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Drum Chat!

This spring, Baobab Youth Performers and Young Voices Can!  has been engaged in our innovative pilot project Drum Chat!

This project has provided opportunities for connection between youth in the City of Ottawa that that may not typically interact, through a series of music workshops. Our goal has been finding commonalities through drumming & dialogue by connecting youth from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds and engaging them in the music of Ghana, West Africa.

This project has been generously funded by Ontario 150 Partnership Program, and during our second workshop, we had a special visit from our MPP and Attorney General, Yasir Naqvi who renewed his drumming skills with us…and shared a meaningful story of his first school day in Canada at age 15, as a new immigrant.

Baobab Community, and Young Voices Can! engage youth from diverse populations with the intent of fostering connection and understanding. Participants for this project have included newly arrived refugees, as well as Muslims, Jews, Christians and non-denominational youth from the local community.  We feel that our organizational goals are particularly aligned during these times of global unrest, and disconnection amongst youth, and this project has been an exciting opportunity to share strategies and skills.

The culminating event will take place on Thursday May 25 from 7:30-9pm at Ashbury College 362 Mariposa Ave. Join is for a presentation of drumming and reflection on the project.


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Sankofa 2017

Yesterday we once again made the trek to Wakefield to perform at the famous Black Sheep Inn. We have been holding an annual concert there for 20 years, since our inception. We are in a mutual admiration club and the Sheep has seen our youth grow up there…one of our alum now playing in his own band at the Sheep recently. This all-ages show brings many people together in a magical space to play music. Ours involved drumming, dance, singing and our wonderful mentor, Master Drummer Kwasi Dunyo. It was a lousy weather day, lots of cloud and rain….and rivers running dangerously high, not to mention the Sens playoff game that was happening at the very same time! However those who joined us were treated to a wonderful concert with audience participation and a Sankofa tribute to our members who are leaving us at the end of this season. Special members Galen, Amanda and Quinn were presented with Sankofa letters and adinkra symbol necklaces, honouring their time with us and their contributions to the group. They will be greatly missed! We also welcomed alumnae Clara, Oliver and Patty who joined us for a couple of pieces! Some ROOTS kids were also in attendance, a class that many of our performers started with. A highlight for many people was the involvement of many of the very young members of the audience. It was amazing to watch the delight on their faces joining us for the softly beautiful Bell Forest. New to the tradition this year was an after-party at the riverside home of one of the members, where Baobab families, alumnae, board members and youth all hung out, made connections, ate terrific food and made some brief dips in the bracing Gatineau river, followed by a hot tub immersion. The power went off as the light outside was fading, and final conversations were conducted by candlelight…a little practice for the occasional “light off!” on our upcoming Ghana trip! A truly great day…

Thanks for these pics from parent Ian Holland:

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Toronto in March

Baobab Youth kicked off their Toronto tour with a long day of performances and rehearsals. In the morning we visited Kingsway College School where we performed two shows for their elementary students. Kingsway has had a focus on African music and culture all year, doing a two week drumming and dancing residency with me in January, and producing Lion King as their school musical this year. We actually got to perform in the set of the Lion King as it was during their performance run. The other bonus was that all the kids I worked with in my residency, happily jumped up and joined us for Gahu, remembering everything they had learned!

In the afternoon, we went to Riverdale Collegiate Institute and rehearsed our massed Gahu and Ghana Alleluia with members of the Riverdale music department. We have had a couple of workshop collaborations leading up to this but this was the moment to put it all together! The show went really well. Check out this short video by one of our parents Kerry.



Saturday was a relaxing mix of  sightseeing (Evergreen Brickworks for some skating, foodie lunches and The Beach area for chilly boardwalking and a bit of shopping)


Saturday finished with an inspirational workshop with Kwasi Dunyo on the music of Zigi. Kwasi will be our host in Ghana this summer so this was a perfect chance for the youth to bond with him a little more. Of course the workshop was followed by some amazing Ghanaian food and dancing with all Kwasi’s family. A party at the Dunyos is not to be missed!

Sunday we gathered at the Armstrong-Caron’s for a really nice chill brunch before hitting the road. All went well…we are getting our travel groove together a a group! Special thanks to the Riverdale CI community and friends and family for hosting us!

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Quiz night!

Last night a dedicated group of Baobab friends and supporters met at the Barley Mow in Westboro for a Trivia night. Laughs,  drinks and tasty food fueled the quest for knowledge and the acknowledgement of our gaps….all for the good cause of supporting our youth on their FOOTSTEPS TO GHANA trip this coming July. Thanks to everyone who came out, and especially thanks to parents Tanis, Dave and Mike for organizing!

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Ottawa Children’s Gala

Last night Baobab Youth performed at a wonderful benefit for CHEO at the Museum of History. many of the attendees at this event are children and so  there were lots of great performers lined up for them. Like the Off Beat stomp-style group from Glebe Collegiate and some Irish dancers, a singer, and us! The setting was so beautiful… a great chance to try out a really big stage! Thanks to parent Kerry for these shots.

