Nazir Ebo: The 11-Year Old Drum Prodigy.
Video, images and text by Mariel Waloff.
When I first met Nazir Ebo he was nine-years old.
In his spare time from the 4th grade, he was building a professional music career. Or perhaps it was the reverse—in the time between concerts, jam sessions and lessons at the Philadelphia Clef Club, he managed to go to school and do his homework.
He looked like a typical 4th grader might – often showing up to lessons wearing the requisite khaki and navy blue school uniform. He also conducted himself as you might expect a nine-year-old would, confessing to performance anxiety and a fear of the stage. It was only when the sticks hit the drums that it became clear that he was not an ordinary kid.
When I stopped in on a rehearsal at the Philadelphia Clef Club, where Nazir has been taking music lessons for three years, he was stylishly-clad in an outfit almost entirely purchased from Zara, the hip Spanish retailer – a puffy down vest, scarf and hipster glasses.
He looked like a college student.
He has also grown comfortable being on stage. His resume has grown to include performances at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Michener Museum, a 76ers game, WHYY, the West Oak Lane Jazz Festival and numerous gigs at Chris’ Jazz Café, among others.
Having a musical family paved the way for Nazir to begin drumming at a very early age.
“There was always music in the house,” explains Nazir. “I just really picked it up from there. Every day it was just music, music, music.”
He was only three-years old when he tapped his first beat.
He recounts, “I used to listen to my brother perform at the Kimmel Center and I’d memorize some of the songs. Afterward I’d go home and play the songs I remembered on his drums. My mom got really hype.”
Nazir’s brother is renowned drummer Justin Faulkner. At 20-years old, Faulkner (pictured above with Nazir) is considered a young prodigy by most. But to eleven-year old Nazir, he’s an older, wiser guide. Justin has become a mentor to Nazir in many ways, from guest-leading Nazir’s quartet (when Justin is home from college or one of his various international tours) to giving him fashion advice – no doubt the inspiration behind the Zara wardrobe.
When either Nazir or Justin practice in their West Philadelphia living room, neighbors drift to their porches to listen. Inside the house their mother, Carol Faulkner, manager and #1 fan of both young drummers, manages to chat on the phone and send emails amidst the enthusiastic, thunderous beats.
These days Nazir keeps busy with practice sessions at the Philadelphia Clef Club, performing with the Nazir Ebo Quartet (of which he is the youngest member by at least a 7 year gap) and doing his homework.