Jubilee Singers Director to Speak at Rhodes


Publication Date: 6/13/2007

Paul T. Kwami, musical director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, will visit Rhodes on Friday to speak to the students participating in the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies and the Mike Curb Institute. Kwami, who holds the Curb-Beaman Chair at Fisk, will speak on “Music within the African-American Church.”

Born in Ghana, West Africa where he learned piano, violin, theory and conducting from his father, also a musician, Kwami immigrated to the U.S. in 1983 to study at Fisk. After graduating from the Nashville institution he studied music at Western Michigan University. He has been director of the Jubilee Singers since 1994.

Kwami feels a deep connection between Negro spirituals and the music he grew up with in Ghana. “The music we sing today helps to bridge the gap between Africans and African-Americans,” he says. “When my students sing I am reminded of my life in Ghana and feel close to my past.”

The original Fisk Jubilee Singers introduced “slave songs” to the world in 1871 and were instrumental in preserving this unique American musical tradition known today as Negro spirituals. They broke racial barriers in the US and abroad in the late 19th century and entertained Kings and Queens in Europe.

Nationally recognized, the Fisk Jubilee Singers are in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and have been awarded the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Arts Club of New York. They were also featured in a PBS award-winning documentary series, The American Experience.