ListN Up: Mankwe Ndosi (August 6, 2021)

ListN Up is a weekly series of artist-curated playlists that offer an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. 

Mankwe Ndosi is a Composer, Evocalist, and Culture Worker based in Minneapolis, MN who works in sound and soil. Her practices emerge from Black ritual music and performance legacies of Ewart, Carlos, Bridgeforth, Kubat, Mitchell, Jarman, Simone, Makeba, ancestors, earth, and listening.

Hello, my name is Mankwe Ndosi. I’m a vocalist and composer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My playlist theme is evocative, live, ancestral and contemporary Great Black Music and performance. These are performance videos of influential artists whose music moves and challenges my aesthetics, my ear, my mind, and my heart. These are my inspirations. These are my community, past and present — and into the future! Come along!

“Amampondo” by Miriam Makeba

Miriam’s breathwork and resonance, energy, and commitment were foundational to my understanding that there isn’t only one way to sing. And what a bonus on this video to meet the amazing musicians that were playing with her at the time!

Here in Now (Mazz Swift, Silvia Bolognesi, and Tomeka Reid) live at Center for New Music

The dynamism, precision, passion, and range of this string trio always transports me. Go Tomeka, Silvia, and Mazz!

“Down to Zero” by Joan Armatrading

Joan Armatrading’s lyricism and soul speaks to the complexities of relationships and love. This song evidences her musicianship and her surprising and satisfying melodies and story-lyrics with a twist!

“Blacktal Fractal” by Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman’s textures and layered rhythms stretch and reshape the Great Black Music diaspora — rooted, new, and timeless. I love the energy, the muscular foundation, and the gritty reach and bounce of this piece.

“Mississippi Goddam” by Nina Simone

Nina and Miriam are my foundational activist/artist Aunties. “Mississippi Goddam” is as powerfully appropriate now as ever as we fight for voting rights and justice. The past is present!

“Volunteered Slavery” by Rahsaan Roland Kirk

I wanted to see Roland Kirk live, and this television performance satisfies! His navigation of energy, anticipation, melody, audience, horns, gongs, and band left me looking for more!

“I Found God in Myself” by Ntozake Shange

My performance auntie/guru Laurie Carlos was part of the groundbreaking ensemble that created For Colored Girls with Shange in the 70s. This incantation for Black Women learning to love the god in themselves first still rings as a necessary offering and reminder for us to this day.

Sonic Projections by Nicole Mitchell, performed by Nicole Mitchell (flute), David Boykin (tenor sax), Craig Taborn (piano), and Chad Taylor (drums)

I chose this track for the combination of the players and the music! Dynamos Mitchell, Taborn, Taylor, and Boykin weave and support each other in dynamic, soulful flight.

Sonic Tops by Douglas R. Ewart

Part community ritual, part playground of invention, this sound and video expresses the visionary and playful ingenuity of my co-conspirator and composer Douglas R. Ewart. The music is in the instruments, the tops, the movement, and the layering of Chicago creative musicians with the rhythms of joy and exploration!

“How High the Moon” by Ella Fitzgerald

Ella’s seemingly effortless prowess at both singing and scatting inspired my vocal exploration as a young performer. She can send a straight ahead tune into space where it explodes into comets, starlight, and constellations of song and sound. Pardon the credits and watermark — get ready for take off!

“Don’t Blame Me” by Thelonius Monk

Monk’s rhythmic and harmonic offerings stretched and opened my ears and heart. Evidencing working “mistake” as an opening, as a revelation, as a new possibility — and widening the canon of sound. His whole soul is in the song when he plays. Monk is bottoms and tops for me!


I CARE IF YOU LISTEN is an editorially-independent program of the American Composers Forum, funded with generous donor and institutional support. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and may not represent the views of ICIYL or ACF. 

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