The Afro-Semitic Experience is a band of African-American and Jewish-American musicians who are dedicated to preserving, promoting and expanding the rich cultural and musical heritage of the Jewish and African Diasporas. They present interpretations of music from the rich traditions of our two cultures: Gospel, Klezmer, Nigunim, Spirituals, Bebop and Swing. In performance they also frame the music, telling stories about what the pieces mean, how they relate to us as individual members of the community, and how they reflect upon the relations between Blacks and Jews.
Since 1997, the co-founders of the group, African-American jazz pianist Warren Byrd, and Jewish-American jazz bassist David Chevan have been presenting a unique musical program that merges their distinct cultures and heritages and delivers a positive and meaningful message about Black-Jewish relations. The Afro-Semitic Experience weaves stories and music together as they interpret and explain pieces from the Jewish and African-American sacred traditions.
Byrd and Chevan have participated in church services throughout the United States to great acclaim ("The music was very inspirational and warmed our souls." Rev. John White, Greater Bethel A.M.E. Church of Miami). They have also been performing their Jazz Sabbath Service at synagogues throughout the United States. The duo accompanies the congregation and cantor during the service, giving the service a jazzy feel. They then present a sermon in song, a short recital of their concert program.
The Afro-Semitic Experience also offer a pair of workshops to go along with their concert program. In the first workshop they discuss and demonstrate the collaborative process of transforming pieces of sacred music into jazz and relate their personal experiences with Black/Jewish relations. When there are musicians in the workshop they also listen to, critique, and teach their approaches to this style. During the second part of the workshop, the artists give a brief history of the use of sacred music and jazz.