Mausiki Scales and the Common Ground Collective connect Afrobeat, hip-hop, soul and jazz to the African Diaspora

Atlanta musician and music professor Mausiki Scales, along with his band the Common Ground Collective, explores the links between the music of Africa and the African Diaspora. (Photo courtesy of Common Ground)

On City Lights’ series “Speaking of Music,” local musicians share work and stories in their own voices. This installment spotlights Mausiki Scales, an Atlanta musician, and music professor. His band, Mausiki Scales and the Common Ground Collective, “explores the thread that links the music of Africa and the African Diaspora.” He further described their musical oeuvre: “We connect the dots between Afrobeat, hip-hop, soul and jazz.” 

A virtuosic keys player, Scales also sings, composes, arranges, and plays African percussion instruments. But his musical education started early, as he trained on piano from the age of eight and loved listening to classic soul music like Earth, Wind and Fire, the Emotions, and Gil Scott-Heron. “One day, I heard Parliament Funkadelic’s ‘Flashlight’ playing on the boombox and started playing along on the family piano,” Scales remembered. “I never got it out of my system.”

An alumni of Tuskegee University and Clark Atlanta University, Scales credits these schools and the culture of Southern HBCUs with creating “fertile soil” for him to grow his passion for music and music history. Himself now an educator in the field of history and African-American studies; he’s taught at Morehouse, GSU, Clark Atlanta and Morris Brown College. “The HBCU experience is alive and well in the ATL,” Scales said.

Weaving his music with the techniques and traditions of the past, while leaving plenty of room for improvisation and exploration, Scales maintains a connection to the creativity of African and post-Diaspora music-makers. “I’ve developed a deep regard for the artistry that has shaped these sounds,” Scales said. “The testimony of these songs indicate that my ancestors were able to create music that served as a wellspring, a lifeline to edify them during periods of insecurity and doubt. I choose to celebrate this resilience in my compositions.” Featured track “Summer Solstice,” off his recent album “Westwest Africa,” brings this wisdom to bear in the form of a cyclical, hypnotic melody carried by brass over warm jazz chords and a laid-back, yet irresistibly funky bassline.

Music by Mausiki Scales and the Common Ground Collective can be found at