Richard Hagopian

Photo by Alice Daniel of Valley Public Radio (KVPR). Re-used with permission.

Fast Facts

  • Born in Fowler, California.
  • His parents fled from Armenia to the United States after the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
  • Began on violin when he was 9 and clarinet when he was 10
  • Switched to oud when he was 11.
  • Began lessons and study of traditional Armenian music at age 13 with teacher Kanuni Garbis Bakirgian.
  • Helped form Kef Time Band in 1963 to play “Kef,” or traditional Armenian dance music. 
  • A typical kef band includes the oud, doumbeg, kanun, clarinet, and electric bass.
  • In 1969 given the title “Oudi,” or oud master by Oudi Hrant.

Cynthia Erivo

By Rhododendrites – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, 

Fast Facts

  • Cynthia’s Full name is: Cynthia Onyedinmanasu Chinasaokwu Erivo.
  • Her parents immigrated to the UK from Nigeria.
  • Cynthia first started performing at the age of 11.
  • Erivo is one Oscar Award away from becoming the 16th person ever to complete an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony!)
  • Cynthia has starred in The Color Purple on Broadway, Sister Act The Musical, The Last Five Years, and more! 
  • Her most recent debut was in the movie Harriet, a movie that followed the life of the abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Ranky Tanky

Ranky Tanky Thursday Showcases Womex 2018  by Eric van Nieuwland, licensed under CC by 2.0

Fast Facts

  • Ranky Tanky was formed in 2016 by 4 musicians who had previously played in a jazz quartet after college in 1998. 
  • The band reunited with the vision of creating a new sound inspired by the history of their home in South Carolina and added Quiana Parler as their vocalist. 
  • The ensemble focuses on jazz-influenced arrangements from Gullah culture, who were descended from enslaved people in the lowcountry of the southeast and the nearby Sea Islands. 
  • “Ranky Tanky” is a Gullah saying roughly translating to “work it” or “get funky”
  • Debuted their first full-length album Ranky Tanky in 2017 and their second album Good Time in 2019.
  • Ranky Tanky was awarded a Grammy for Best Regional Roots Album in 2020 for their album Good Time.
  • Performed at the Biden/Harris “We are One” inaugural event.

Wyclef Jean

Photo by Matthew Straubmuller of Wyclef Jean live in Washington, D.C. CC By 2.0 (

Haitian Rapper, Producer, and Philanthropist • Born October 17, 1969 • Hip Hop, Reggae Fusion, R&B

Fast Facts

  • Wyclef Jean was born in a suburb of Port-au-Prince in Haiti where he lived and was raised by his relatives until he was 9 years old. 
  • His first instrument was accordion, then he learned guitar, bass and piano, but his favorite of them all was guitar.
  • At age 9, Wyclef moved to Brooklyn, New York to join his parents who had immigrated to the United States when Wyclef was a baby.   
  • Although rap was frowned upon by Wyclef’s family he joined the Fugees, originally known as the Tranzlator Crew founded by Lauryn Hill and Prakazrel Michel in the late 1980s. 
  • Wyclef Jean studied music at Five Towns College in Long Island, New York but didn’t graduate because he dropped out to focus on rapping. 
  • Every day he gets up and goes into the studio: “My therapy is when I pick up my guitar and sing.”
  • As a producer, he has worked with such artists as Shakira, Whitney Houston, Destiny’s Child, Carlos Santana and Avicii.
  • He filed to run for President of Haiti in 2010, but was disqualified because he hadn’t lived in the country for five years prior to the election.
  • Wyclef won two grammys for his work with the Fugees. 
  • Wyclef’s original name is Nel Ust Wycliffe Jean

Jessye Norman

Photo by Jati Lindsay, CC BY-SA 2.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

American Opera Singer • 1945-2019 • Opera, Western Classical Music

Fast Facts

  • Jessye Norman was an American opera singer and recitalist (this means she sang recitals of Western Classical music).
  • Her mother and grandmother both played the piano, her father sang in a local choir, and Jessye and her four siblings learned to play the piano at a young age.
  • When she was nine years old, Jessye received a radio for her birthday and was inspired by listening to the weekly broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera.
  • Jessye Norman studied music at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Northern Michigan and Howard University in Washington, D.C.
  • She has performed many roles with opera companies around the world.
  • Jessye Norman received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the National Medal of Arts.

