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New Classes

Our Winter classes have started….last night was the Monday night double treat of Dominic Donkor and Prosper Adjetey from Montreal who began their weekly classes for adults at our studio. Prosper, who was sidelined last season with an injury was back in full form (read: the warm up was a 35 minute marathon). His class was so large we actually moved out to the larger hall next to the studio to accommodate everyone. Photos below are of him teaching and Dominic and Iris drumming for them . Sorry they were taken on my phone :(

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A Sad Passing….

Emmanuel Adotey, a former Baobab Board member, passed away suddenly on January 2, 2012. His funeral was this past Saturday, which I attended along with many members of the Ghanaian Community and the RCMP (where he recently retired from).

A few recollections from us at Baobab Community:

Emmanuel and his wife  Stella came to a Baobab Tree drum and dance concert about 8 or 9 years ago. I remember clearly Emmanuel introducing themselves to us, and enthusiastically expressing admiration for our efforts in Ghanaian culture.  From that moment on, Emmanuel and Stella became two of our greatest supporters, coming to all of our events dressed in beautiful Ghanaian dress and spreading the word about our activities.

Soon after, Emmanuel joined our Board of Directors, where he served for three years, from 2005-2008. Board meetings were never dull with Emmanuel around, with a twinkle in his eye and a hearty laugh, which was infectious and made us all giggle! A highlight during that time was the Ghanaian fashion show that Stella and Emmanuel staged at one of our annual fundraisers. Everyone was very excited about showcasing all the beautiful outfits and one of the most attractive models was of course, Stella.

Emmanuel was very generous in giving back to his community but you could tell he was especially proud of his Ghanaian heritage.  Emmanuel helped us in planning for our youth performers visit to Ghana in 2006, even offering up some accommodation if we could possibly make it to his hometown of Hohoe.  The long trek was not possible during the short stay we were in Ghana but I do hope to visit that area on another trip someday. I am sure his relatives are just as open and friendly as he was.

Emmanuel said to me once that he was sorry he did not hear about us sooner, when his children were younger as he would have liked to have them participate in the drumming and dancing. As it turned out, he was able to tell his god-daughter Angelina Gagbenon about us, and she joined our youth performers shortly after that. Angie and her family were strong supporters of our program as well, and Angie was a natural leader in dance and drumming, and came to Ghana with us on our most recent trip, last summer.

Everyone at Baobab Community remembers Emmanuel with fondness (pictured, centre, below with other board members in June 2007).  He will be missed but has left a legacy of joy and connection for us all.


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Season’s Greetings!

Hi Everyone,

Hayley and I wish you the best for a restful holiday and an amazing 2012. Thanks for all your support this year and we look forward to seeing you in the new year!

Please note the Baobab Office will be closed as of Dec 21st and will re-open Monday January 9th.

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Rhythm Café

Last Sunday was our annual major fundraiser, Rhythm Café. A huge success this year, we raised more than $2500 for our educational programming. Thanks for all your support!

The event was once again amazingly organized by our manager Hayley de Bie with help from the Baobab Board and parents. We are especially thankful to Bridgehead and Camino for their beverage donations, as well as the many local businesses and individuals who supplied the fantastic silent auction items.

Artistically speaking, there was a wonderful set of performances by our new Zoomers drum class, our older ROOTS class and of course the Baobab Youth Performers. As I was unable to be there at the last minute, we were very fortunate to have Rory Magill and Julia Walmsley step in with their wonderful skills to lead the class performances. The Baobab Youth stepped up to the plate and ran their pieces on their own. Kudos to all! Feedback was terrific and it would seem like a good time was had by all. Hayley and some of the youth paid tribute to the three who left at the end of last year, Angie, Lief and Liam. Sad to see them go!

Thanks to Marmie for photos of the public workshop and rest of the afternoon.

