Adinkra House Concerts: The Most Intimate Arts Venue in Montclair’s South End

Adinkra HouseOn a quiet residential street in Montclair’s Fourth Ward — just a few steps from Nishuane Park  — is a family home that once a month is transformed into an intimate performance space for a diverse line up of musicians, actors, poets and other artists. While some audience members come from the city and elsewhere to attend the 100% word-of-mouth publicized events, many are neighbors from the local community and a few come only as far as from the houses down the block and across the street. It’s an eclectic audience of people who gather at the house concert venue for casually elegant evenings of art and camaraderie.

“It’s not a business,” says  Adinkra House hostess and home owner Ghana-Imani Hylton, emphatically pointing out that all proceeds go to the artists. “It’s more like an evening out with 40 or 50 friends.”

For the spoken word poet, Bullock School PTA president, mother of three and full time human resource professional, starting up Adinkra House Montclair was about keeping the arts front-and-center in her life, rather than as an add-on or after-thought. Along with her husband Wil, an instrumental music teacher, singer and trumpet player, Hylton sees the endeavor as a way to encourage others to do the same. “We feel the arts are just as important to humanity as the air we breathe and the water we drink,” she said. “There’s so much good music out there. It’s my job to present it to the community.”

Adinkra House

While Hylton loves the music scene in Essex County, citing NJPAC, SOPAC, The Wellmont, Trumpets and a few smaller venues like DMV DLV Lounge and Trend as her favorites, she and her husband found themselves missing the more personal and eclectic musical atmosphere they had previously enjoyed at clubs and coffee houses, when living in NYC. For her, as well as the musicians she personally selects to perform at her home and the audiences who flock to her events, Adinkra House provides another option for enjoying the arts, “more in the tradition of VH1 Story Tellers or MTV UnPlugged.”

“In the same way that the Meadowlands in Secaucus is nothing like the Wellmont and the Wellmont is nothing like Trumpets, there is nothing like Adinkra House,” Hylton explained. Although she knows there are other house concert venues in Montclair, each, she said, has its own vibe. “Our goal is to be laid back, grown and sexy. Its more intimate and personal that your standard club. The singers tell the stories of what they were thinking when they wrote a particular song, etc.”

As a bonus, she feels that providing this kind of arts offering so close to people’s homes — or in her case, within it — is a blessing. “Some of my friends are home in less than 10 minutes, and my neighbors just walk down the block,” she enthused. “Best commute ever!”

By the way, “Adinkra” are Ghanian symbols which all have distinct meaning. With ancestral roots tracing back to the Ivory Coast and being named after the first independent African Nation — although she points out that her family has been in the U.S. for hundreds of years — the concert hostess has always been very immersed in Ghanaian culture. “There are hundreds of Adinkra symbols,” she said. “I chose that name [for my venue] because there are so many creative pieces to my life, all different, and music is just one of them. I felt it represented the individuality of all the creative endeavors I undertake, just like the individuality of the Adinkra symbols.”


We asked Hylton for the playlist of her daily life in Montclair, and as you might expect, it is as diverse as a line of Adinkra symbols:

Barry White: You’re My First, My Last, My Everything (represents my husband and I)
Jill Scott: Gotta Get Up (Our daily ritual of getting 5 people up and out to school/work everyday)
Jamiroquai: Use The Force (Our family theme song reminding us we can do anything we set our minds to)
Isley Brothers: Work To Do (pace of my work day)
The Jacksons: Let Me Show You The Way To Go (reminds me of Montclair)
The Police: Walking On The Moon (relaxing at home after a day of running round)
Steely Dan: Babylon Sisters (Weekends in the ‘Clair)

Next up at Adinkra House, on Saturday January 26, is vocalist Stephanie Rooker. You can watch a video of her here.

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  1. Nice spot, cool vibe, wonderful hosts, great music. Once you check it out, you won’t want to go anywhere else!

  2. Erika, It’s a great story, about a great venue – thank you for taking the time to highlight yet another creative enterprise in town. There must be so many more in Montclair, it would be great to see a regular feature on Baristanet, showcasing businesses like these that are thriving, creative and off the beaten path. Actually, we see ourselves in that category! We’ve been a design business in town for over 10 years, and wouldn’t you know, our work is quite well published. This article in last week’s NYTimes, for instance: Cheers!

  3. Ghana and Wil are wonderful people.

    Two things: isn’t DMV really the DLV, as in the DLV Lounge, and isn’t TREND closed?

  4. State Street Pete, you’re right, Ghana meant DLV Lounge on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair. Very cool spot, imo too. And Ghana says Trend will return. MADLAB LLC, good luck with your company. Super cool media placement. Give your PR person a bonus!

  5. Wil and Ghana always make you feel welcomed. When trying to explain Adinkra House to friends I always say its like going over to a good friends house and their cousin is one of your favorite singers, and they perform there just for you. I love Adinkra House, I am there for almost every event and I am never disappointed.

  6. Thank you, Baristanet, for showcasing such a great venue! I have attended an Adinkra House event showcasing my favorite band, The SoulFolk Experience. The intimacy of Adinkra House gave them the freedom to take advantage of the space, the warmth of the crowd, no time constraints and the freedom to jam and showcase their music in their own way. It was a beautiful show. Ghana and Wil are the most welcoming hosts, radiating a warm, friendly and most welcoming vibe as you enter the magic that is Adinkra House!

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