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Rhythm Trek 2019

It is with mixed feelings I write about the last Rhythm Trek camp for Baobab. Our first camp was about 2007, well into our history (Baobab was founded in 1995). Here are a few photos from the first few camps.

These camps have been a tremendous amount of work, but also SO rewarding…offering ways to learn new repertoire, recruit new members to our yearly programs, provide mentoring opportunities for our older students, give context to the music through art projects, traditional Ghanaian food celebration and just drum, dance and sing for HOURS on end. That is something we rarely have time for in our busy North American lives. Thank you to all who have contributed over the years: Rory, Gaelen, Maureen, Natalie, Eloise, Dominic, Prosper, Nani, Dalton, Dave, Nadine, parents, friends, and student volunteers. You have made this a unique and powerful experience for so many young people.

Today we had our open house (after a fabulous Ghanaian lunch) and performed four wonderful pieces; “Pete Pete”, an excerpt from “Adzogbo”, the Zulu “Thula Klizeo” and the drumming, dancing and singing of “Bobobo”. What a great crew!

We also paid tribute to our wonderful volunteers: Dave, board member and alum from the VERY early years, Donovan and Kieran, Baobab Youth members who volunteered for the first time this week! And the amazing Quinn, who marked this week as her 10th camp!!! Started a as camper and moved seamlessly into mentoring the young ones. Quinn, Donovan and Kieran are all in the youth performers and bring their leadership to that group. They worked so hard this week, and we are so proud of them!

Here are a few more pics from this fantastic week. Thank you to all our donors who made this opportunity possible for our subsidized students. My heart is full….now on to the 25th & farewell season. -Kathy

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Black Sheep Sankofa!

We had a great show yesterday at the famous Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec situation on the beautiful Gatineau river. A longstanding tradition at Baobab, we have played there every year since we began in 1995. We had guests Rory Magill and Dominic Donkor perform with us. Rory leading the group in the northern Ghanaian piece Takai, and Dominic taking the lead for Danse Guerriere, Kpanlogo and a very spirited Fume Fume! The group was a fabulous cohesive unit, displaying the fruits of a full season.

Our final show of the season is also the show that we say goodbye to members of the group that are moving on. Sankofa is the Ghanaian Adinkra symbol that teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. This year we said goodbye to Alistair who has been with the group since he was 6 or 7 years old. A veteran of our summer camp, Rhythm Trek, our ROOTS class, and for the last few seasons, our youth group. We wish him well! Alumnae are also encouraged to come out to this show and we had a surprise dance floor appearance by two alumnae from Baobab’s former Adult group Akpokli. They still got the moves!

A great way to end the season! Special kudos to Dave Hennessy, Board member, alum and youth coach! Dave has been a huge help this season in all aspects of Baobab’s programming. Thanks also to Baobab’s Board of Directors and our finance manager Hayley! Team Awesome is an understatement! See you at our Rhythm Trek Camp in August!

Baobab Youth Performers 2018-19
with Kathy Armstrong, Dave Hennessy and Dominic Donkor
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Gahu Project & Tour

After our performance at the Kitchener Market

Just back from a wonderful four-day tour to Kitchener-Waterloo with Baobab Youth, Here are some media links:

Check out this short video

….and some CBC coverage

At the Wilfrid Laurier Residence building where we stayed.
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Had a great time last night at the Wooden Beats Concert! Baobab Youth Performers were joined by Tine Rufaro Marimba Band for a couple of sets of West and Southern African music. We did a couple of collaborative pieces, layering melodic and rhythmic beats of overlapping twos, threes, and fours. Very fun! The intimate, funky Kildare room at St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts made for a very special energy in the room. A great turnout for the concert and a successful silent auction made this a real success for our organization! Big thanks to the Baobab Board of Directors, Hayley de Bie, Rory Magill and all the parent volunteers for their hard work! At the event, with the help of our alumnae, we also launched our 2019-2020 Season which will be the 25th and farewell season, (see previous blog post). More details on that coming soon…What a special evening it was all around!

