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© Amir Bey, 2010
      Nantambu Einaharo Mwanga lives in happiness. That is to say with the challenges that life brings, he is able to maintain a spiritual and cultural practice that gives him joy. And that is the overriding characteristic of his life: joy. While he has developed spiritual discipline, it is not an inhibiting spiritual dogma that starves the pleasure out of life. Indeed, he embraces all levels of experience.
   With his twining of culture and spirituality, woven with strands of compassion, Nantambu's life flourishes continuously.

Birthday in Connecticut, April, 26, 2008
photo (c)Amir Bey, 2008

HOLLER!: Who were your most important spiritual influences?

MWANGA: Stemming back to my earlier years I would say my mother, Mrs. Hazel Conley was a strong spiritual influence on me. She insisted on her 4 sons going to church every Sunday and that we develop a relationship with GOD. I remember she would express gratitude for all her blessings, especially the protection of here family. She used to say, "GOD has been so good to me, I should stay on my knees." This has profoundly influenced me in all my spiritual activities. She use to also say, "No one owes you anything so be grateful for anything given to you". We, Mom Dad, my three brothers Donald, Leroy and Kunle Mwanga were in regular attendance at church on Sundays, First Baptist and later my brother Kunle got the family interested in becoming Catholics, due to his and Leroy's joining the Choir.
   When I moved to Calif. in 1971, my spiritual influences were affected by my association with the Republic of New Africa. I started reading about African History. I had my name changed in a Kwanzaa Celebration in 1972. The ways of Eastern Philosophy grew in our community, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi ' Transcendental Meditation practices, works by Ram Das, Krishnamurti, and Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, spread. So, when in approximately 1973, an ashram was established 4 blocks from my house I thought I'd at least go around and see who this Swami was. It was then and there I fell in love with my Spiritual Advisor, Swami Muktananda Paramahansa.

Swami Muktananda Paramahansa

HOLLER!: When did you first hear about the AACM, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians?

MWANGA: It was approximately around 1965 that I and one of my best friends, George Favors, [bassist] Malachi Favors' younger brother, used to go to a club around the corner from my house called The Olde East End. The club allowed George and me to come in on Saturday afternoons as long as we didn't try to drink any alcohol. These concerts were put on by the AACM. We became familiar with the sound of many of the musicians.

HOLLER!: Who are your favorite musicians and styles of music?

MWANGA: Malachi, Charles Clark, Joseph Jarman, were some of my favorites. At that age George and I were avid jazz fans. I collected most of Coltrane's work, George was into Ornette Coleman. We both liked Eric Dolphy, Miles and Monk. My earlier listening and collecting started around 1959. I was about 12years old. I would save my money and by albums. Mostly bebop artists [like] Jackie Mclean, Dexter Gordon, Lee Morgan, 3 Sounds, Jazz Crusaders, Ramsey Lewis and Ahmad Jamal to name a few.
  Now, after many years of listening to Free Jazz, Avant-garde, New Music (as it was called), I enjoy this form of the music best. I like the expanded sounds and spaces - Coltrane (of course), David Murray, William Parker, Pharaoh Sanders and many others.

Pouring The Libation

About the pouring of the libation, Nantambu has this to say: “Each morning for an hour and a half...I submit to the Supreme Being, who comes as all manifestations of life and I pour water into a large plant, representing the earth, as I call the Ancestor's name and some attributes of their Life. Libation is the act of remembering our Ancestor's, through Ritual.”
photo, (c)Amir Bey, 2008

