Ethnic Heritage Ensemble


Founded in Chicago in the 1970s by Kahil El’Zabar, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble brings together three talented musicians. Kahil El’Zabar, founder of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, is an internationally celebrated percussionist and composer and is considered one of the most prolific jazz innovators of his generation. His music has been featured in several films and theatrical productions. Being a renaissance man, El’Zabar has also held positions as associate professor of inter/disciplinary arts at the University of Nebraska/Lincoln (1987-99), and the University of Illinois/Chicago (2000-04). Some of the many other awards and accomplishments El’Zabar has received includes being named “Chicagoan of the year” in 2004 by the Chicago Tribune, percussionist of the year award from the Jazz Journalists Association in 2002, 2003 and 2005, Outstanding Career in Music Award from the African American Arts Alliance in 2001, received a Ph.D. in 2006 from Lake Forest College/Lake Forest, Illinois and in 2010, the U.S. Embassy awarded El’Zabar the Cultural Diplomacy Award.

El’Zabar is accompanied by fellow musicians Ernest Khabeer Dawkins and Corey Wilkes. Dawkins is one of Chicago’s premier jazz saxophonists whose music reflects his extraordinary talent not just as a musician but as a composer as well.  He holds a Masters in Music Education from Governors State University in University Park, Illinois, and has studied music at the Vandercook School of Music as well as the AACM School of Music. Dawkins has performed in Maputo, Mozambique, and appeared on local radio and television programs. Of his many accomplishments, he has composed music for the documentary film Malcolm in 1995 under the direction of Alan Siegal.

Corey Wilkes is a young lion with a roar being heard in several music genres.  His talent as a trumpeter began at the age of 10.  He made the Illinois All State Honors Jazz Combo in high school and honed his talent at Berklee College of Music.  He has performed with many music greats, including playing with the Art Ensemble of Chicago.  In addition, he holds a post as an Artist in Residence and Board Member with the Jazz Institute of Chicago and a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians; this young lion has a roar to listen for.

The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble is playing at the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival as part of The Will to Adorn: African American Diversity, Style, and Identity program from June 26-30.

Watch Past Performances

Video 6/28/2013: Ethnic Heritage Ensemble

The Chicago-based group features multiple improvisers who combine contemporary African American musical styles, jazz, and traditional African instrumentation and rhythms. Part of the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble