The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble was formed shortly after percussionist Kahil El’Zabar graduated from the school of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in 1976. He teamed up with tenor saxophonist Edward Wilkerson, Jr. to play music that combined contemporary African American musical styles, like jazz, with more traditional African instrumentation and rhythms. The duo would frequently grow to a trio in these first years, adding musicians like saxophonist Light Henry Huff and Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre. In 1988, they added trombonist and conga player Joseph Bowie, who is the leader of the jazz-funk group Defunkt. In 1997, Wilkerson was replaced by Ernest “Khabeer” Dawkins who is the leader of New Horizons Ensemble.