     HOLLER!: You've been called a Devotional Practitioner, tell us about the observance that you follow in the Mornings; how did that come about? MWANGA: Once I convinced myself that meditation Siddha Hatha and Bakti (Hatha Yoga- is following the path of body control, due to Yoga Asanas [or] positions; Siddha Yoga- is the guidance of a "Realized Being" (GURU), who by his or her touch, look or words, can cause spiritual awakening; Bakti Yoga is the path of Devotion, worship and Love) was part of my life. I started connecting other Spiritual Activities with the meditation. According to my spiritual advisors, meditation should be done at least twice daily. So I used these opportunities to pray, perform yoga exercises, pour Libations to our Ancestors and worship THE GODDESS. I've been doing these activities for decades and I've probably only missed 3-5 times since I've started. My attitude is, if I awaken and don't seem to have time before having to make and appointment, then, I would be late to my appointment (job, medical appointments, personal or other business). Therefore I would make it a point to awaken approx.3 hours before so I could get it all in.
   Now that I am Retired, I have expanded my activities to about 5 or 6 hours a day. I figure that if I could work for 45 years, approximately 8 hours daily, then I can devote that much time to Giving Thanks and Praising The Creator of All (Amen-Ra). The consistent theme is that of being Grateful and Seeking Wisdom. I have been Truly Blessed with Family and Friends like you.
Although I miss many of my friends and of course my daughter, Nalungo, I often find myself dreaming of that California coast-line and the variety of music accessible there. Atlanta has neither of these. The "Mecca Myth" is just that, something that may have been, but is not, now. With visits to The Chicago Jazz Festival (twice), California (YOSHI's) and New York, Vision Festival, I'm trying to make life here work for me and my wife, Tyrrah.



At home in Oakland, 1975. Nantambu has played and studied the bass in ensembles like The New World Fasting Society, led by Tafiotsam Kaal.

The photographer wrote on the back of this photo "Man on a Mission of Music", Oakland, December, 1996

From Oakland To Atlanta


In Oakland: Tyrrah, Nantambu, poet Golda Solomon, Amir Bey, saxophonist Saco Yasuma, April, 2007

Nantambu and Tyrrah, after moving to the Atlanta area

     HOLLER!: You lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over thirty years, beginning in the early 70s, and presently live in the Atlanta Georgia area. With that, you lived in one of the most socially active areas of this country if not the world, with the Black Panther Party's influence, and alternative lifestyles; what made you leave California for Georgia, and how is that looking; do you miss California, or has it changed and no longer the vibrant, dynamic place that it was?

MWANGA: You are right; I've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 30 years. I worked at Childrens’ Hospital Oakland for 30 years in the physical therapy department. I've attended North Peralta Community College ["Grove Street College"], formerly Merritt College (The campus that gave birth to Huey Newton and Bobby Seale's vision of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) and I've been involved through friendships with the Republic of New Africa (RNA). These associations gave rise to my cultural connections to Kwanzaa, African Liberation Day ceremonies, Peoples Park gatherings and other alternative lifestyles. I immersed myself in Black Studies and associated with revolutionary students of the Black Power movement, in the 70's and 80's. The result of these associations fueled my desire to "Know Myself"... I accepted a name change at Kwanzaa in 1972, on the second day, Kugichagulia. The naming ceremony was conducted in the West African tradition of the Yoruba in Nigeria.
   It was also during this period that my thirst for Black Classical Music (Jazz) was being quenched by my trips to S.F., Berkeley and Oakland, jazz sites. It was a matter of time before the music of the AACM was coming to the Bay Area, assisted by my brother Kunle Mwanga, who at that time was managing, producing, and promoting, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Anthony Braxton, and other AACM musicians. When Kunle moved west, the music came, our extended family grew as did our consciousness. Transcendental Meditation was being taught throughout our community by many of the brothers and sisters in our spiritual family.


Nantambu, dreads and all, in Oakland CA, circa 1975

        Three decades and many beautiful experiences later (birth of my daughter Nalungo, seven trips to North, East and West Africa, marriage, etc.) I heard that Atlanta, Georgia was the "MECCA" of the south. So when my 1st cousin Linda Goodwin suffered 3 strokes, I planned a visit to the Atlanta area. This was in 2007, shortly after I retired from "Childrens". The economy was not as bad as it is now but, it became very clear to me then that, buying a house or even a condominium in Calif. was not going to work, on my fixed retirement income. So when I was visiting my cousin in Atlanta, I also visited my dear friends Mehib and Okannona Holmes. Mehib was a real estate broker. He showed me how I could afford a 3-bedroom, 2-bath townhouse. I packed my belongings and "my lady" Tyrrah and moved here to Georgia in December 2007.
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