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Imani Winds and Andy Akiho to Release BeLonging 6/14

June 6, 2024 | By Rebecca Davis
Rebecca Davis Public Relations

Imani Winds Joins Composer Andy Akiho for New Recording out on Aki Rhythm Press on June 14, 2024
Originally workshopped at Rikers Island, Akiho’s BeLonging was inspired by the sounds and protests of immigrants held at a Brooklyn detention center in 2019, and features music for wind quintet, steel pan, and spoken word that speak to the universality of humanity.
In the next two seasons, Imani Winds and Andy Akiho will present BeLonging on tour at detention facilities and mainstage chamber music venues across the United States.

NEW YORK, NY – June 6, 2024 – On June 14, Aki Rhythm Press will release the world premiere recording of five-time GRAMMY® nominated composer and steel pannist Andy Akiho’s 2022 work, BeLonging, performed by Akiho and the GRAMMY® award-winning wind quintet Imani Winds. Inspired by the sounds and protests of immigrants held at a Brooklyn detention center, BeLonging features a series of highly choreographed music for wind quintet and steel pan that speaks to the universality of humanity, even (especially) when that humanity is bound. Originally workshopped at Rikers Island, this message is carried by performances of both the quintet and composer, as well as their own spoken words.
Andy Akiho and Imani Winds were searching for inspiration when, in 2019, they heard the sounds of immigrant detainees at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn. The facility lacked heating, even in the dead of winter, and people were pounding so loudly on the windows and walls that it was audible from the street. The artists recall, “As musicians, we couldn’t hear such rhythmic sounds of protest and NOT be moved by them.”
Initially, Imani Winds commissioned Akiho to write BeLoud, BeLoved, BeLonging, a 20-minute, three-part work, but the project quickly expanded. Akiho added several more pieces — including two powerful interludes featuring the composer himself on steel pan. An early visit to Rikers Island was particularly instrumental. “We drummed on books, trash cans, and tables,” explains Akiho. “The music and camaraderie from this visit were deeply moving, and served as the initial inspiration for much of the album.”
The final work, BeLonging, unfolds in seven parts, and features music for wind quintet and steel pan, interwoven with powerful collages of electronics, prepared piano, and spoken word.
Loud, which begins the album, tells the project’s origin story using actual audio footage from the 2019 protest – the words shot into and out of a vacuum chamber. BeLoud follows, opening with a unison, meandering loop, interspersed with a repetitive clanging from the lower instruments that evokes the sounds of protest. Next are Loved and BeLoved, offering a moment to breathe before Longing, a powerful, extended steel pan solo by Akiho. BeLonging builds on the theme, opening with percussive motives and adding successive layers of virtuosity as it drives forward. Finally, Being closes with a mix of prepared piano, circular electronic samples, and recordings of the musicians themselves speaking to the humanity of those most marginalized in our country.
Imani Winds and Akiho have received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts to present five performances of BeLonging in prisons, detention centers, or juvenile facilities over the next two seasons. “The overarching goal of this project is to penetrate the walls of places of detention and incarceration across the country with positive musical intent, and to highlight, empower, and uplift people who have been incarcerated,” says Imani Winds oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz. “This piece is born of protest. But our protest has to be beautiful. This protest is a declaration that is meant to bring people together.”
  1. Loud
  2. BeLoud
  3. Loved
  4. BeLoved
  5. Longing
  6. BeLonging
  7. Being
Music by Andy Akiho
Performed by Andy Akiho and Imani Winds
Andy Akiho: Steel Pan
Imani Winds: Brandon Patrick George, Flute | Toyin Spellman-Diaz, Oboe | Mark Dover, Clarinet | Kevin   Newton, Horn | Monica Ellis, Bassoon
Producers: Andy Akiho, Sean Dixon, and Mark Dover
Engineers: Chris Gilroy and Sean Dixon
Mixed by Sean Dixon, Andy Akiho, Chris Gilroy, Mark Dover, and Jon & Yoko Greeney
Mastered by Adam Ayan
Executive Producers: Imani Winds Media, Aki Rhythm Productions
About Imani Winds
Celebrating over a quarter century of music making, the GRAMMY® award winning Imani Winds has led both a revolution and evolution of the wind quintet through their dynamic playing, adventurous programming, imaginative collaborations and outreach endeavors that have inspired audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
The ensemble’s playlist embraces traditional chamber music repertoire, and newly commissioned works from voices that reflect historical events and the times in which we currently live. Recent projects include a Jessie Montgomery composition inspired by her great-grandfather’s migration from the American south to the north, socially conscious music by Andy Akiho, reflecting on mass incarceration, and a work by Carlos Simon celebrating iconic figures of the African American community. These works and more have been commissioned as a part of the Legacy Commissioning Project.
Twenty-six seasons of full-time touring has brought Imani Winds to virtually every major chamber music series, performing arts center, and summer festival in the U.S. They regularly perform in prominent venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center and have a presence at festivals such as Chamber Music Northwest, Chautauqua Institution and Banff Centre.
