Black Future Month // 2-8-11 // Chukwudi Hodge, Percussionist
Posted on February 8, 2011
I have some journalistic qualms with what I’m about to write. There’s a story here, and maybe I’m not the person who should pen it, but I refuse to be scooped. After all, the subject of today’s look at #blackfuture is Chukwudi Hodge, relation. Yeah, he’s my big headed brother, 5 years my junior, and one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever met.
Kwudi began exploring percussion at roughly age two, keeping time on every counter top, notebook or sister’s face within reach. Our family has always been a part of Oakland’s vibrant African drum and dance community. When we were little we couldn’t go a-ny-where without helping our pop lug his drums, too. Baba plays Djun Djun, which is the bass-iest of West African bass drums. As dad kept time, Chukwudi was known to solo on his first (bite-sized) djembe. He studied under the tutelage of Master Percussionists Mosheh Milon, Tacuma King and Zack Diouf. Like most of the well practiced little drummer boys in our circle, Kwudi could hang with the older men in his pre-teens. By his teenage years, he’d taken classes with some of the world’s greats, including Mamady Keita and the family of famed Senegalese vocalist Youssou N’Dour. He stepped into dance for a while, tapping on the East Coast with Savion Glover once or twice, and becoming a bit of a local phenom in the folk-turned-pop dance style of Senegalese Sabar.
As Chukwudi grew in his musicianship, he began to challenge himself with American Trap drums. After school and after homework, Kwudi would take his kit to the back porch, turn his discman all the way up and, ahem, serenade our family (and the neighbors) with his renditions of Questlove fills and Limp Bizkit beats. Let us not forget his foray into Nirvana. But the boy was good, and not in the Randy Watson kind of way. He was good out of the gates. So, when he announced his intention to pursue his B.F.A. at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, forgoing a full ride to UC Berkeley on an academic scholarship, no one was surprised. Like most Berklee students, Kwudi is part of a revolving door – – some semesters he’s focused on theory and technique in the North East — other semesters he spends time on the West Coast, as the resident percussionist for The Getback, a local hip hop crew. And while I’m also a member of the group, I never cease to be amazed by Kwudi’s virtuosity, candor and innovation on the traps.
These videos embedded here are of Chukwudi going hard on his 21st birthday at the Soundwave Studios in West Oakland. (Big thanks to Dan Truog for taking, cutting and sending the video.) I know I’m a big sister, and stop me if I’m just being too proud, but I’m quite certain that Chukwudi Hodge is the #blackfuture of percussion.
I’m also including a lesson from one of the most influential and noted percussionists of all time, Elvin Jones. Science right here, my friends. And check for the similarities in Mr. Jones’ and Mr. Hodge’s faces when they surrender to the music: lips pursed, brows furrowed, channeling fire.
Thickwit celebrates the legacy of Elvin Jones (1927-2004) and the gift of said legacy as inherited by Chuwkudi Hodge.
This next bit is just for my brother: Sha Sha. Neferwi. Giggety. The Nard Dog lives.