Ethnic Heritage Ensemble

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble

The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, formed by percussionist Kahil El'Zabar in the 1970s, is among the most representative witnesses of the legacy of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in Chicago. JazzTimes

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At the beginning of its formation, the ensemble functioned as a jazz group with a wide variety of instruments. During a tour of Europe, the group’s line-up was reduced to just three members, with El’Zabar on percussion and two wind instruments. This line-up, born out of necessity, became the ensemble’s signature sound.
“We were very scared, having such a unique instrumentation. But we were far from home, we were 20 years old and we had to survive. And we developed a language and a formula that allowed us to play with non-traditional instrumentation all these years,” El’Zabar recounted.

“I didn’t realise this until last year when someone said, ‘You started the band in 1973,’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ ‘ And they said, ‘Well, won’t it be 50 years next year?” reports Zabar, laughing. “I feel very grateful for the experiences I’ve had and the musicians I’ve been lucky enough to work with. If your work is of value to others, then you feel you have served. That has been the main thing for me as an artist.”

Jeff McGinnis