Image credit: Olivia Moon Photography

Akili Jamal Haynes 

Run of the Mills — July 2022 Residency

Artist Bio

Born July 12, 1972, Akili Jamal Haynes  aka Chibuzo Dunun (dba) is a composer, producer, drummer, and multi-instrumentalist who began his artistic career at age 15 as a trombonist under the mentorship of Wynton Marsalis.  

Despite having a substantial career as a trombonist, performing in Black Music formats and its multiple genres, his earliest jobs were as a classical trombonist at age 10, performing in brass quintets at a Martin Lutheran Church in NYC.  During these early years, while at home, and in church, Akili was naturally growing in the realms of hip hop, funk, r & b, and gospel and picking up various instruments along the way. 

Akili retired from trombone performance for the second time in September of 2001, the fact that he didn’t choose it nor enjoyed it, and the pursuit of his dreams to drum being the catalyst.  In prior years, Akili has served as research assistant, and arranger to Ghanain master drummer Kimati Dinizulu, for music performed and recorded for Alvin Ailey Dance Theater under the direction of Judith Jamison in the mid 1990’s. He has performed at the White House as a part of Illinois Jacquet’s Big Band with President Bill Clinton guesting on saxophone at his own inauguration.  Another visit to the White House as a member of the first class of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance, of which he is the first trombonist and was awarded a full scholarship attending New England Conservatory from 1995-1997, found him performing for the induction of a new stamp with Thelonious Monk’s likeness, then meeting Muhammed Ali, and sitting to listen to Billy Dee Williams casually playing piano in Al Gore’s house. “Hey Jamal, what’s the name of this?” asks Mr. Williams as he ponders the question.   

Akili is currently an Accompanist at Harvard Dance Center, Berklee College of Music, Boston Conservatory, Boston University, and Curry College Dance Departments, and was with Prometheus Dance Company as house accompanist and composer before they closed in 2019.  

Akili is a dancer in the Benkadi Drum & Dance company, drummer for Sidi Mohamed “Joh” Camara’s Group Sewa, and multi-instrumentalist performing with guitar virtuoso Zaira Meneses in a duo/trio setting and with her group Son Jarocho Boston.  

Akili has held positions as Director of Woodwinds & Brass at New England Conservatory, Music Director for Unity in the City Brookline, and Chair of Percussion & Popular Music at the Community Music Center of Boston.  

Akili’s interests have inspired him to expand his skill set to that of a producer over the last decade, as it was a childhood dream which needed to come to fruition.  He has embarked on the endeavor of creating a variety based performance called The Art & Soul of Chibuzo, which is a fully immersive experience that blends the sounds of African drums; original music steeped in the traditions of bebop, hip-hop, funk, and gospel; story telling, singing, dance, shadow puppetry, and a film based on his life, dreams, and past and future life imaginings.  The story told is of a child prodigy forced to play the trombone, who puts it down to pursue the dreams of his youth.  The project has since been condensed from a 57 person production to a one man show with a production crew with the new name Becoming Chibuzo.  Currently Akili is continually developing this multi-media work (Becoming Chibuzo);   Performing with his group Chibuzo Dunun, providing a wide range of experiences rooted in the traditions of African drumming;  Producing a show called Mister Akili & the World of Chibuzo, featuring hand puppets JAM-ALL & LATIFAH LADY BUG, which so far is made to order based on the needs of educational organizations;   Accepting commissions for composing and producing soundtracks for plays, and dance based films and performances, which he can also perform live in with multiple instruments and responsibilities including foley work, and acting.  Most recent examples of this being an excerpted production of Jawole Jo Willa Zollar’s piece called SHELTER, which appeared in Boston Conservatory’s show called LIMITLESS;  A soundtrack to a dance film choreographed by Adrienne Hawkins which features students of the Boston Arts Academy, and audio included in the Gallery X Lobby Installation of Anthony Davis’ X: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MALCOLM X, which premiered at the Strand Theater; a live streamed version of the play LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, featuring actor Dayenne C. Walters;  A poem-in-movement video written to commemorate the Nakba, by Sara Abou Rashed, performed by 14 international artists called 72 YEARS: A BIRTH CERTIFICATE;  A Front Porch theater production of BLACK ODYSSEY BOSTON by Marcus Gardley

Directed by Benny Sato Ambush;  And a role of the drummer in the Huntington Theater production of the George C. Wolfe play called THE COLORED MUSEUM directed by Billy Porter.

 A love for learning new things propels Akili towards conquering new challenges, and expanding his opportunities to use his skills as a musician, and cultivate his talents as a  producer, an actor and dancer, among other things.  

Akili will appear as a special ability background extra in the upcoming Whitney Houston film, I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY, and has performed in, scored, filmed, edited, and co-produced  a short film appearing in the Roxbury International Film Festival based on a poem that poet Denise Washington calls QUILT OF GREATNESS.  Akili will be performing with his new group, and in the Stan Strickland trio this summer as part of the Eliot Schoolyard Concert Series in 2 separate performances respectively.  In the Fall, Akili will perform as a musician for FINDING HOME: IMMIGRANT STORIES AND MUSIC FROM BOSTON AND BEYOND. 

Project Description

The performance invites audiences into a new world that rejects technology as we know it and instead relies on a catalytic offloading of encumbering objects, movements, and words to produce a new kind of power. A spoken word poet, a dancer, a designer, a musician, and a mysterious organism playfully guide audiences through a ritual to move beyond our realities to encounter new objects, ways of moving, and ways of speaking in an unexpected realm. The powerful exchange between the performers and each audience member transforms the performance into a collective ritual. Together we gather objects, speak in unison, and move. The work is immersive, interactive, and experimental in nature. Heavily based on speculative futures but reactive to current events, this performance is meant to be personally cathartic and communally healing for all.

This work was collaboratively created by U-Meleni Mhlaba-Adebo, Rosa WeinbergEmily Beattie, and Akili Jamal Haynes.

The work is supported in part by the Live Arts Boston grant from The Boston Foundation.