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You’ve got to be willing to stand tall in a man’s world. But I do all that.

My name is Afi Scruggs. I play bass and keyboard, and I’m a singer-songwriter. I love blues, jazz, funk, gospel and contemporary Christian music and Latin. My tastes are wide-ranging; I won’t blink if you ask me to play bluegrass. No matter the genre, I can play it straight, or combine styles.

I’m one of the few female bassists here in Cleveland. I’ve laid down the low end for some of the city’s finest musicians:  blues harpist Wallace Coleman; guitarist Michael J Calhoun, founding member of the Grammy-winning Dazz Band; as well as guitarists Charlie Christopherson and Butch Armstrong. I played with the Park Brothers blues band as the opening band for national blues guitarist Samantha Fish.

My musical career started at age 6

I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee where I was surrounded by music. We listened to iconic radio stations: The Grand Ole Opry on WSM, John R on WLAC. I was a kid, but I inhale everything I heard. I grew up to become a gospel pianist. But I always flirted with the bass. I’d pick it up, study for a while and sell the bass. In 2009, I decided to give it one last try, but I gave myself a mission. I would find a place to play. So I started up again that June. By October, I began playing for my church.

My approach: Stay in the pocket!

I love my work because a bass player’s job is simple: make the listener dance. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a club or in a pew. If you’re not patting your foot or bobbing your head when I’m playing, then I’ve failed.

Whether I play in a club, at a concert or for a choir, I want my audience to feel empowered. I know my age, gender, and race make me a role model. I can’t tell you how many women have approached me saying, “I’ve always wanted to (fill in the blank).”

I answer with a question, “What’s stopping you?”

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