Two upcoming musical performances will share the seven principles of Kwanzaa with audiences through song. The In The Tradition jazz ensemble, a collective of musicians who specialize in playing African-centric music, are set to bring its Kwanzaa Celebration to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit from 1-3 p.m. and Aretha’s Jazz Café in Detroit at 8 p.m., both on Dec. 30.  

Forming in 1993, first as a jazz quintet, In The Tradition has grown. The ensemble currently has nine members — four horn players, a rhythm section and a vocalist. The ensemble’s annual Kwanzaa performances are a way to make the teaching of the holiday more accessible through jazz music. Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of African American studies, and others in 1966 as a celebration and reaffirmation of the principles celebrated before slavery. 


“We’re always excited when we take the stage. But during the Kwanzaa season, it’s very special for us and we love being inside the community and being a part of it and sharing our musical gift with the rest of the community,” said Olujimi Tafataona, the band leader, composer, arranger and saxophonist for In The Tradition. 

One Detroit producer Sarah Zientarski sat down with the ensemble during a rehearsal at the Shrine of the Black Madonna in Detroit to talk about the influences behind their musical style, the meaning and history of Kwanzaa and how they’re preparing for their upcoming performances. 

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