Imani Winds thoughtfully curates unique residencies that include performances, workshops, and masterclasses to thousands of students each year at institutions such as the University of Chicago, Eastman School of Music and Duke University. Their international presence includes concerts throughout Asia, Brazil, Australia, England, New Zealand and Europe.
Appointed in 2021 as Curtis Institute of Music’s first ever Faculty Wind Quintet, Imani Winds commitment to education runs deep. The highly successful Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival launched in 2010, is an annual summer program devoted to musical excellence and career development for pre-professional instrumentalists and composers. The curriculum includes mentorship, masterclasses, entrepreneurial workshops, community engagement activities and performances, with the goal of fostering the complete musician and global citizen.
In 2019, the group extended their mission even further by creating the non-profit organization, Imani Winds Foundation, which exists to support, connect and uplift their initiatives and more.
Imani Winds’ travels through the jazz world are highlighted by their multi-faceted association with luminary musicians and composers Wayne Shorter, Paquito D’Rivera and Jason Moran. Their ambitious project, "Josephine Baker: A Life of Le Jazz Hot!" featured jazz songstress René Marie in performances that brought the house down in New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles and St. Louis.
In 2021, Imani Winds released their ninth studio album, “Bruits” on Bright Shiny Things Records, which received a 2022 GRAMMY® nomination for “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.” Gramophone states, “the ensemble’s hot rapport churns with conviction throughout.”
Imani Winds has recordings on Koch International Classics and E1 Music, including their 2006 GRAMMY® nominated recording, “The Classical Underground”. They have also recorded for Naxos and Blue Note and released an acclaimed arrangement of Stravinsky’s "Rite of Spring" on Warner Classics. They are regularly heard on all media platforms including NPR, American Public Media, the BBC, SiriusXM, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
About Andy Akiho
Andy Akiho is a “trailblazing” (Los Angeles Times) Pulitzer Prize finalist and five-time GRAMMY®-nominated composer whose bold works unravel intricate and unexpected patterns while surpassing preconceived boundaries of classical music. Known as “an increasingly in-demand composer” (The New York Times), Akiho has earned international acclaim for his large-scale works that emphasize the natural theatricality of live performance. He is the only composer to be nominated for a GRAMMY® in the Best Contemporary Classical Composition category in both 2022 and 2023.
Recent highlights include the world-premiere of a new interdisciplinary work for Omaha Symphony honoring visual artist Jun Kaneko, the world-premiere of a new commission for Imani Winds, and a sold-out run of Akiho’s “Seven Pillars” at Théâtre du Châtelet, choreographed by Benjamin Millepied and performed by Sandbox Percussion and LA Dance Project. Equally at home writing chamber music and symphonies, Akiho is the Oregon Symphony’s 2023-2024 composer-in-residence. His latest work, a concerto written for noted cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, is set to premiere this Fall at Sun Valley Music Festival, with additional performances by the Oregon Symphony, ProMusica, and Bozeman Symphony.
Other recent engagements include commissioned premieres by the New York Philharmonic, National Symphony Orchestra, Shanghai Symphony, China Philharmonic, Guangzhou Symphony, Oregon Symphony Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, Music@Menlo, LA Dance Project and The Industry.
Akiho has been recognized with many prestigious awards and organizations including the Rome Prize, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Lili Boulanger Memorial Prize, Harvard University Fromm Commission, Barlow Endowment, New Music USA, and Chamber Music America. His compositions have been featured by organizations such as Bang on a Can, American Composers Forum, The Intimacy of Creativity in Hong Kong, and the Heidelberg Festival.

An active steel pannist, Akiho has performed his works with the LA Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella Series, the Berlin Philharmonic’s Scharoun Ensemble, the International Drum Festival in Taiwan, and more. Akiho’s recordings No One To Know One, The War Below, Seven Pillars, Oculus, and Sculptures feature brilliantly crafted compositions inspired by his primary instrument, the steel pan.
As a steel pannist, Akiho has a deeply physical relationship with playing, which extends itself to his compositional output. His voice is further shaped by what has undoubtedly been a nontraditional trajectory as a composer: having spent most of his 20s playing steel pan by ear in Trinidad and New York City, Akiho only began writing music at age 28. These social and musical roots remain foundational, however. Akiho frequently composes into the wee hours at coffee shops, nightclubs, and restaurants, taking breaks to get to know those around him. Similarly, Akiho develops relationships with his collaborators, as he writes for people, not instruments.

Akiho was born in 1979 in Columbia, SC, and is currently based in Portland, OR and New York City. He is represented by CAMI Music.
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Rebecca Davis
Rebecca Davis Public Relations



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