Shabaka Hutchings

Clarinetist, Composer, Saxophonist

London, United Kingdom

Over the last half decade, Shabaka Hutchings has established himself as a central figure in the London jazz scene. Hutchings has a restlessly creative and refreshingly open-minded spirit, playing in a variety of groups—most notably, Sons of Kemet, The Comet Is Coming, and Shabaka & the Ancestors—and embracing influences from the sounds of London’s diverse club culture, including house, grime, jungle, and dub. “The common theme in my career as a jazz musician has been wondering if what I’m doing is the thing that I should be doing,” says Hutchings, who studied classical clarinet at college at London’s prestigious Guildhall School of Music & Drama. “Me learning about jazz, how to play and interpret, was always a case of just trial and error. I think where I’ve come to recently is I’ve stopped trying to think ‘Is what I’m doing valid? or ‘Is what I’m doing part of the jazz tradition?’ and just see myself as a musician.”

Born in London, Hutchings moved to Birmingham at age two, then relocated to Barbados at six, remaining there til he was 16 (after which he returned to England). He began to play clarinet in the school band, and the calypso and soca music of Barbados’ Carnival not only provided Hutching’s first musical memories but informs Sons of Kemet’s kinetic intensity. “Everyone comes out on the street and it’s a massive party,” says Hutchings of Carnival, “and in some ways that’s the core feeling that we’re trying to get in Sons of Kemet. As someone from the Caribbean diaspora imagining that feeling, how I remember that feeling as a youngster, I want everyone in the room being so connected to that jubilant feeling of really just enjoying the celebration of music. That’s what I’m trying to get with the performances, the situation where every single person in that room can feel this energy that brings us all together. And once we are together, for me that’s when the transcendence can happen.”