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ROOTS Open House

This past week, both of our ROOTS classes finished their 8 week session of classes and we opened the doors to friends and family for an informal demonstration of what we have been working on. The program is split into two age levels…7-10 and 11-13. We were lucky to have Maia Allen volunteer with the younger group. A former ROOTS drummer herself, she was a big help in coaching this large class. The older class was a little smaller and more independent. Both classes demonstrated their work on hand and stick drumming, as well as singing and clapping some Ghana children’s game songs. This Fall we have a new colour and design for the ROOTS shirts which they wore for their performances.

During the open house evenings, we also has on display the wonderful art project each class did with Maureen Clarke…this time it was votive candles with Ghanaian adinkra stamps on them. Beautiful!

Always a pleasure to work with these ROOTS kids…the winter session will just be for the older class and then both levels are offered again in the spring. Details are always on the classes page. of this website.

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Ghana Mash-up

Last weekend, Baobab Youth travelled to London, Ontario for a concert with the UWO choirs directed by Jennifer Moir. Special guest performers were Kofi and Andrew Dunyo who danced some pretty funky hiplife styles. The evening concert opened with a few words by the former president of  the University of Western Ontario, Paul Davenport, and a libation ceremony from our mentor and guest of honour, Kwasi Dunyo. Slides from our Ghana trip were projected onto the backdrop and the professional lighting in the theatre gave another artistic boost to the whole event. A free will offering was collected as admission, and we raised $1100 for Kwasi’s home village of Dagbamete, in the Volta Region of Ghana, which will go towards school fees for children. Thanks to  Anna King for the photos below!

The choirs had been working with Rory Magill as composer in residence all week prior to that, on several of his compositions which were performed in the concert. Rory was thrilled to have such a great connection with the singers throughout the week to really workshop his pieces. They all learned from each other as happens in those situations. Hearing the young men sing songs from “Atamga” in concert, with feet stomping out the cross rhythmic pulses gave goosebumps…this was preceded by our young men in Baobab performing a traditional Atsiagbekor, in a style we learned this past summer while in Ghana. A highlight for me was the mash up of Rory’s choral piece Bobobo Suite with full choir and our drummers and dancers in front. The sound was truly incredible and very powerful. I wish we could be backed by 175 voices all the time!!!

Rory’s piece “Sista”, for the smaller Les Choriste women’s choir unaccompanied,  had many in tears with its emotional impact and connectedness.

The concert finished with Gahu finale, an arrangement of mine that included members of the choir dancing in the aisles, and on stage with our drummers and dancers leading the way. It was a really stunning visual and sound experience, one of the best Gahus we have done! A few comments from audience and participants are below.

Special thanks to our manager Hayley de Bie, our parent chaperone/drivers and Jenifer Moir .

“All I can say is wow”

“Loved the concert … it was so powerful and I will never forget it.  Have told my kids that as soon as their kids are old enough it should be a must to see one of your shows.  That was the best one that I have seen.  And to have put it together so soon after your trip to Ghana was quite a feat.”

“That was a fabulous concert! I enjoyed every minute of it! Your performance of Gahu tonight was inspirational! Thank you for sharing so much cultural information as well.”

“What a total pleasure it was to be apart of that concert! I am totally inspired and was reminded why I study music. I have substituted passion with frustration these last couple years and tonight for the first time in a while I was able to relax and have genuine FUN and enjoy the beautiful music and dance!”

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Something New and Buzzy

Last night was the first in our new “Try This” series. Owuo Begine taught a small enthusiastic group some Ghanaian Xylophone (Gyil) patterns at our studio. He began by explaining how the instrument is put together and tuned, and the buzzing sound that comes from the holes in the resonating gourds underneath the keys which originally would have had spider webs covering them but now are paper. The vibration of the paper on the holes results in the beautiful and unique sounds of these instruments.

Students tried various tricky patterns using two mallets and resulting in a complex sound. Owuo finished the evening by playing three gorgeous pieces for everyone. Owuo is currently living in Montreal after emigrating from Ghana two years ago. We are lucky to have him! Special thanks to Dominic & Tony for getting him to Ottawa last night.

