Shabaka Hutchings was born in England and raised in Barbados, where he began his musical journey. There he played in local calypso bands, classical ensembles and various jazz groups. In 2003, he was awarded a place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he completed a degree majoring in classical clarinet. During this time, he was involved with the Tomorrow’s Warriors organisation, the Abraham Wilson sextet and Jazz Jamaica. He also led his own group, Splay, which performed at the Cheltenham and Coventry jazz festivals.
He was granted the title of BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist (2010) which allowed him to undertake numerous commissions, as well as broadcast performances on radio. These included performances with Julian Joseph, the BBC Big Band, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (with whom he performed the Copland Clarinet Concerto in the Wales Millennium Centre). In 2012 he was commissioned to write a piece for the BBC Concert Orchestra which included members his own group (Sons of Kemet) and electronic musicians Leafcutter John and Jason Singh. This concert was received to critical praise at the South Bank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.
In July 2013 Shabaka was commissioned by Leasowes Bank Music Festival to write a piece for clarinet and string quartet and was also nominated for Jazz Musician of the Year in the Parliamentary Jazz Awards in the same year.
Shabaka’s primary project is the group Sons of Kemet, which includes Seb Rochford and Tom Skinner on drums, and Oren Marshall on tuba. This group explores Shabaka’s Caribbean heritage and has been described by the Guardian as “a dazzlingly adventurous and very accessible groove-band….almost certain to dominate the best of 2012 lists at the end of the year”. The group released their debut album ‘Burn’ in 2013 and have been touring extensively throughout the UK and Europe. The group won the 2013 MOBO Award for Jazz Act of the Year.
Shabaka became a patron in 2012 and has since worked with some of the Award winners during the EFG London Jazz Festival.