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A Very Special Announcement!

Dear Baobab Friends,

After twenty-five years of cultivating community relationships through West African drumming, singing and dancing, we are announcing that 2019-2020 will be our final season. This 25th Anniversary year will celebrate all that is unique and memorable about Baobab’s program, with special concerts, artistic collaborations and a cultural immersion experience in the village of Dagbamete, Ghana!

A catalyst for creating intercultural learning opportunities, Baobab has been a leader in Community Music, using multi-age groupings to foster healthy relationships and connections among children, adolescents, adults and seniors in the Ottawa area. “We have been a dynamic force in the Canadian music scene for a quarter of a century,” says Kathy Armstrong, founder and artistic director of the Ottawa based, non-profit arts education organization. “Through participatory music-making, we have provided powerful opportunities that have engaged people of all ages at the local and international levels.” Artistic partnerships with several choirs, jazz ensembles, Nexus, Mighty Popo and visiting Ghanaian masters have enriched the group’s creative capacity.  Performances at the National Arts Centre, the Senate on Parliament Hill, Ottawa Folkfest, Westfest, Fuse and Bluesfest, as well as tours to Banff, Toronto, London, Kingston, Peterborough, Washington, Boston and Syracuse have introduced thousands to the vibrant energy of the Ghanaian drumming and dance forms.

Baobab has always lent its performing skills for local charities, creating special events with the Capital Grannies,, CHEO, Osu Childrens Library Fund, the Food Bank, the Ride, and the Youth Services Bureau among others.

Armstrong’s 30-year relationship with the small village of Dagbamete in the Volta region of Ghana figures prominently in the integrity and longevity of the program.  “The inspiration for Baobab was informed by my musical education in the emerging dynamic world music scene in Toronto in the 1980s, and my own studies with Master Drummer Kwasi Dunyo in Ghana beginning in 1990, where I observed the powerful connection between the drumming traditions and the healthy interconnectedness of the people who played, sang and danced together.”

Armstrong subsequently founded the charitable organization, Baobab Tree, in 1995. In 2001, the Baobab Youth Performers embarked on the inaugural Footsteps to Ghana trip to Dagbamete, establishing a cultural immersion experience for youth that continues to this day. Dalton Holloway, now 34 and a Board member with the organization, went on that first Ghana trip. “Going to Dagbamete changed how we played the music when we came back to Ottawa,” he says. “It changed us. It allowed us to understand the context of the music and to make connections with others through our shared experiences.”

“It’s the breadth and depth of the relationship building that has made Baobab unique,” Armstrong says. “Our time in the village during our cultural study visits has established reciprocal and respectful partnerships that have grown deeper over time”. In 2017 Armstrong was given the honour of joining the council of elders in the village, with a mandate to continue arts and education development initiatives. With that in mind, she has worked with the elders in Dagbamete to establish a biennial arts festival that will carry the Baobab name forward. The inaugural summer 2020 Festival will be the culminating event in the final 25th season of Baobab Community in Ottawa; and will continue on as a legacy to the enduring impact this unique organization has had on thousands of people.

Baobab’s roots are deep and its branches wide.  Through the many people touched, influenced and impacted by the organization, Baobab has sown many seeds of transformation. Please join us in coming together to celebrate our final season!‎

We will announce details of  25th and final season at the upcoming April 13th concert. You can find out information about that HERE!

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Share Our Light

Baobab Youth performed yesterday for‘s special event :”Share Our Light” which provided an opportunity for like minded NGOs to come together with young artists and promote sustainable development goals. We met many friends there from our community, including Youth Ottawa, CanUgan, Ethiopiaid, GRAN, Engineers without Borders (Canada) and Help Lesotho. A very inspiring speech by Catherine McKenna,  Federal Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, underscored the connection between poverty, disease, climate change and economic issues. That is the core message of She also highlighted the valuable contribution the arts can make in getting the message out to people. So true!  We were proud to be part of that event!

