Farmington jazz trio will top off busy year with performance at South African festival

D'DAT will take stage at world music event started by rocker Peter Gabriel

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • D'DAT will travel to Johannesburg, South Africa, in early October to perform at the 40th annual WOMAD South African Safari festival.
  • The event that will showcase indigenous musicians from that host country, along with those from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
  • D'DAT will be joined for that trip by Shiprock native Alexandria Holiday.

FARMINGTON — Even as he looks back on a year that has been by far the busiest in the history of his band, Farmington jazz trumpeter Delbert Anderson knows it's not time to put up his feet and take a break from the rigors of the road.

Anderson, the frontman for D'DAT, said the two-and-a-half-week stretch he is enjoying in September is the longest period he has been home this year. Before that, he said, Anderson had not been in Farmington for more than six days at a time since Jan. 1.

That will change in the final two months of 2022 as the band purposely has left that time open on its calendar to enjoy the holidays. But before Anderson and his bandmates, drummer Nicholas Lucero and bassist Michael McCluhan, settle in for a well-deserved rest, they've got one more item on their agenda that will dwarf their various other undertakings this year.

D'DAT will travel to Johannesburg, South Africa, in early October to perform at the 40th annual WOMAD South African Safari festival, an event that will showcase Indigenous musicians from that host country, along with those from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

WOMAD is an acronym for the World of Music, Art and Dance, and it was conceived in 1982 by British musician and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Peter Gabriel, one of the founders of the band Genesis. D'DAT was invited to perform at the festival through the growing list of contacts it has developed through its participation in the Native Launchpad program operated by the Western Arts Alliance, a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting and promoting performing arts throughout the western United States and Canadian provinces.

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Native Launchpad has been a godsend for D'DAT, Anderson said, explaining that his group is operating at an entirely different level now than it was three years ago when it began its participation in the program. The band's profile has risen dramatically since then, he said, explaining that D'DAT's association with the Western Arts Alliance has made it possible for the group to be invited to events such as the South African festival.

Delbert Anderson and his jazz trio D'DAT will travel to South Africa in October to perform at a music festival with indigenous artists from around the world.

The band will spend five days in South Africa, Anderson said, performing each night of its stay, with the highlight of the trip coming on Saturday, Oct. 8 when it takes the stage at the festival finale in Paterson Park in Johannesburg before what is expected to be an enormous crowd.

D'DAT will be joined for that trip by Shiprock native Alexandria Holiday, a vocalist Anderson has been mentoring for the past several years.

"This will be our last project of the year," Anderson said. " … My brain is so fried. I really can't wait to go on this trip, but I'm really happy we're done for the year after this."

Aside from occasional visits to Canada and a trip to Dublin, Ireland, when he was in college, this will mark Anderson's first journey outside the United States. As he worked to resolve the various issues surrounding the band's participation in the festival, Anderson got an education navigating the complexities of international travel.

"I'm amazed everything worked out," he said. "It felt like there were a lot of loose ends that needed to be tied up."

Topping that list of issues was securing funding for D'DAT's air transportation to South Africa — a considerable sum in these days of skyrocketing prices. Anderson was able to secure a USArtists International grant from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation that covered the cost of the band's air fare, and he booked the flights last month.

That move illustrates Anderson's growing proficiency at identifying and securing outside funding for many of the projects D'DAT has undertaken over the past couple of years. Since 2020 alone, Anderson has obtained funding for several projects his band has been involved in, including the Blue Desert Virtual Tour, a multidisciplinary stage show called "The Spirit Coalescent," a traveling musical called "Naat'aanii" and a musical tour of five Bureau of Land Management sites throughout the West that already has been booked again for 2023.

Performances linked to those projects have come in addition to D'DAT's regular lineup of gigs at jazz clubs, performance halls and other venues across the United States. The group performs regularly in New York and California, and it likely will find its trips to those population centers grow more frequent in the years ahead as its star continues to rise on the jazz scene.

Delbert Anderson stands in the doorway of the D'DAT headquarters in downtown Farmington.

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Anderson said he believes D'DAT's artistic growth over the past several years has been as profound as its growing adeptness at building its career. He's not comparing D'DAT to such contemporary jazz icons as Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock or Wynton Marsalis, but he said the group takes a back seat to no one in terms of establishing an identity for itself — and finding novel ways to make itself heard.

"We're at the top in terms of creativity and having our own voice," he said.

Another indication of the group's growing national and international reputation will come this week when New York Times reporter Michael Powell visits Farmington to profile Anderson and D'DAT. Powell, author of the book "Canyon Dreams" that examines the cultural weight of high school basketball on the Navajo Nation, became acquainted with the band when he moved to Arizona to chronicle the exploits of the 2016-17 Chinle High School boys basketball team for his book.

Another sign of how far D'DAT has come is the way it operates as a company now more than it does as a band. The group has hired two paid interns to keep up with its more mundane tasks, such as completing paperwork and responding to the 80 or 90 emails it receives each day.

D'DAT has rented office and rehearsal space downtown that it uses as its headquarters. It also is launching a booking agency that aims to represent indigenous musical artists across North America, with Anderson already having put together an impressive list of clients the agency will service.

The Farmington jazz trio D'DAT has had its busiest year ever in 2022, traveling throughout the West in a tour of Bureau of Land Management sights and performing gigs from coast to coast.

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Anderson credited the Western Arts Alliance, especially outgoing executive director Tim Wilson and the mentor the organization assigned to D'DAT, David Greenburg, with helping transform his band from a modestly successful regional touring act just a few years ago into a nationally known entity that is enjoying a meteoric rise these days. He said Wilson has described D'DAT as the poster child for the ideals of the Native Launchpad program, and he smiled when he described how everyone seemed to be talking about the band during the alliance's recent annual conference in Calgary, Alberta.

As much as he enjoys that kind of attention, Anderson emphasized that his mentors also have taught him to take such changes in stride and stay grounded. The success of the last couple of years have allowed Anderson to achieve a level of financial stability and provide for his family in a way he never could before. But he said he knows that kind of windfall won't last forever, and he and his wife are taking pains to spend that money judiciously.

Next year likely won't be quite as busy as this year, Anderson said, but he noted the group already has 40% of its dates booked for 2023 and has plans to take "The Spirit Coalescent" and "Naat'aanii" on the road. He also will be meeting with some extremely deep-pocketed funders associated with the National Endowment for the Arts early next year to discuss his long-held dream of building a large community arts center in the Farmington area — a facility that would feature recording studios, living quarters, rehearsal rooms, conference rooms, office space, classrooms and other space devoted to helping budding young musical artists launch a career.

The price tag for such a facility would run in the tens of millions of dollars, he said, and Anderson knows that is a reach. But if the last few years have taught him anything, it's that he shouldn't necessarily discount the possibility of such dreams becoming a reality.

"I feel a sense of gratitude to this community, and I know it's important to keep that humility," he said, noting how Farmington audiences supported D'DAT and its various projects when the group was founded in the early 2010s. "It's also important to be flexible and adaptable. I always talk about improvisation being a survival technique."

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or Support local journalism with a digital subscription: