Born is Shreveport, Louisiana, Ndugu attended Locke High School in Los Angeles where, at the age of thirteen, he began to play the drums. During his High School years, he worked with Willie Bobo and Harold Johnson Sextet. Upon graduation, Ndugu studied music education at California State University, Dominguez Hills.
While in college he performed with the Gerald Wilson Big Band, Herbie Hancock and High Masakela. At age nineteen Ndugu had performed and recorded with such greats as Miles Davis, Freedie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Eddie Harris, Harold Land and Bobby Hutcherson. Ndugu has worked on several Grammy nominated albums and has numerous production and co- production credits.
Ndugu Chancler is known not only as a world-class drummer and percussionist, but also a producer, composer, clinician and teacher. A three-time Grammy nominee, he has to his credit an extensive list of performances, recordings, original compositions and productions.
As a studio musician, he has performed and recorded with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Patrice Rushen, Hubert Laws, The Crusaders, Frank Sinatra, Weather Report, Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, Thelonious Monk and John Lee Hooker.
He was the drummer on the biggest selling pop album by Michael Jackson, Thriller, providing the beat on “Billie Jean.”
As a producer and songwriter, he has written hits for The Dazz Band and George Duke, and produced for Flora Purim, Bill Summers, Toki and his own solo recordings. He has co-produced recordings for Santana, The Crusaders, George Duke, Tina Turner, Joe Sample, Wilton Felder and The Meeting, the group he co-leads with Patrice Rushen and Ernie Watts.
As a clinician, Mr. Chancler has led extensive clinic tours for Yamaha, Toca, Paiste, Remo and Shure. In addition to his faculty position in the jazz studies department at the Thornton School, he is on staff at the United States Percussion Camp at Eastern Illinois University, the Stanford University Jazz Workshop, Jazz America and the Thelonious Monk Foundation.