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Waiting to go onstage….

A few shots that I took while we were backstage waiting to perform at the Ottawa Children’s Gala …these are the magic moments in many ways ;)


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Rhythm Café

A REALLY great fundraiser for Baobab Community happened this past weekend! Drumming and dancing by Baobab Youth and ROOTS kids Special guest, actor and  poet  PrufRock Shadowrunner did a spoken word mash-up with our Danse Guerriere and Bell Forest pieces. Tarrah Mauricette led us ALL in an Afro-Caribbean dance along with Board member Nadine. Silent auction and yummy cupcakes rounded out the event. Special thanks to all the Baobab Board members who put the event together, and to Bridgehead Coffeehouse for coffee donations and our wonderful bakers!  Fabulous silent auction items generously donated by: Erica Sher, Angelina Dunyo, Ian Holland, Eloise Holland, Clare Farley, Megan Farley, Evie Gray Cococo Chocolatiers, Dutch Bike Printing, The Village Quire, Kerry Gogush Cule, Sam Bonti-Ankomah



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Around the World in Song

img_1118Last night Baobab Youth performed with the Castenchel Choir under the wonderful direction of Lee Carter. Other guests were the Fiddleheads! It was a beautiful evening in the old church in Chelsea, Quebec. We played to a packed audience of 300. Bell Forest was magical in that space. Ghana Alleluia/Bobobo was accompanied with singing from the choir, and we all did a couple of pieces together for the finale. The lighting outside the church in the crisp fall air made for a spooky photo scene…..a first successful gig of the season for some of our new members!


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36 power hours!

What a kick off ! In the space of two days Baobab Community launched ourselves into the new season! Tuesday was a fantastic lunchtime event on Parliament Hill supporting the upcoming Global Fund Replenishment Conference in Montreal. along with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna hosted a reception that Baobab Youth were invited to perform at. Special visiting guests mother/daughter activists from Kenya spoke compellingly about their work with HIV/Aids and women’s rights. A real honour to be there.


That evening, Baobab Community convened our 2016-17 Board members for the first meeting of the season. A big welcome to new members Cathy Sandiford and Sam Bonti-Ankomah. Thanks to hip Board member Ann Maloney for her large-group selfie skills ;) Other members for this year include chair Evie Gray, Tanis Stoliar, Kerry Gogush Cule, myself (ex officio) and Nadine Powers (not pictured). We are grateful for their efforts towards Baobab Community’s efforts!


On Wednesday, we had our first Baobab Youth rehearsal of the season, followed by a special informal performance at the Art & Rhythm Vernissage with the gorgeous sculptures by Zimbabwean Chaka Chikodzi. Chaka even jammed with us on one of our pieces, using a marimba he made himself.


We had some fabulous Ethiopian food by Sheba’s Cove on Wellington West, and played a few of our pieces. The event was host by Clare’s family and the setting was beautiful. Welcome to our new Baobab members! Thanks to Kerry & David & Megan & Kathy for pics ! I think we are ready for the year!


ra-1ra3 ra2


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Summer Camp

Jumping 1 Jumping 3 IMG_8796

Our annual Rhythm Trek Camp was a blast! We had 17 campers, 5 amazing volunteers and 5 artistic staff this year! Thanks to the Nepean-Kanata Rotary Club for their generous contribution towards the camp! We did some Tokwoe stick drumming that I led, some Fume Fume hand drumming with Dominic Donkor, dancing & singing for both, which we performed for family and friends on the Thursday. We also played some fun games left by our awesome volunteers Rory S., Quinn, Ioyan, Emma and Kevin. We had a photo workshop from Kate Settle of Beehive Studios, that turned out some fantastic work that the kids took home at the end of the week. Here are a few pics courtesy of Kevin, Rory, Liz & myself.


IMG_8814IMG_8801IMG_8804I had to leave camp a day early this year but the group was under the great direction of Rory Magill for cooking and the special Ghana lunch celebration. The afternoon was a wonderful Brazilian drumming workshop with Liz Hanson, who recently moved to Ottawa from Brooklyn. We are lucky to have had them both! In Liz’s words here is how the last day went:

Today was very smooth! Rory made great food and this kids really loved it! They drummed hard all afternoon and learned so so fast. Basically they learned the whole samba arrangement, traded parts and we had time to add the hip hop part too. They put the rhythms together faster than anyone! I never had so many kids with so much experience.
We did a go around at the beginning where they said their names and what they love about music and their responses were so unique! We did some games…had the lunch, drummed snack drummed. Then we did a closing, highlight from the week, highlight from today and word of farewell.
IMG_0163Liz@ camp

A truly fun week and a fantastic way to close out our 20th Anniversary year!


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