Born: January 12, 1941 Primary Instrument: Trumpet
Olu Dara is a multi-talented entertainer who has been performing since he was eight years old. Born (1941) in Natchez, Miss, Olu landed in New York in 1963 after a stint in the US Navy which took him all over the world.
Stranded in Brooklyn (as Olu sings in his tune, Neighborhoods), Olu turned to music to survive. During the 1970s and '80s, he gained a reputation as a trumpet/cornet player who could handle all aspects of jazz. On the one hand he could perform with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1973- 74), but he could also handle the demands of the free- flowing avant-garde style which formed the basis of the New York Loft scene of that period. But jazz was not the only musical style he was involved with, and gradually he turned away from it as increasingly he began to lead his own ensembles.
In the 1980s Olu put together two ensembles: Okra Orchestra, a 7-plus-member band, and the Natchezsippi Dance Band, a 5-piece unit.
Since then this has been Olu's preferred musical environment for creating the roots-based musical style that the audience now hears. In Olu's current repertoire, you will find a true fusion based on the Blues, but containing elements of African, Caribbean, R'n'B, and yes, even Jazz (but he won't admit to that) musical styles. In performance he plays the trumpet (pocket trumpet, and a wooden aboriginal instrument that he picked up on his travels), the guitar, harmonica, sings, and tells stories. Think of him as a modern equivalent of the itinerant traveling musician/historian of years past. As he puts it, I sing about women, food, and life in general.