Weedie Braimah is a one-of-a-kind bandleader. Raised by a Ghanaian maestro father and an American mother from an esteemed musical family in New Orleans, Braimah has drumming in his genes. His instrument is the African djembe drum, but don’t make the mistake of calling him a percussionist. He told Afropop Worldwide, “A lot of people say, ‘You are a percussionist.’ No, I am not a percussionist. I am a djembefola, and I'm happy that I am able to take the instrument and open up a new door for it like it hasn't been done before.”
And has he ever. On March 7, Braimah will be the first djembe-playing bandleader to play New York’s prestigious Blue Note jazz club. The show is billed as Weedie Braimah and Friends: Africa, Cuba, New York, New Orleans. It’s a debut outing for this ensemble, and fireworks are guaranteed. The phenomenal Cuban percussionist Pedrito Martinez will be matching percussive wits with Braimah, along with Luke Quaranta, the percussive driving force behind Toubab Krewe. Dwayne “MonoNeon” Thomas Jr. is a dynamic young bass player,like Braimah from a musical family, and notably one of the last bass men to work with Prince. Producer Munir Zakee and guitarist Sam Dickey are also on board, along with two of New York’s finest Malian griot artists, vocalist Abdoulaye “Djoss” Diabate, and kora maestro Yacouba Sissoko.
Representing New Orleans is one of the most exciting jazz trumpeters to emerge in recent years: Christian Scott. “Christian is my good old friend,” says Braimah. “He grew up in a folkloric house like me. His great-grandfather was chief of chiefs in the black Indian society. So he grew up playing for Mardi Gras every year. His family was part of the history.”
Braimah has chosen his collaborators carefully. Many have distinguished resumes, but that’s not why Braimah picked them. He looks for artists who transcend tradition and style, opening up new horizons. “Everybody I play with on that project has done that,” says Braimah. “Everybody. So what you are seeing is people who grew up in folklore who love that piece of work, and have been able to open up a new door to take their instrument and their style of music to another realm.”
Check out the Blue Note calendar page for more details. And for more on Weedie Braimah, listen to Afropop Worldwide’s recent program With Feet in Many Worlds.