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Nurudafina Pili Abena

African - Caribbean - American Oral Historian and Percussion Teacher

CDs: One Spirit, Ancient Mother, Drum Call, the Big Bang

Nuru is an African American artist who is deeply involved in AfroCuban culture and for that reason, we present her here. She performs AfroCuban folkloric music, traditional Malian and Senegalese West African spiritual and festive, West Indian calypso, jazz, and US popular music - funk, hip hop, and R&B. She uses the drum as a link between these ancient cultures and our present musical art.                 (see Nuru's Index)


Nuru's web site:

Contacting Nuru

Workshops and Classes



Venues and collaborations

Nuru plays solo concerts and works with artists such as Babatunde Olatunji, Ibrahima Camara, and Kay Gardner. She has been a guest artist with groups like Afrocuba de Matanzas and los Muñequitos in Cuba, Orlando "Puntilla" Rio, and YaYa Diallo. She’s played as featured artist at:
The National Women’s Festival    The Michigan Woman’s FestivalRhythmfest, NC
College of St Rose, Albany, NY UN NGO Women’s Conference in Nairobi, Kenya
Carnegie Hall Private performance for Nelson Mandela      
Oakland Coliseum 

Cleveland Art Museum Opening, 18th Century Yoruba Art Exhibit

In the Boston area, she’s played at

The African Meeting House Sculler’s Phillips Academy
Cambridge River Festival Ryle's Beaver Country Day School
Hynes Auditorium MIT Plymouth River School, Hingham
The Red Cross Harvard Museum of Fine Arts
Carleton Willard Retirement Village Wellesley College Buckingham, Brown & Nichols
Fuller Museum Wheaton College US Army Corp of Engineers
St Catherine’s Cathedral (Missa Luba)

Hingham Congregational Church

First Night:Boston/Worcester/Sharon/Keane/Providence

She performs solo or with her own group, and also is a member of the Women of the Village Orchestra and the John Coltrane Memorial Concert 1998.

Workshops, Lectures, and Classes

Nuru has been playing and teaching music since 1976 and full time since 1983. She has given workshops, lectures seminars, and classes at a wide variety of institutions from primary schools to colleges and holistic health centers. She has also established musical education programs in secondary schools. Her music school, Universal Vibrations School of Oral Traditions, has trained several thousand people in percussion technique, history, cultural origins, and the religious background to drumming. Nuru is considered one of the most influential woman elders and an inspiration of fusive and traditional spiritual drumming, nationally and internationally.

Nuru’s goal is to help establish cultural diversity, percussive music, and oral tradition in public and private schools, universities, and holistic medical centers. She started musical programs at:

Powers Music School Mt Holyoke Phillips Academy
Beaver Country Day School Cambridge Friends School
Smith College Milton Academy

She has given workshops and lectures in percussion and oral history at

University of Houston Wellesley College
Framingham State University Suffolk University
Mt Ida Junior College Bunker Hill Community College
Youth Build Cardinal Cushing Center
Framingham State Prison MoonSisters Drum Camp, Albuquerque, NM

and a seminar at

In Women's Hand: the Beat of the Drum, The Women's Building, Albany, NY

Nuru offers a unique style of instruction, teaching an oral language corresponding to percussion instruments. Student vocalize - call and response - as well as implement technical skills. The instruments she teaches include conga, djimbe, djundjun, cowbell, agogo bell, clave, sabar drum, balafon, shekere, and others in the West African, Caribbean, and African American styles.

Her Universal Vibrations School is designed to empower both children and adults with vocal movement and music skills. Her program integrates mind - body - spirit connectedness through the medium of sound and thereby helps her student both in their every day lives and in their careers as musicians, teachers, healers, and business professionals. She has taught workshops stressing these values at:

Carl Jung Institute, Houston

Open Center, New York

Her aim is to further the development of this holistic use of music.


In 1985 Nuru attended the UN NGO Women’s Conference in Nairobi, Kenya with a 3 women theatre group to perform in villages, schools, and universities as well as at the conference. In 1992, she went to Senegal and Gambia with two of her students to study the Manding and Djola cultures. In 1987 Nuru was happy to visit the homeland of her much loved AfroCuban rhythms, Matanzas, where she was asked to sit in and play with world renowned groups such as Afrocuba de Matanzas and los Muñequitos. Ever since, she has remained closely connected with Matanzas and served as a link to practicioners of AfroCuban culture and spirituality, such as Pedro "Pello" Tapanez and Zulima Escheverria.


Nuru can be heard on over 16 recordings, including Ancient Mother, One Spirit, Drum Call, the Big Bang. She worked with Robert Gass on the CD Ancient Mother. Her cut "Yemaya" on that CD caused people around the world to write her fan letters. She toured nationally with Kay Gardner in ‘94, performing their duo, "One Spirit," produced on Ladyslipper Music, which unites flute and drum, combining European, Native American and African roots.

Ladyslipper Music released Nuru's own CD, entitled "Drum Call," in July, ‘94. It presents traditional Yoruba chants and contemporary music styles, a reflection of her journey through America and our roots abroad. The title cut, "Drum Call," the traditional cue to drummers, was in a surprisingly hip hop style and appealed for an end to the violence epidemic running through the world especially with our youth. Ellipsis Records selected her cut "Oggun" from Drum Call to feature on their Big Bang compilation in ‘95.

Nuru has appeared on local Boston TV shows such as "Say Brother" with author Hattie Gossett and "Roots" which featured her life story and mission as a cultural griot. She scored and played all the percussive music in the independent 1991 film, "It’s a Powerful Thang" produced by Zeinabu Irene Davis. In 1994, her opening performance at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts for the film "Sankofa" was filmed and won an award. She has been experimenting with video and cable, developing a sense of how to move her music and traditions to the new medias, including the Web.

Nuru is on a mission to use music as medicine, to bring together diverse cultures and their music as a means for increasing communication, education, and spiritual enlightenment.


Drum Call

nuru3.jpg (8015 bytes)

LadySlipper Music

1. Elegva (en-trance)
2. Ogun
3. Yemaya
4. Oshun
5. Shango
6. Oduduwa
7. Elegba (closing)
8. Wollosodong
9. Lamba
10. Mandiane
11. La Rumbera
12. Drum Call
List Price: $15.97
Our Price: $12.99
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Ancient Mother  
One Spirit

LadySlipper Music

Big Bang

Ellipsis Records

Contacting Nuru  [replace _AT_ with @]

Box 200800
Roxbury, MA 02120

Phone: 617 694-9068 and 617 320-5116

Contacting AfroCubaWeb

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