Shabaka Hutchings was born in 1984 in London. He moved to Barbados at the age of six, began studying classical clarinet aged nine and remained until sixteen, when he moved back to the UK to complete his A-levels in Birmingham. There he was introduced to Soweto Kinch who was running a weekly jam session where, for the first time, Shabaka was introduced to jazz. Soweto introduced him to another jazz luminary – Courtney Pine - who taughts Shabaka improvisation. During this time in Birmingham Shabaka was a member of the Birmingham Schools Symphony Orchestra, Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Walsall Jazz Orchestra. In these bands he was able to tour in Holland and Germany and perform twice in the Monteux Jazz Festival.
After completing A-levels, Shabaka moved to London to study clarinet at the Guildhall School of Music under Joy Farrall, a member of the Britten Sinfonia, as well as second study lessons with Tim Garland and Jean Toussaint. In this period, Shabaka became affiliated with the Dune Records Group and became a member of the Tomorrow’s Warriors organisation. He toured with Gary Crosby’s Nu-Troop and Abram Wilson’s sextet, Jazz Jamacia. Shabaka soon started composing and formed his own group Splay to perform his works. This group played at many venues around London and the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
After graduating from Guildhall, Shabaka put together the trio zed-u which recorded an album 'Night-Time on the Middle Passage' to acclaim. the group went on to perform in the London Jazz Festival as well as various top London jazz venues including Ronnie Scotts and Pizza Express, in this setting Shabaka was set to explore many cross genre musical ideas and merge seemingly disparate musical elements including free improvisation, dub, minimalism among others.
In late 2007 shabaka was asked to join Courtney Pine’s reformation of the seminal large ensemble The Jazz Warriors. He featured on a live recording made in the Barbican and subsequently toured with the group. He is featured on Pine's latest album Europa as a guest soloist. Since then, Shabaka has regularly performed with the popular ‘post-jazz’ group Polar Bear, and has recently joined Jyager Bear (the groups latest manifestation) which features an M.C. with the musicians. In 2008 Shabaka joined The Heliocentrics and recorded an album with them along with Ethiopian percussionist Mulatu. Shabaka has since been on two European tours with the outfit and has appeared on their latest album. He has also recorded and toured with Mercury nominated artist, Soweto Kinch.
Shabaka has shared stage with the likes of Jack De Johnette at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall, Red Snapper in a tour of Russia and Jerry Dammers' Spatial A.K.A. Orchestra at the Barbican. He is also involved with the thriving community of younger jazz musicians in london and has recorded with and performed in ensembles led by Kit Downes, Jay Phelps, Arun Ghosh, Dan Nicholls and Tom Challenger, to name a few.
Shabaka has also become an integral part of the free music scene in London. He is a member of the London Improvisers Orchestra, performing alongside such figures as Evan Parker and Steve Beresford. He was invited in 2009 to take part in a three day free music festival at the Vortex (Mopomoso) where he improvised with musicians from around Europe, Japan and Taiwan and formed relationships with esteemed british figures Lol Coxhill and John Butcher. He has also gigged with free figures such as Louis Moholo, John Edwards, Roger Turner and Pat Thomas. He has founded a new improvising trio with Tony Marsh (drums) and Guillaume Viltard (double bass) which is set to record on Evan Parker's label. in 2011 he ws selected as one of fourteen British musicians to perform in Berlin as part of the Just Not Cricket festival which was filmed for a documentary highlighting four generations of British free improvisation.
in 2010 Shabaka was named a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist which has allowed him to undertake various projects for broadcast on Radio 3. These include performances with Julian Joseph, the BBC Big Band and Copland's Clarinet concerto with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in the Millennium Centre, Cardiff.
Shabaka's latest project is the Sons of Kemet which includes Seb Rochford and Tom Skinner on drums with Oren Marshall on tuba. This group explores Shabaka's Caribbean music and groove sensibilities and is described by John Fordham (the Guardian) as 'a dazzlingly adventurous and very accessible groove-band….almost certain to dominate the best of 2012 lists at the end of the year'. The group was asked to record an exclusive set for Jazz on 3 which was featured in 2011 in an hour long programme showcasing the band. the group is recording its debut album in 2012.