It is with great gratitude that I welcome the launch of Ancestral Connections, 2024!

The aim of Ancestral Connections is to awaken the connections of people to their ancestral roots through the power of traditional African music, rhythm, sound, and cultural experience. The individual “awakenings” sessions and extended-series “xingombela” sessions offer individuals who have been disconnected from their forefathers—either forcibly or by culture, distance, and time—a safe and inviting space in which they can rediscover and reground their deepest identities.

Funding provided through the support of the Minnesota State Arts Board 2024 Creative Individuals fellowship makes Ancestral Connections accessible to all community members in the MSP Metro area. Community centers, libraries, and other organizations are invited to inquire about partnering with Nyttu Chongo to deliver this series at a free or reduced cost during the 2024 calendar year. Typically, the experiences are delivered in a series of three 1.5-hour sessions in a quiet space conducive to meditation and introspection.

Nyttu Chongo creates a reflective, meditative space utilizing a number of traditional African instruments native to Sub-Saharan Africa as the centerpiece of the auditory experience of Ancestral Connections: Mbira Nyunga Nyunga, Mbira Dzava Dzimu, Xitende, and the Chopi Timbila—a UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Humanity instrument native to Mozambique. As a musician, culture bearer, and teacher, Chongo invites individuals into the experiences of their own bodies in response to sound and mindful relaxation, and creates space for exploration of self and identity in connection to those who came before.

OUTCOMES: Minnesotans will experience connecting with their ancestors as an integral part of themselves through the power of music.

ABOUT: A series of in-person workshops delivered in the MSP Metro in 2024 targeting engagement of about 250 people in three distinct age groups (youth, adults, and elders).


Nyttu Chongo is a Machangana African musician and composer from Maputo, Mozambique, now residing in Fridley. He builds, repairs, and plays a wide range of traditional African instruments. A 2020 MN State Arts Board Initiative grantee and 2024 MN State Arts Board Creative Individuals grantee, his mission in life is to make the voices of his ancestors heard through these instruments so that the world does not lose this essential musical and cultural heritage.

Since moving to MN in 2016, Nyttu Chongo has made a local name for himself on both large stages and in community settings across the Midwest: opening for the production of Familiar at the Guthrie Theater in 2018, leading workshops at the University of Illinois and UMN in 2020, and performing at numerous festivals, libraries, and schools independently and through MPR Class Notes as the duo Heliopsis from 2020 to present. In 2021, Nyttu released his first full-length album, Libandzuwa (“The Power of the Sun”). In early 2022, Nyttu developed and performed an original work for the 2022 Cedar Commissions. Nyttu was also a MacPhail Global Music Initiative Artist in Residence for 2022, a McKnight Musician Fellowship Finalist in 2023, was a five-year member of the MN Music Coalition, and is a current member of the Recording Academy. He will be performing both new and original works on the Ordway stage in Saint Paul on July 26, 2024 for his new show Phulani.

Nyttu’s music transcends the performative and creates space for individuals and groups to connect authentically with their ancestral past and individual identities. He founded Ancestral Connections in 2023 to introduce Minnesotans to the power of music to open one’s awareness of their ancestral roots.

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