Rhapsody in Black

Jean-Paul Coffy impacts his community through music

Jean-Paul Coffy performs on the front porch of his North Kenwood home.Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Rhapsody in Black - Jean-Paul Coffy


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September 22, 2022

Haitian composer and educator Jean-Paul Coffy has always seen the importance of music in early childhood development. He plays multiple instruments and speaks multiple languages but music is the one everyone can understand. After he earned his degree at the Academy of Music in Haiti, he went on to get a degree in early childhood development at Waldorf. Education has been and continues to be at the center of his work in the community and compositions.

Musical selections from Jean-Paul Coffy

Ogou Wa Dè Zanj

Commissioned by Crossing Borders Music in honor of the first Black woman and openly LGBT mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, Ogou Wa Dè Zanj as Coffy explains, “translates as ‘Ogou, King of the Angels.’ It’s really a piece about who Ogou actually is. There’s confusion that Ogou is only a warrior, but in reality, they are a protector of family and children. Ogou said, ‘Even if you are at war, you and I, if I meet your children in any place, I am to protect your children. The children are innocent. So Ogou is the ultimate protector, king of the angels.’”

On the Groove

This piece for children is part of a collection of his early works that let kids experience fun upbeat musical sounds and learn about different styles. Other works on the album include Blue Notes, Creole Jazz and Dreams.

Music Magic Time

Joined by his fiancee Yakini Ajanaku, Coffy has had a real impact on young people through La Grande Famille, a music-based curriculum offering a fun preschool musical experience. One of their latest projects includes Music Magic Time, a program focused on developing a long-lasting culture of kindness through music.


Host: Tesfa Wondemagegnehu

Producer: Dan Nass

Writers: Andrea Blain and Scott Blankenship

Additional music selections: Jeffrey Yelverton

Executive Producer: Julie Amacher