Kamau BIO

The Man, The Poet, The Word Musician

Kamau Daaood is a poet, performer and community arts activist. He has made a respected name for himself from his cultural work in the Los Angeles area and beyond. In the year 2018 he will celebrate fifty years in arts and culture. He began his artistic career as young poet in the Watts Writers Workshop and as the ‘Word Musician “ in the Underground Musicians and Artists Association (later changed to the Union of God’s Musicians and Artists Ascension) under the direction of composer, pianist, mentor Horace Tapscott. His poetry has the ability to touch one very deeply. The work is forceful and thought provoking and extremely musical. He weaves powerful imagery and soul-searching visions to promote the ideas of healing, mindfulness, social and personal transformation. He has mastered the relationship of poetry and music. He is truly an urban griot.

Kamau Daaood is the author of The Language of Saxophones: Selected Poems of Kamau Daaood, City Lights Publishers, 2005. In 2012, he was Artist-in-Resident at the Universite Michel de Montaigne in Bordeaux, France. There, Le Castor Astral published a bi-lingual translation of Kamau’s work, Notes D’un Griot De Los Angeles, 2012. He published two earlier chapbooks Ascension, 1976 and Liberator of The Spirit, 1984, both on Ascension Press. His work can be found in various journals and anthologies.

He has been the subject and featured poet in several award-winning documentaries, including Life is a Saxophone produced by S. Pearl Sharp, 1984; Leimert Park: The Story of a Village in South Central L.A. by Jeannette Lindsay, 2008; the PBS documentary Race is the Place, Paradigm Productions, 2005; and, The Odyssey: Poets Passion and Poetry, A Bob Bryan Film 2006. More recently, he appears in And When I Die I Won’t be Dead, a film about beat poet Bob Kaufman by filmmaker Billy Woodbury.

In 1997 Kamau recorded the critically acclaimed CD Leimert Park, M.A.M.A. Records and has a appeared on over a dozen other recording as guest artist or on various compilations

As an educator Kamau has taught in the California Poets in the Schools Program, California State University Northridge and Otis Art Institute of Parson School of Design. He is one of three co-founders to the Anansi Writer’s Workshop in 1990 that still serves the community today.

For well over ten years he was a member of the staff at the Watts tower Art Center, City of Los Angeles Cultural Affair under the mentorship of renowned Visual Artist John Outterbridge where among his duties were curating and organizing arts programming. He acted as interim director for the William Grants Still Art Center for over a year.

In 1989 Kamau, along with master drummer Billy Higgins founded the World Stage Performance Gallery in Los Angeles, which still serves the community today. He is considered one of the cornerstones of the arts movement in Leimert Park, the area of Los Angeles where the World Stage is located. Daaood served as its Artistic Director for over fifteen years. Daaood also formed, directed and toured with the performance group An Army of Healers. Alongside Billy Higgins and Horace Tapscott, he has performed with such great artists as Charles Lloyd, Pharaoh Sanders, James Newton, Dr. Art Davis, Omar Sosa, Kurt Elling, Famoudou Don Moye, Roscoe Mitchell, Azar Lawrence, Nate Morgan, Dwight Trible, to name a few.

Kamau has performed his works at countless venues that include the Dunya and North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland; Earshot Jazz and Bumbershoot Festivals in Seattle; the Steppenwolf Theater and Guild Complex in Chicago; the Getty, Hammer and MOCA Museums in Los Angeles; the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta; the Schomburg Center in Harlem, New York; the Alcazar library in Marseille; and the Banlieues Bleues Festivals in Bordeaux and Paris, France.

Amid Daaood’s numerous honors and awards he has received the Visionary Mid-Level Career Grant, 2007 from the Asian Improv Arts thru Ford Foundation; Association of Jazz Journalists Award for a Lifetime of Service, 2006; the Charles Mingus Award, presented by Watts Towers Community Action Council, Cultural Affairs Department and Community Redevelopment Agency, 2005; a California Artist Fellowship, 2002; a Durfee Artist Fellowship, 2000; a Cave Canem Retreat Fellowship, 2000; the L.A. Artcore 10th Annual Award for Lifetime Contribution, 1998; and the Charles R. Drew University Jazz at Drew Lifetime Achievement Award in1997. He has received numerous proclamations and certificates of recognition from community, government and educational institutions.

Kamau Daaood has spent fifty years performing, recording, curating, teaching and producing, This includes organizing and creating art in universities, churches, prisons, storefronts, arts venues, libraries, festivals, conferences, radio, television, museums, and galleries locally, nationally, and internationally. He resides in his native Los Angeles, California with his wife, Baadia, of forty years, five children and twelve grand children.  

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