Valerie Naranjo has been the Percussionist in the Saturday Night Live Band for 21 years, and in the pit orchestra of Broadway’s “The Lion King nearly as long. She was mentored by the late gyil Maestro Kakraba Lobi, with whom she toured for seven years. She affected a decree within the Council of Elders and Lawra, Ghana’s Chief Karbo, that the ban on women playing gyil in public be lifted so that she could participate in their annual Kobine Festival of Traditional Performing Arts. She and Barry Olsen were honored, in 1996, with the only First Place Award at that festival ever given to non-West African perfomers. RG productions film Knock on Wood documents this activity, and has appeared in documentary film festivals internationally. Valerie has performed with such artists as Carole King, Selena, Airto Moriera, Glen Velez, David Byrne, Zakir Hussein, The Philip Glass Ensemble, and The Paul Winter Consort. She co-leads Mandara, an African imbued jazz quintet of vocalists/multi-instrumentalists. Drum! magazine reader’s poll named Valerie “World Music Percussionist of the Year”
2005 and 2008, and “Mallet Player of the Year” 2012. She teaches West African Percussion at NYU, and has performed and taught internationally, including nine African countries, and in such situations and locations as ten PASIC conventions; The 2010 Winter Olympics and Vancouver Jazz Festival in Vancouver; New York’s Lincoln Center, City Center, and Carnegie Hall; London’s Royal Festival Hall; The Johannesburg Civic Theatre; The Grahamstown and Arts Alive Festivals (South Africa); and Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival. Valerie holds a BA in vocal and instrumental music education from The University of Oklahoma, and a Master’s degree in percussion performance from Ithaca College. In 1999 she founded the company Mandara Music and has thereby published several recordings, The series “West African Music for the Marimba Soloist”, and “Joro” a collection of concerti for gyil and orchestra, available from Bachovich Publications.