Home Music artist Musical Discussion: Nona Hendryx and Jamila Woods with Ayana Contreras

Musical Discussion: Nona Hendryx and Jamila Woods with Ayana Contreras


  • The rotunda of the DuSable Museum of African American History

About the event

Between live performances in Nick Cave and Jack Cave’s The color is, musicians Nona Hendryx and Jamila Woods sit down for a conversation moderated by author and DJ Ayana Contreras. The trio will reflect on the imprint of Hendryx and Labelle’s music on a new generation of black female singers and songwriters and discuss the musical home Labelle found in Chicago during their touring years. Contreras brings his encyclopedic knowledge of Chicago music history to the discussion, providing context for these personal stories. Accompanied by the piano and spinning vinyl records of Contreras, Hendryx and Woods will riff on the songs that shaped their lives and the enduring spirit of black creativity in Chicago.

MCA Music Talks brings together powerful musicians with prolific artists, activists, writers and thinkers to tackle big ideas in art and culture. These intimate encounters of performances and conversations reveal their anecdotes about the art world, their shared ideas and their creative inspirations.

This project is organized by Tara Aisha Willis; curator, performance and public practice; with Laura Paige Kyber, curatorial assistant.

About the artists

Nona Hendryx

Nona Hendryx

Image courtesy of the artist.

Nona Hendryx is a revolutionary goddess of art-rock and new wave. The singer, songwriter, musician and multimedia artist addresses social issues, love and politics in her work. Hendryx’s career spans decades of evolving sound and style. Longtime Hendryx fans know her as a member of the groundbreaking band Labelle and the author of their worldwide hit “Lady Marmalade.” Hendryx established herself as a solo, post-Labelle artist on rock-infused albums. his album Mutatis Mutandis (change the things that need to be changed) lends the gravity needed for a gripping rendition of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” with a smoky vocal range somewhere between funk and the end of the stratosphere. Hendryx is an Art in Music Ambassador for Berklee College at the Boston Conservatory and BerkleeNYC. She curated and acted in a production created for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nona Hendryx and the Disciples of Sun Ra in the Temple of Dendur. Currently, she is composing music for the revival of Bluea play with music, and wrote two compositions for the Roundabout Theater’s first Broadway production of mind problem, written by Alice Childress and directed by Charles R. Wright. She also received a grant from Jazz South Arts to compose the music for a new piece, Young nerds of color, written by Melinda Lopez and directed by Dawn Meredith Simmons at the Central Square Theater in Boston. Hendryx is passionate about music, visual arts and technology, and continues to be a prolific artist.

Jamila Woods

Portrait of Jamila Woods

Jamila Woods

Jamila Woods is a Chicago-born singer-songwriter and award-winning poet whose inspirations include Gwendolyn Brooks and Toni Morrison. After the release in 2016 of his first album SKY, Woods has received critical acclaim for her singular sound that is both grounded in soul and resolutely modern. His second release in 2019 LEGACY! LEGACY! featured 12 tracks named after writers, thinkers and visual artists who influenced his life and work. She is a Pushcart Prize-winning poet and co-editor of BreakBeat Poets: Black Girl Magic (2018). His poetry was recently published in the anthology Library of America Afro-American poetry: 250 years of struggle and song (2020). Woods recently made her television debut, playing SULA (Paperback) on “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert on January 6, 2021.

Ayana Contreras

Monochrome portrait of Ayana Conteras

Ayana Conteras

Ayana Contreras is a cultural historian, memory worker, radio DJ and archivist. Passionate collector with more than 8,000 vintage vinyl records, she animates the soul recovered program on WBEZ and Vocalo Radio in Chicago. She is also a columnist for low beat magazine, and his writings have been published in Chicago Review, American Oxford and Daily Bandcamp among others. His book on post-Civil Rights Era cultural history, titled The Energy Never Dies: Afro-Optimism and Creativity in Chicagowas published in December 2021 by University of Illinois Press.


Primary support for the 2021-22 season of MCA’s performance and public programs is provided by Elizabeth A. Liebman.

Major support is provided by the Alphawood Foundation and by Julie and Larry Bernstein.

Generous support is provided by Lois and Steve Eisen and the Eisen Family Foundation; Ginger Farley and Bob Shapiro, Martha Struthers Farley and Donald C. Farley, Jr. Family Foundation, NA, trustee; Susan Manning and Doug Doetsch; Carol Prins and John Hart/The Jessica Fund; and Anonymous.

Additional generous support is provided by Ms. Shawn M. Donnelley and Dr. Christopher M. Kelly, Cynthia Hunt and Philip Rudolph, Ashlee Jacob, Anne L. Kaplan, Sharon and Lee Oberlander, D. Elizabeth Price and Lou Yecies, and Enact, MCA’s Performance & Public Programs affinity group.

The MCA is a proud member of Museums in the Park and receives major support from the Chicago Park District.