Leila Adu

Leila Adu is a New Zealand composer of Ghanaian descent who has composed for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Brentano String Quartet, So Percussion, Gamelan Padhang Moncar and Orchestra Wellington. Based in Brooklyn, she is a currently a Princeton doctoral fellow and also teaches music to prisoners at Sing Sing Correctional Facility as a faculty member of Musicambia – music for social change.

With a “voice like hot treacle on broken glass,” she has performed her original piano songs and improvisations alongside international artists at festivals and venues in the UK, mainland Europe, the US, Russia, Ghana and Asia. Leilahas been voted as MTV Iggy’s Artist of the Week, performed on the BBC World Service, composed, produced a short-film and documentary soundtrack with screenings on BBC Knowledge TV channel and the NZ Film Festival and performed with Luscious Jackson on ‘MTV VH1’ and ‘Late Night with David Letterman.’

She has released four acclaimed albums including, ‘Dark Joan,’ recorded by Steve Albini and ‘Ode to the Unknown Factory Worker’ produced for the Italian National Radio. London’s ‘Time Out’ called her music, ‘Avante-garde pop that recalls Nina Simone and Tim Buckley” and reviewers have placed in an arena with other female icons Joni Mitchell, PJ Harvey, Micachu, and Esperanza Spalding.

For Edna for cello and voice (2016)

When Amanda Gookin said that she’d like to participate in her women’s social justice Forward Music Project, I wanted to write a piece that encapsulated the strength of women. At first, I was going to write something physically and aurally demanding — hard. Then I realized that our strength is perseverance and endurance, adaptability and openness, and connection to others. I wrote this thinking about women loving their man who has come home from war; women who have lost their children; women who have been beaten by men, the system, or both, and who still have the strength to love.

I dedicate this piece to my friend, activist and scholar Edna Bonhomme, because in the struggle of being a black woman from a working-class family, she perseveres to be one of the most loyal, hard-working, inspirational and devoted people I have ever met. With her Haitian background and American upbringing, she has continued to keep her heart open and share her intellect with me, including around issues of colonialism, black struggle, police brutality, the prison justice system and her tangible fears for her own family. A few years ago on my 12/12/12 birthday, Edna gave me a copy of Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, and she wrote this dedication in the front page: “Continue to recover the voices of “other” and the marginalized and show that their music is important too.” Thank you Edna and Amanda for being part of the creative inspiration of this piece.