By Chris Burns

Before the arrival of the Portuguese in 1575, Luanda was a trading outpost for the great Kongo and Ndongo Kingdoms. Five centuries later, the city of Luanda is rediscovering, confronting and embracing its past and hoping to establish itself as one of the most historic cities on the African continent – especially for those among the global Angolan Diaspora.
At one of Luanda’s many cultural spaces, it was a homecoming of sorts for African-American drummer Gregory Hutchinson who has played with the likes of Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Joe Henderson and John Scofield.
Hutchinson proudly got on stage and performed in the land of his ancestors. Over centuries, millions of Angolans were sent as slaves to the Americas.
“For me, it’s been awesome to come here and be enlightened. Walking around and seeing different sights. It wakes you up and makes you see that there’s so much more to learn,” said Hutchinson.
He also visited the National Museum of Slavery, which exhibits artefacts evoking the horrors of a slave trade that victimised so many beyond imagination. For instance, chains and other devices were used to restrain the slaves as they were led to the ships.
“This is the beginning of a journey for me. I feel like I’ve been slapped in the face and now I’m going to do the work to learn more.”
Guiding Hutchinson to his reconnection with that history was Carlos Bumba, founder of TAC Tour Angola.
Bumba delivers tour guides to curious visitors, showing and telling them about life in Luanda. From the colonial architecture to street vendors selling some tasty charred plantains.
“This Luanda has traces, it has signs, it has evidence, it has marks, where slaves passed, where slaves were chained, where slaves were stored,” says Bumba.
“Not to forget – Angola’s influence has enriched American culture in more ways than we think.
“It shows that Angola also contributed to the construction of the American nation. The gastronomy, the language, the dances, the blues and jazz are all African rhythms.”
Among the stories is one of the struggles against the Portuguese colonisers, led by Angola’s most famous queen.
Queen Njinga first visited Luanda in 1622, 400 years ago this year. Her brother, the then-King of Ndongo, what is now Angola, sent then Princess Njinga to negotiate with the Portuguese governor about slavery. She would later spend the rest of her life resisting the Portuguese.
Paulo Furtado, an architect and administrator of Luanda’s Ingombota district, says the city is making Queen Njinga Street a key tourist attraction, after renovating its waterfront.
“We already have the bay and a bit of that mirror of the bay that we also want to make for people to walk on and enjoy. And I think that with this project we will be able to achieve this goal of bringing people back to the city.”
This is one more reason for Hutchinson to return to Angola for another visit. –

Hutch is a musician’s drummer
Gregory ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson was born on 16 June 1970 in New York City. His father was a reggae drummer and Hutch played with his dad as a youngster. He studied with Marmin ‘Smitty’ Smith and Kenny Washington in the 1980s and started playing with Red Rodney in 1989.
Jazz Magazine has described him as “the drummer of his generation” and indeed, Hutch is one of the most highly respected musicians of our time. His mastery of timing and expression of rhythms is at the core of his personal style. He is a musician’s drummer, soundly rooted in the jazz tradition he is able to approach all styles of music with supreme accuracy and imagination, decorating compositions with his natural feel and mind-blowing innovation. The Brooklyn native began to nurture his passion for playing at a young age of three. He recalls his first drum set lasting a total of five minutes.
“I proceeded to put the sticks through the drumhead and not on top of it. I didn’t know about Ted Reed stick control,” he muses. “And now fast forward many years, here I am.” His dedication to the instrument was apparent in junior high school and his instructors took notice. At 12, he would arrive at school an hour early each day and stay behind an hour after. He was encouraged to audition for two music high schools and describes his not being accepted as “the best thing that could have happened to me”.
It encouraged him to spend the next four years practicing and also led him to Justin Diccicio who became his mentor. Diccicio’s former students had been Omar Hakim, Kenny Washington, Marcus Miller and Steve Jordon. By accepting an apprenticeship under him, Hutch had not only entered a lineage of supreme musical talent, but had acquired a teacher who was serious in helping him become a professional musician. His professional career began right out of high school, when he was introduced to Red Rodney after playing in a big band for a year. He quickly became known as a young phenomenon in the jazz community, sharing the stage with the likes of not only Rodney, but Betty Carter and Ray Brown while still in his early 20s. He is one of a few musicians today who had the opportunity to collaborate with some of the great originators of jazz music. Since then, Hutch has worked with who’s who of the jazz world including: Dianne Reeves, Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, John Scofield, Roy Hargrove, Charles Lloyd, Diana Krall, Harry Connick Jr, Joshua Redman, Christian McBride, Maria Schneider and a host of other musicians. His time signatures and beat compositions have won him praise from the hip hop community as well leading him to work with powerhouses Common, super producer Kareem Riggins and Questlove of the Roots.His experience and technique make him one of the most exciting musicians to watch and hear. He has the creative power to not only nurture, but challenge the very art of drumming. Dianne Reeves describes him as “Pure Genius.” Gary Giddins described his drum work as “elegant” and more “like dancing.” Joshua Redman describes him as “inspired”. To Hutch, his goal is to play the drums like Charlie Parker plays the horns. “I want to sing on the drums the way he [Parker] sings on the horn.”
If history is any indication, Hutch will indeed continue to be a formidable presence in the music community. –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *