Nadi Qamar (aka Spaulding Givens aka Thomas Spaulding Givens), age 103, passed on from this life on Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020 at St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay, WI after grappling with COVID-19 and additional infections. Nadi was born Thomas Spaulding Givens on July 6, 1917, in Madisonville, OH (Greater Cincinnati), amid segregation. Despite diphtheria, epilepsy, and TB in his youth, his musical life began in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, grew into jazz piano, and blossomed in California. During his time there and in his 25 years in NYC, he quietly established himself as one of the greatest musicians in the history of jazz, performing and recording with a Who's Who of African American musicians. He also became an Afromusicologist pioneer, inventing the Mama-Likembi for which he created special tuning and notation systems. He was a poet. He was an important part of the healing process in NYC after the riots of the 1960s. He toured across the USA, West Indies, Japan, and Australia, and played FESTAC ‘77 in Lagos, Nigeria. He established his own publishing company, Nuru Taa Music, and registered more than 300 of his compositions in BMI. He married Rose Ann Dolski on February 25, 1984. After seven years of teaching at Bennington College (VT), he and Rose moved to her hometown of Kewaunee, WI. They were blessed with two children and he performed in many area schools and venues. He spent long days composing, handcrafting African instruments, studying, writing, and recording. Nicolet Bank, the Neville Public Museum, and the UW-Green Bay Music Dept. have collections of his instruments. Some of his recordings can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, and in Smithsonian Folkways. He took conscious care of his diet and health, loved nature, and was an avid bicyclist into his 80s. He studied philosophy and spirituality throughout his life and became Catholic in 2003 at age 85.
Always very grounded in his human dignity, he was proud of his heritage as a second generation slavery survivor and a survivor of colonial genocide (Seminole). Racism caused him great suffering throughout his life, but he was always looking for ways that his work could lift his people up, looking back beyond slavery to the glories of Africa, inward to the possibilities of self, and forward to the potential of the future. Throughout his life, he believed passionately in the right to life, particularly for the unborn, and he was not afraid to write and perform poetry and music which gave voice to this conviction. The legacy of his long, rich, and incredible life lives on in his recordings, works, instruments, teachings, and family. Beyond his monumental and prolific achievements as an artist, he was a deeply loving and beloved husband, father, grandfather, uncle, and cousin.
He was preceded in death by his parents, William and Albertia Givens and his half-sister, Lovey Toatley. He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Rose Dolski (Kewaunee); children, Fabian Qamar (Sheboygan, WI), Alberta Qamar (Portland, OR), and grandchildren: Elijah, River, and Kinta Nadi; many in-laws and cousins, nieces, and nephews. We have a sure and certain hope that he is at peace walking with his ancestors, grateful to see his parents and friends again, and no longer carrying the burdens of this world.
Visitation will be Thursday, October 29 from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at Buchanan Funeral Home in Kewaunee. The funeral will be a Requiem High Mass on Friday, October 30 at 11:00 a.m. CST at St. Patrick’s Oratory in Green Bay, celebrated by Canon Antoine Boucheron. Burial will follow at Holy Rosary Cemetery in Kewaunee. The option to watch via livestream is planned for the funeral and burial. Go to https://nadirip.wordpress.com for additional information and livestream links as they become available. In addition—and especially after the dangers of COVID-19—there will be future events to celebrate his life and work.