Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith (18 December 1941 in Leland, Mississippi) is a trumpeter and composer working primarily in the fields of avant-garde jazz and free improvisation. He started out playing drums, mellophone, and French horn before he settled on the trumpet. He played in various R&B groups and by 1967 became a member of the AACM and co-founded the Creative Construction Company, a trio with Leroy Jenkins and Anthony Braxton. In 1971 Smith formed his own label, Kabell. He also formed another band, the New Dalta Ahkri, with members including Henry Threadgill, Anthony Davis and Oliver Lake.
In the 1970s Smith studied ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University. He played again with Anthony Braxton as well as recording with Derek Bailey's Company. In the mid-1980s, Smith became Rastafarian and began using the name Wadada. In 1993, he began teaching at Cal Arts, a position he currently holds. In addition to trumpet and flugelhorn, Smith plays several world music instruments, including the koto, kalimba, and atenteben (Ghanaian bamboo flute); he has also taught courses in instrument making. His compositions often use a graphic notation system he calls "Ankhrasmation," which he developed in 1970.