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Valerie Naranjo

Valerie Naranjo

Valerie Dee Naranjo is a percussionist, vocalist, and composer known for her pioneering efforts in West African keyboard percussion music. She plays percussion for NBC's Saturday Night Live Band, and has performed with Broadway's The Lion King, The Paul Winter Consort, Tori Amos, and more. Co-leader of the band Mandara, Valerie has recorded nearly a dozen CDs with a variety of artists and was named by Drum! magazine as "World Music Percussionist of the Year" in 2005 and 2008. She has also researched and studied in nearly a dozen African countries. In 1988 at a traditional music festival in Ghana, her playing of the gyil—a wooden type of marimba—led to a chiefly decree in the Dagara nation that women be allowed to play the instrument for the first time.