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Celebration of American Jazz and African Music Ahead of Obama’s Inauguration

As part of celebrations marking civil rights leader Martin Luther King'sBirthday today (Monday), which also falls on the eve of President-ElectBarak Obama's Inauguration, The Kennedy Center in Washington will be thesite of a historic all-star musical event honoring the legacy of King andlooking forward to the Presidency of Obama. It is presented by jazz greatWynton Marsalis's organization Jazz at Lincoln Center and The RockefellerFoundation, and among it's notable performers is Ghanaian drum masterYacub Addy and his traditional percussion and vocal ensemble Odadaa!. Addy and Marsalis co-wrote the groundbreaking 2-hour compositon "CongoSquare" which combines traditional Ghanaian music with jazz on a levelnever done before, and proved that without African music, American jazzwould not exist. In Monday's celebration, dubbed "Let Freedom Swing",Addy and Odadaa! will perform with jazz titan Marsalis and his Jazz atLincoln Center Orchestra, performing a piece from "Congo Square" thatexpresses the thoughts and feelings of fishermen living on the coast ofGhana as they watched prisoners being taken away during the slave trade. Addy tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Obama's election willplay a significant role in Monday's music-making. "The program is called "Let Freedom Swing: A Celebration of America", ofObama's inauguration and Dr. Martin Luther King's Birthday. Tonight weare doing a celebration of the two together. And tonight will be awonderful night for all of us and those who will be coming to the KennedyCenter. I promise you that anybody who comes to see us tonight is goingto enjoy him or herself," Addy noted. Addy said the idea of mixing African traditional music with jazz wasconceptualized in the early 1950s after he saw American jazz legend LouisArmstrong in Ghana. "I have had this idea for a very long time since 1953 when Louis Armstrongvisited Ghana, which at the time was known as the Gold Coast. I had thatidea since then because there was no rock and roll, only jazz around theworld at that time. And I found out from Louis Armstrong that New Orleansis the city where jazz came from," he said. Addy gave the idea to Marsalis to create a piece of music honoring CongoSquare, a historic site in New Orleans where African slaves were allowedto play their own music and dance every Sunday for over a hundred yearsfrom the 17 – 1800s. It is the place where African music entered Americanmusic and American culture. Marsalis has said that every form of musiccreated in America owes a debt to the African musicians who played inCongo Square. Addy said the performance with jazz great Wynton Marsalis Monday at theKennedy Center will be a night to behold. "Anybody who sees our concert tonight will really know that jazz andAfrican music are together and inseparable. Everybody will understand thatyes, this is the real thing." Addy pointed out. Also performing in "Let Freedom Swing" are jazz notables Cassandra Wilson,Diane Reeves, Dave Brubeck, Paquito D'Rivera, Bela Fleck and Roy Haynes. Addy said he is hopeful that as the first African American to be electedpresident of the United States of America, Barak Obama will enable peaceand prosperity to be achieved worldwide. "Everybody in Africa has to understand that President Obama is the firstAfrican American President in America. We all have to support him toachieve what he has set out to achieve. Nobody is perfect, but when youlisten to him you will understand that this man (Obama) is going to dosomething great not just in America, but also the whole world. With Obamawe can be able to do something like bring peace and freedom to the world,"he said.