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Etienne Charles co-produced album nominated for NAACP Award
T&T-born musician, composer and producer Etienne Charles may be among the recipients of an NAACP Image Award when the awards are presented on January 15, 2018. Charles served as an associate producer on Somi Kakoma’s Petite Afrique (Sony Music/OKeh) which has been nominated in the Outstanding Jazz Album category. A release said Charles co-wrote five songs (the Gentry, Black Enough, Let Me, Midnight Angels and They’re like Ghosts) as well as arranged strings, horns and played percussion and trumpet on the album.
Somi’s sophomore project on the Sony Music/OKeh label, the album is an homage to her New York City upper Manhattan neighbourhood, and one of the Meccas of the African diaspora. Somi is an American singer of Rwandan and Ugandan descent.
Populated predominantly by a Francophone, West African and Muslim community, this is a strip of Harlem that locals call “Little Africa” or “Petite Afrique:” Many of these working class residents—immigrants-cum-citizens—are now taxi drivers zipping other New Yorkers through the city they’ve called home since the 1980s.
“I first worked with Somi on her album, Lagos Music Salon, doing a horn arrangement for Akobi,” said Charles. “She then reached out to me about writing some songs, arrangements (horns and strings), co-producing and playing on her follow up album, Petite Afrique, an album about African immigrants in Harlem. The writing sessions were smooth and the recording session was a blast. This record is special because of its depth in message. I’m honoured to be a part of the creative team on it and stoked that the album has been nominated for this award.”
Speaking about working with Charles, Somi said she wanted the legacy of jazz on the album since it was about Harlem.
“Etienne has a more straight ahead approach to jazz but he also really privileges so much of the Afro Caribbean heritage and really has an understanding of the Disaporic expression of ourselves and black people of the world,” she said. The NAACP Image Awards celebrates the accomplishments of people of colour in the fields of television, music, literature and film, and also honours individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavours.
NAACP members vote to select NAACP Image Awards winners from nominees in television, music literature, and film. The nominations for the 2018 awards were announced on November 21.
Charles, Associate Professor of Jazz Trumpet at Michigan State University, has racked up a number of awards and accolades during his prolific career.
In 2006, he won first place in the National Trumpet Competition Jazz Division in Fairfax, Virginia. In 2012 he was written into the US Congressional Record for his musical contributions to Trinidad and Tobago and the World and in 2013 he was awarded the Caribbean Heritage Trailblazer Award, by the Institute of Caribbean Studies, Washington, DC. In 2015, he was named a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow in the Creative Arts and earlier this year was featured as a panellist and performer at the White House Briefing on Caribbean American Heritage in Washington DC and received the prestigious Jazz at Lincoln Centre Millennial Swing Award. Charles holds a Bachelor’s degree from Florida International University and a Master’s degree from the prestigious Juilliard University.
He has produced seven albums and tours the world with his band Creole Soul. He has performed to sold-out audiences in T&T and on January 14, 2018 Charles will return to the Queen’s Hall with the second part of his Carnival album, which will be released worldwide in June 2018. He will then return to the road on Carnival Monday with his band Street Party.
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