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Jazz Night celebrates the lives we lost in 2023

Updated December 29, 2023 at 3:20 PM ET

Once again, the time has come for Jazz Night to bid farewell to those our community lost this year. Reviewing the list of icons, pioneers, educators, activists and friends can reopen wounds barely scabbed over. Collecting these names never gets any easier and in the past we have sent these artists off with solemn performances — thoughtful lamentations that spoke to the depth of loss.

This year, we wanted to do something a little different. While the losses are felt no less keenly, we recognize that honoring their legacies can also be a joyful affair. To commemorate the lives of these people whose impact on jazz is undeniable, we asked djembefola Weedie Braimah to help us celebrate them.

The djembe represents unity and peace and the continuation of life in all of its forms. When a djembefola — one who plays the instrument — strikes it, they present messages from us to the ancestral spirits and receive guidance from them in return. They are a conduit for conversation that connects us all through melody and emotion, giving voice to those who can no longer speak to us directly. In fact, the instrument itself symbolizes the reverence for all the lives that unite in its creation: the spirit of the tree from which it is cut, the animal hide that creates its skin and the djembefola who unlocks its songs.

And so, this year, we say goodbye knowing that as long as we remember their contributions to the community and celebrate the eternal gift of the music they have left behind, the spirits of those who have passed on will always be here with us.

"The Sound that Guides" (Composed by Weedie Braimah)

Musicians

Weedie Braimah

Video Producer: Nikki Birch; Recording Engineer and Audio Mix: Neil Tevault; Videographers: Mitra I. Arthur, Joshua Bryant; Lighting: Mike Meyers; Editor: Nikki Birch; Photo Researcher: Keren Carrión; Graphics: Jackie Lay; Copy Editor: Hazel Cills; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Producer: Nikki Birch; Supervising Editor: Ben de la Cruz; VP Visuals & Music: Keith Jenkins; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann, Gabrielle Armand

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: December 29, 2023 at 12:00 AM EST
An earlier version of this video misstated the first name of Jerry Dodgion as Jeremy.
Nikki Birch