Washington DC Jazz Oral History Project, Chapter 20

“My style encompasses all of the styles that have influenced Jazz over the last hundred years.” – Kush Abadey

Kush Abadey

KUSH ABADEY – a native of Silver Spring, Maryland, is now based in New York City. He is a highly sought-after drummer for both live performances and studio sessions. The son of master drummer Nasar Abadey and Baiyina Abadey, Kush Abadey credits his parents with introducing him to the formal study of music and supporting his decision to become a professional performing artist. During his May 4, 2017 interview for the Washington DC Jazz Oral History Project, he discussed, among other things, his educational journey—from his preschool days at the Howard University Early Learning Program, to home schooling during his senior year in high school, through undergraduate studies at the Berklee College of Music.

*This following passage is an excerpt from the full interview.

“I have worked as a professional musician for the last 16 years of my life, and I am now [in 2017] 26 years old . . . I started preschool at the Howard University Early Learning Program. . . The first and the biggest influence that I have had up until now is my father, Nasar Abadey. He began [teaching] me on the drums at the age of two. I also began to play hand drums when I was in elementary school, and I took a djembe class. At the age of six, I started to take piano lessons with a guy by the name of Harlan Jones. I studied with him from the age of six until about 13, and he gave me a great deal of information.”

“After that, maybe by the age of 13, I started studying with a world percussionist by the name of Tom Teasley at the Levine School of Music. He taught me a wide range of percussion techniques, and he taught me how to read different percussion instruments—how to read them on paper, how to also write certain rhythms out. He taught me snare drum and other orchestral percussion. I studied with him for maybe five years . . .”

“I also studied jazz composition and improvisation at the Levine School of Music with Jeffrey Chappell, a piano player. Then I got a full scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in 2009 . . . Terri Lyne Carrington was actually the reason I went to Berklee, so I studied with her. And I studied with Ralph Peterson there, Yoron Israel, John Ramsey, and quite a few others in composition and other things.”

“I am currently living in New York . . . I moved here in 2012, [following] a year hiatus after Berklee. I went back to DC for about year, then I came to New York.”

“[Key influences include] my father and trumpeter Wallace Roney, who molded me from the age of 16 to, I would say, around the age of 23, in developing a voice of my own and influencing my playing and approach to the music, how to play the drums, how to write music. I think those two [musicians] had a very strong role in that, and still do . . .”

“My style encompasses all of the styles of that have influenced jazz over the last hundred years. I would say I don’t limit my style of playing to just Straight-Ahead, although Straight-Ahead Jazz does and will always have a huge influence on my playing, whether I am playing R&B, Reggae, Rock . . . The improvisational element and the reaction element of Jazz, will always affect whatever I play.”

“It’s kind of hard to really label how I play, stylistically. When people ask me, I just say I am primarily, at heart, a Jazz drummer, but I try to stay as versatile as possible.”

Interview Date: May 4, 2017

All Interviews Conducted, Recorded, and Reviewed by

Dr. Regennia N. Williams

Life Member, Oral History Association

Founder and Director, The RASHAD Center, Inc.

For more information, please visit: https://rashadcenter.wordpress.com/.


*Photograph Courtesy of Kush Abadey.


Blues for Kush!






About Dr. Regennia N. Williams, Founder, President, and Executive Director

Dr. Regennia N. Williams is the Founder and Executive Director of The RASHAD Center, Inc., a Maryland-based non-profit educational corporation. Williams holds a PhD in Social History and Policy from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. A native Clevelander and a four-time alumna of Cleveland State University, information on RASHAD's “Praying Grounds, African American Faith Communities: A Documentary and Oral History” project is now available online at www.ClevelandMemory.org/pray/, a site that is maintained by CSU's Library Special Collections, home of the Praying Grounds manuscript collections. Praying Grounds was the primary inspiration for the launching of the Initiative for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in the History of Africa and the Diaspora (RASHAD) at CSU, and links to RASHAD's scholarly journal and newsletter are also available on the Praying Grounds site. On April 28, 2020, the RASHAD Center, Inc. became a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. In 2010, Dr. Williams was a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at Nigeria’s Obafemi Awolowo University, where she taught history and directed a RASHAD-related oral history project that focused on the role of religion in recent Nigerian social history. Other research-related travels have taken her to Canada, China, France, South Africa, and Austria. In 2013, she conceived and produced “Come Sunday @ 70: The Place of Duke Ellington’s Sacred Jazz in World History and Culture, c. 1943-2013,” a project that included scholarly presentations and performing arts activities. From September 1993 until May 2015, she was a faculty member in the Department of History at Cleveland State University. She served as a Fulbright Specialist at South Africa's University of the Free State in the summer of 2019, and completed a short-term faculty residency at Howard University in the fall of 2019. As a public scholar, her current research projects focus on African American history and culture, especially as it relates to music, religion, and spirituality. She is a member of the Oral History Association, the Western Reserve Historical Society, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the American Library Association.
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