Buffy Sainte-Marie

“Buffy-Sainte-Marie-DSC_2402” by sidrguelph is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Indigenous Canadian-American Singer/Songwriter, Guitarist, Pianist, Political Activist and Visual Artist • Born February 20, 1941 • Folk and Rock

Fast Facts

  • Buffy Sainte-Marie is an Indigenous Canadian-American musician, artist and activist.
  • She was born on Feb. 20, 1941, on the Piapot Cree First Nation reserve in Saskatchewan, Canada.
  • She was adopted by parents of Micmac ancestry and raised in Massachusetts.
  • She is well known for using her music to raise awareness for issues affecting Indigenous Americans.
  • Buffy plays the guitar, piano, and the mouth bow.

Wu Tong

Photo Copyright by World Economic Forum / Greg Beadle / CC-BY-NC-SA-2.0

Chinese Sheng Player, Bawu Player,
Singer and Composer • Born 1971 • Chinese Traditional Music, Western Classical Music, and Rock & Roll

Fast Facts

  • Performs on the sheng (pronounced shung) and the bawu (both Chinese wind instruments).
  • Attended the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China.
  • From a family of sheng makers/players.
  • Has developed an electronic sheng.
  • Performs in the Silkroad Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma and Rhiannon Giddens.
  • Sang in the rock band Lunhui and also sings opera.
  • Has played with orchestras in Hong Kong, Singapore, Chicago, and New York.
  • New York’s China Institute named him 2012 Musician of the Year.
  • Has won 2 Grammys and an Asia Game Changer Award.
  • Has also composed music for film.

Marian Anderson

Marian Anderson / William Henry Johnson /c. 1945,  Oil on paperboard /Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of the Harmon FoundationAccessed: Re-used for educational use according to the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use.

Marian Anderson, New York / Irving Penn / 1948, Gelatin silver print / Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania Libraries. 
© The Irving Penn Foundation Accessed: Re-used for educational use according to the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use.

American Singer and Diplomat • 1897-1993 • Western Classical Music and African-American Spirituals

Fast Facts

  • Born February 27, 1897 in Philadelphia, PA 
  • Became a choir member at her church at 6 years old, nicknamed “Baby Contralto”
  • Choir members raised money to send her to train with well-known voice teacher Giuseppe Boghetti
  • Toured extensively through Europe 
  • Invited by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to perform at the White House, becoming the first African-American to receive that honor
  • Denied the opportunity to perform at Constitution Hall by Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) on account of her race
  • Her rejection from the DAR caused an uproar, leading Eleanor Roosevelt to publicly withdraw her own DAR membership and work to secure a performance for Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday, 1939, which became one of Anderson’s most famous performances 
  • Sang at the inauguration of both Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy Jr. 
  • Sang at the 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech
  • First African-American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955

Shreya Ghoshal

Bollywood Hungama / CC BY (

Indian Singer • Born 1984 • Bollywood Playback Singing and Indian Classical Music

Fast Facts

  • Born in 1984, West Bengal, India
  • Mum was a singer and taught Shreya songs from an early age
  • She trained in Hindustani Classical Music (Northern Indian)
  • Her father (and the whole family) was transferred to Mumbai when she was 13. Mumbai is the main centre of the ‘Bollywood’ film industry.
  • Shreya won or did well in several national singing competitions whilst a teenager, including Sa Re Ga Ma (famous singing competition show).
  • She records in several languages including Hindi, Assamesse, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Gujrarati, Kannada, Marathi, Malayalam, Nepali, Oriya, Tamil and Telegu 
  • “The American state of Ohio has honoured Bollywood playback singer Shreya Ghoshal for her contribution to the music industry by declaring June 26 as ‘Shreya Ghoshal Day.'” (From
  • She has been a judge on various talent shows including X Factor India and Indian Idol Junior

Sonu Nigam

Vaikoovery / CC BY (

Indian Singer and Composer • Born July 30, 1973 • Bollywood Playback Singing 

Fast Facts

  • At four, Sonu began his singing career when he was invited by his father, Agam Kumar Nigam, on stage to sing.
  • He began working in the Bollywood industry in 1991. 
  • Leo is his zodiac sign.
  • He studies Taekwondo and is a skilled fighter.
  • He is also an accomplished actor.