Leila Adu is an astonishing force in the space where electropop, avant-classical and singer-songwriter meet. Exploring her roots in New Zealand, Britain and Ghana, Adu is an international artist who has performed at festivals and venues across the world. Compared to Nina Simone and Joanna Newsome by WNYC, Adu has released five acclaimed albums, and has given visionary solo BBC and WQXR performances. Adu’s credits include Ojai Music Festival, Bang on a Can, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Late Night with David Letterman, and composing for a Billboard charted album. Adu holds a Princeton University music composition PhD. In 2022, Leila Adu–Gilmore has been awarded a Charles Ives Composer Fellowship’s from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Photo Ian Bines

Full Bio

Composer-performer Leila Adu has firmly carved her name into the space where electropop, avant-classical and singer-songwriter meet. Hailing from New Zealand, Britain and Ghana, Leila 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. She has released five acclaimed albums, including two for Italian National Radio and ‘Dark Joan’ (recorded by Steve Albini); and has performed on BBC’s World Service solo and produced a short-film and documentary soundtrack with screenings on BBC Knowledge TV channel and the NZ Film Festival, as well as performing in Luscious Jackson on ‘Late Night with David Letterman.’

Leila Adu’s music has been compared to Nina Simone and Joanna Newsome and she has been described by WNYC’s John Schaefer as “a genuinely good singer, with a velvety, soulful voice.” 2019 was big for Leila, as she did everything from being featured in the song “Asylums for the feelings” as heard in the Playstation 4 game Death Stranding, to getting featured on Giles Peterson’s BBC 6 radio show with her band, Lucked In.

She has composed for Bang on a Can, the London Sinfonietta, the Crossing, the Brentano String Quartet, Mivos String Quartet, So Percussion, Gamelan Padhang Moncar, Orchestra Wellington, as well as performing and having compositions performed at Ojai Music Festival, and Magdalena Opera. She received BMus from Victoria University of Wellington, and her doctorate in music composition at Princeton University, and is currently an assistant professor in the music technology program in the music and performing arts professions department at Steinhardt, New York University. Adu sat on the board of directors for Die Jim Crow Records the country’s first record label for currently and formerly incarcerated individuals and taught music to incarcerated men at Sing Sing Maximum-Security Correctional Facility as a faculty member of Musicambia – music for social change.


Academic CV

Critical Sonic Practice Lab