen he was appointed Royal Court Drummer to the high chief of the Aburi-Akuapim region of Eastern Ghana. He toured as a drummer and dancer with Ghana’s National Arts Council Folkloric Company, and in 1981 relocated to the U.S. where he joined the New England based Talking Drum Ensemble. Obeng has taught drumming at Brown since 1988.

About the World Music Ensemble

This ensemble is composed of Brown University students and instructed by Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng. The Ensemble focuses on global percussive and song traditions, especially those of the African diaspora (based on instructor’s vast musical experiences). Here, western instrumentalists fuse with traditional musicians from every culture: bongo, gyil, ukulele, tabla, etc. Students grow and develop their musical skills by learning new techniques on their own instrument, exploring a range of repertoire representing genres such as highlife, reggae, salsa, afrobeat, Afro-jazz, and global fusions.