The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Kahil El'Zabar

Share on Social Media

Information about Kahil El'Zabar

Profile image of Kahil El'Zabar

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Jazz Percussionist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Purple
Favorite Food:
Brown Rice
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Paris, France, Accra, Ghana
Favorite Quote:
You dig?

Birthplace

Born:
11/11/1953
Birth Location:
Chicago, Illinois

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Jazz Percussionist

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Purple
Favorite Food:
Brown Rice
Favorite Time of Year:
None
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Paris, France, Accra, Ghana
Favorite Quote:
You dig?

Birthplace

Born:
11/11/1953
Birth Location:
Chicago
See how Kahil El'Zabar is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Musician Kahil El'Zabar was born in Chicago, on November 11, 1953. One of three children growing up in a South Side neighborhood, El'Zabar fell in love with the myriad sounds of the city, from doo-wop to jazz. After attending Catholic schools in Chicago, El'Zabar went to Kennedy-King College and later to Malcolm X and Lake Forest colleges. In 1973, he traveled to Africa to attend the University of Ghana and study African music firsthand.

El'Zabar began studying African music at an early age, taking a special interest in drumming. At the age of eighteen, he joined Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and by 1975 he was chairman of the organization. During the early 1970s, El'Zabar also formed his own musical group, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, and later another group, Ritual Trio, with which he still performs. His musical abilities have allowed him to play with such greats at Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon and Nina Simone, and he has toured the world with both his own groups and others. El'Zabar is active in more than just music, however. He has appeared in several films, including Mo' Money, How U Like Me Now and The Last Set. From 1996 to 1999, El'Zabar organized Traffic at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, an inter-arts program featuring music and poetry.

El'Zabar has also served as an associate professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has published a book, Mis'taken Brilliance, and tailors clothing both for his band and for others. He is active on the boards of several organizations, including serving as the chairman of The Sun Drummer, an African American drum society, and on the board of directors of the National Campaign for Freedom of Expression. El'Zabar lives in Chicago. He has six children.



Selected Discography

Kahil El'Zabar & Ritual Trio Renaissance of the Resistance. Delmark Records: 1994.
---. Big Cliff. Delmark Records: 1994.
---. Another Kind of Groove. Sound Aspects: 1987.

See how Kahil El'Zabar is related to other HistoryMakers
Loading...
Click Here To Explore The Archive Today!
  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Kahil El'Zabar's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Kahil El'Zabar talks briefly about his immediate family members
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Kahil El'Zabar lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Kahil El'Zabar remembers his maternal grandparents
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about his paternal family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Kahil El'Zabar describes his childhood home
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Kahil El'Zabar describes the frustrations of being labeled learning disabled at Copernicus Elementary School
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Kahil El'Zabar describes moving from the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois to the Chatham neighborhood in Chicago
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Kahil El'Zabar comments on some of his elementary and middle school teachers
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Kahil El'Zabar describes his experience at Cathedral High School in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Kahil El'Zabar describes his introduction to jazz music
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Kahil El'Zabar describes touring with tenor saxophonist Von Freeman
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Kahil El'Zabar describes his first marriage
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Kahil El'Zabar describes his children and being a father, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Kahil El'Zabar describes his children and being a father, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about his mentors and developing an exchange program between the University of Ghana and Lake Forest College
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Kahil El'Zabar lists musicians he played with in Paris and his involvement in the Chicago Afro-arts community
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Kahil El'Zabar describes what has influenced his music
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Kahil El'Zabar describes a time in Paris, France when he felt he transcended his music
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Kahil El'Zabar describes jazz musicians that have influenced his style
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Kahil El'Zabar explains his philosophy as a musician
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about the formation of his Ethnic Heritage Ensemble
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about African influence in contemporary hip hop music
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Kahil El'Zabar critiques the state of arts-in-education, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Kahil El'Zabar critiques the state of arts-in-education, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about the artist's contribution to society
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about his teaching appointments
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about his involvement in programming at the Steppenwolf Theatre
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about designing clothing for entertainers
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about maintaining a youthful perspective
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about African Americans' cultural heritage
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about the African American contribution to American art and pop culture, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about the African American contribution to American art and pop culture, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about the African American influence in American film culture and talks about the African American business community
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about the beatnik and bebop generations
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Kahil El'Zabar critiques contemporary African American culture
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about his work on the Broadway production of 'The Lion King'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Kahil El'Zabar explains how he developed an arts administration curriculum
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Kahil El'Zabar describes his role as a multi-percussionist and list the percussion instruments he plays, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Kahil El'Zabar describes his role as a multi-percussionist and list the percussion instruments he plays, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Kahil El'Zabar lists record labels he's recorded for and the books he has published
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about Dizzy Gillespie's contribution to American music
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Kahil El'Zabar critiques traditional American values and the difficulty African American musicians experience transcending popular culture, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Kahil El'Zabar critiques traditional American values and the difficulty African American musicians experience transcending popular culture, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Kahil El'Zabar explains why he wears his glasses at all times
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Kahil El'Zabar talks about his contribution to the Underground Fest jazz festival in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Kahil El'Zabar narrates his photographs