We were also proud of all of our new members of Baobab Youth, some quite young who performed their first gig with us! Supported and mentored by our older youth in the group, it was a great showing of four of our pieces: Tokwoe, Bell Forest, Nagla and Gahu.

Thanks to parents for helping at the gig in many ways, including taking a lot of these photos.

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AGM & Board meeting

Hope to see you at this year’s AGM Wednesday November 14, 2018 from 6-7:30 at St George’s 415 Piccadilly. Our finance whiz Hayley will briefly present last year’s actuals; we will talk about the upcoming events and plans including the Ghana 2020 trip, and we will vote in a special group of volunteers: this year’s Board of Directors. Read their bios below!

List of Board Members 2018-19, in order of photo L-R.

Cathy Sandiford has been connected with the Baobab community since 2007, mother of a Baobab youth member who was part of the 2011 Ghana trip.  A board member since 2016, Cathy’s connection to Africa began early, with a grade three public speaking project, her first (!), on the subject of Africa.  She has traveled to Malawi and Ethiopia, loves African rhythms and dance and is a fanatic for African fabrics. Cathy currently works on organizational development projects at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Dalton Holloway was part of Baobab Youth Performers during his high school years and was on Baobab’s first trip to Ghana in 2001.  This is Dalton’s second year on the Board and enjoys being able to play a part in shaping the organization.  He also randomly drops in on the Youth practices on Wednesdays to share insights and to hang out with the newest generation of Gahu players.  Dalton currently works in the Westboro area as an account manager for a creative agency.

David Hennessy is in his first year as a board member. An alumnus of Baobab Youth Performers from 1998 to 2001, he was on the first Ghana trip in 2001 and a youth chaperone on the 2017 Ghana trip. In the 2017-18 season, David worked with Kathy Armstrong in the Roots program and the monthly adult drumming program. He continues to work with Baobab Youth performers and helps facilitate the monthly adult classes. David has studied percussion with master drummer Kwasi Dunyo, Mike Essoudry, Alvaro de M. Yanez, Jeff Asselin and, of course, Kathy Armstrong. David currently works in the Biotech sector assisting doctoral students and post-docs with their research related to targeted genome therapy.

Nadine Powers is a former member of the Baobab adult performing group Akpokli and has traveled to Ghana several times. She has been on the board for 8 years. Her role as a teacher in the Ottawa Carleton District School Board has enabled her to be a strong voice and connector in that community as the Education Representative for the Baobab Board.

Kerry Gogush-Cule has been a board member since 2013. As an educator and a parent, she has dual roles on the board and was fortunate enough to accompany the Baobab Youth to Ghana in 2017, where she oversaw the group’s blog. Kerry is frequently asked for her awesome tech skills in designing our surveys and documents

Evie Gray is the current Baobab Chair for the past for three years, having previously been its Community Representative for five years.  As an active parent from 2005 to 2012, one of the many highlights were the Baobab trips such at Ghana 2011 and Banff 2008.  Evie was the CIO at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research at the time of her retirement in 2015.



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Galen’s Gap Year at Osu Children’s Library

Galen Kiva, a recent Baobab Youth graduate, is an independent videographer, photographer, and traveler from Wakefield, Quebec. He spent two months in the Korle Gonno Community Library this past spring in Ghana, as part of his gap year after high school. He also visited all of the Osu Children’s Libraries in Ghana, documenting the stories of staff, students, and children through the medium of video and photography. Here is an account of his recent solo adventures in Ghana (if you can ever consider yourself being solo in Ghana).

I was first introduced to Kathy Knowles and her fantastic organization when Vivian Amanor came to Ottawa in early 2017. I was part of a West African drumming group called Baobab Youth Performers, our group specialized in the drum, dance, and song of Ghana. We had the chance to attend an event put on for donors and friends of the OCLF, contributing in our own with a cultural performance to welcome Vivian to our lovely country.


