Adu is a New Zealand composer of Ghanaian descent who has composed for the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Brentano String Quartet, So Percussion, Gamelan Padhang Moncar and Orchestra Wellington. She recently received her doctorate in music composition at Princeton University and taught music to prisoners at Sing Sing Correctional Facility as a faculty member of Musicambia – music for social change. Adu currently plays in improvised groups, and Lucked In Sound System active in New York and Paris.
With a “voice like hot treacle on broken glass,” Leila Adu has performed her original piano songs and improvisations alongside international artists at festivals and venues in the UK, mainland Europe, the US, Russia, Ghana and Asia. Leila has been voted as MTV Iggy’s Artist of the Week, performed on the BBC World Service, composed, produced a short-film and documentary soundtrack with screenings on BBC Knowledge TV channel and the NZ Film Festival and performed with Luscious Jackson on ‘MTV VH1’ and ‘Late Night with David Letterman.’
Adu has released four acclaimed albums including, ‘Dark Joan,’ recorded by Steve Albini and ‘Ode to the Unknown Factory Worker’ produced for the Italian National Radio. London’s ‘Time Out’ called her music, ‘Avante-garde pop that recalls Nina Simone and Tim Buckley” and reviewers have placed in an arena with other female icons Joni Mitchell, PJ Harvey, Micachu, and Esperanza Spalding.
This young New Zealander of Ghanaian descent treats genre distinctions in much the same way that Godzilla treated those little cities made out of cardboard…
She is a singer-songwriter, but more than that, she is part of a generation of highly accomplished young musicians such as Micachu, Joanna Newsom, and Esperanza Spalding who are eroding the distinctions between popular music and the increasingly academic worlds of jazz and instrumental music.
“Adu’s music reflects her own rich and diverse identity, blending indigenous sounds from the South Pacific and Ghana with tangibly fantastical instrumentation – a sonic funhouse of second glances and expanded perceptions.”
–Art Nouveau Mag