Composers celebrate unity and faith during Kwanzaa

December 21, 2021
Valerie Coleman/Facebook
Composer Valerie Coleman of the Imani Wind Quartet.

During the seven days of Kwanzaa, families and entire communities come together to acknowledge their friendships, honor their ancestors, and to celebrate African and African American culture. Each day, one candle is lit on the kinara, the candle holder, in recognition of the principles of Kwanzaa. Umoja, the Swahili word for "unity," is the first day of seven in the African-American celebration of Kwanzaa.

Music for Kwanzaa draws inspiration from its Black history and reinforces the guiding principals of the holiday. Traditional music to celebrate umoja uses drum circles and sing-alongs to foster unity between individuals. Composer Valerie Coleman, founder of the Imani Winds Quartet, draws from this material in her piece "Umoja, Anthem for Unity."

"'Umoja'... stands for 'unity.' Umoja is a drum circle... originally written for women’s voices. And what I love about it is its soulful nature, so if you listen to it, feel the sway, feel the triplet movement, then you have it…umoja."

Valerie Coleman, composer and artistic director of Imani Winds speaking to CPR Classical in the CPR Performance Studio.

Valerie Coleman created the Imani Winds quartet in 1997 to highlight African American and Latino musicians. CPR Classical shares Coleman's "Umoja" during Kwanzaa, December 26 through January 1, and every day from our Spotify playlist.


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