My next encounter with the OCLF, was when I visited Ghana in 2017 with the Baobab Youth Performers where we spent 3 weeks touring around the country. We visited multiple cultural sites, but we also had the amazing privilege to visit two of the OCLF’s libraries, the Nima Learning Centre, and the Goi Community Library. It was on our visit to the Nima Centre, that I was introduced to Martin Legend, the fantastic theatre director of the Kathy Knowles Theatre Company. We hit it off immediately, and he told me that the libraries, including the Nima Library and Learning Centre, offer volunteer opportunities. And I immediately knew what I was doing for my following gap year!


Fast forward to May 2018, I was coming off a 2-month backpacking tour of Europe, flying above the Saharan desert on my way to Accra, unsure of what my two months at the Korle Gonno library held in store for me. But boy, was I sure in for a treat!

I spent the next two months living atop the Korle Gonno Community Library on the fourth floor of the building in a quaint apartment with Kwabena, my roommate. Kwabena is the arts director at the Korle Gonno Library, and he also goes around to a selection of the OCLF’s libraries to teach cultural dance to the youth who frequent the libraries. With our shared passion for the arts, we quickly formed a bond that continued to strengthen throughout my stay and blossomed into a truly beautiful brotherhood.

The Korle Gonno Community Library rises up above the fishing community of Korle Gonno, and provides anyone who makes the four-story climb to the top of the building, with a stunning view of the endless Atlantic Ocean. The other side of the building provided a view of the spanning corrugated rooftops of Korle Gonno with downtown Accra rising up in the hazy distance. A compound of schools was situated behind the library, which provided us with a seemingly non-stop flow of children, and a bustling environment, supplying a nurturing, safe environment for anybody who walk through our doors.

It was a beautiful experience to be a part of aiding children and students foster their love for reading, giving themselves the tools to improve their future and seek opportunities that may not even be a consideration without the benefits of literacy. But I knew that I wanted to leave my own impact on this organization and everyone who has been touched by Kathy Knowles, and that was through my cinematography. So halfway through my stint in Ghana, I departed on a mission to capture the story of the OCLF, interviewing as many librarians, staff, children, students, government officials, anyone I could get my hands on who had been impacted by the incredible reach of the OCLF. And what a journey it turned out to be.As a result of undertaking this project, I had the incredible privilege to speak with some of the most fantastic, and compassionate souls that I have ever met in my lifetime. Individuals who were working with so little, yet had done so much for their communities to provide it’s youth with better futures and opportunities. It was an eye-opening experience, that taught me what it means to be truly compassionate and how I can leave a positive impact in my own community.

What I have learnt during my time in Ghana will stay with me forever, and the people who I encountered who showed me nothing but warmth and love, sharing their culture and time with me with such open hearts. I cannot recommend volunteering with the OCLF enough, this organization is filled with so much good, it is contagious. To have the privilege to work alongside individuals like Joana, Vivian, Martin and Kwabena was a truly beautiful experience that I will never forget. I hope I can encourage someone else to set out on this adventure and to help in their own way!

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Rhythm Trek Week!

Fantastic week at Rhythm Trek! We had 16 campers, 6 youth mentors and one of our own as assistant director. Drumming and dancing with Dominic Donkor on Nagla and myself on Atsiagbekor. These kids and youth knocked it out of the park! Very challenging material this week. Also had a blast on our water & park day, and our always special celebration lunch with Dongo Dongo Rory. Campers made some wonderful picture frame art that now holds a pic of themselves with their favourites instrument. Thanks especially to all the mentors and staff…we could not do it without you!


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Friday night drumming!

This season marked the return of our adult programming after a five year hiatus. Our new format invites adults of all ages and levels of experience to join us for monthly Friday night drumming workshops. Drop-in or book several. More than 90 people took advantage of this flexible and inclusive format and our attendance ranged from 15 -40 on any given Friday. Each month was a different teacher and piece in the wonderful repertoire of Ghanaian drumming. Instructors included myself, Kwasi Dunyo, Nani Agbeli, Dominic Donkor and Baobab alum Dave Hennessy. Great to see old friends and new. Here are pics of the first (above) and last (below) groups….September and June. Looking forward to next season already!

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