Participant (and Baobab Board chair) Ian Brown had this to say:

“While it was different to drumming (and easier on the hands!) there were many similarities… it’s so easy to feel confident that you have a rhythm figured out, play it well for a few minutes and then it just mysteriously vanishes leaving you floundering. I think we  found that even when we did figure it out and could generally go up the notes well, coming back down was a whole other challenge, even though it was exactly the same rhythm! I really enjoyed Owuo’s teaching style – very relaxed but encouraging and easy to follow. I think the main enjoyment was the chance to do something totally new and unique.”

Next workshop in this series:

November 24, 2011: Art Project: Adinkra/ Kente picture  frames with Maureen Clarke

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Drumming for Women

This morning the Baobab Youth performed at the Women’s Economic Empowerment Conference sponsored by CIDA and the UN. It was at the old city hall on Sussex Dr. Its a gorgeous site, and driving there along the Ottawa River Parkway early in the morning with drums in tow, the sun glinting off the river and the Parliament buildings looming against a blue sky, I thought, wow….I have a great job! Playing with such great youth for women from all over the world and having an inspirational and fairly traffic free drive to get there…..awesome. Those days help with the OTHER kind of days :)

It was an early gig, and we drummed and danced from two balconies while international delegates dressed in colourful outfits were arriving, then we grabbed our Northern Ghanaian drums and led the dignitaries in to the stage for the opening talks.  All went well.

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beginning again….

Saw the youth at our first rehearsal of the year yesterday. Wow. What a great and powerful rehearsal…filled with the rich experience they have gained in Ghana and bonds that really cannot be described but which will enhance our performances for sure. Some incredibly tight and dynamic playing. We did a huge stick drumming session on Tokwoe, the piece we travelled to see and participate in, in a rural area of Ghana on our recent trip. See the post!   I am very excited about the season!

Some small changes….we say goodbye to Liam, Angie and Lief who have all been connected to Baobab for AGES. We will hold a special “Sankofa” ceremony on Nov 27 at our Rhythm Café to say goodbye. We are joined by new members Clara and Gabriel, both moving up from the ROOTS class with lots of experience to bring.

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Notes from Ghana #23

So this may be the last post from our Ghana trip, and this is not even about Ghana. Its September 1st and the air is cooler, everyone’s thoughts are turning to school,  work and next chapters. Footsteps to Ghana in July seems like ages ago, however we know it will be within us in small ways forever. For instance, recently one of the adults told me as she was waiting (and waiting) to make a major presentation at work, and was getting frustrated and anxious with the delay. Then the Ghana phrase popped up “any moment from now” which made her laugh and remember the amazing wait times we had in Ghana, never knowing the answers to “what” and “when” and it broke all her tension for her. So many great lessons learned…if we can hang on to them.

Last night we had a get together for the travellers and their families. It was a wonderful opportunity to see each other again (its pretty strange to be with 34 other people 24/7 for three weeks and then….nothing…..) So we had some great visits, told some funny stories, looked at photos, looked at movies and slide shows and made a collage of the trip using all kinds of crazy stuff we brought back, everything from local dirt to cedis to Obama cookie wrappers…FUN. The evening was beautifully hosted at the CUBE Gallery. Angie suggested we take up  donations for the famine relief in East Africa….a terrifying and unimaginable reality that is far from what we experienced on the other side of the continent. So we did ($261 she told me this morning) and she will pass on to CARE Canada today.

Hayley and I are looking forward to receiving a photo book of the trip  “presented” to us last night (in fact because of Hurricane Irene it ended up in Memphis so its on its way, but we saw the slides) . It was a lovely gesture from the parents and youth. Thank you! There are some really stunning pictures taken by some and we plan on making a card series…stay tuned for that.

Although most of the kids in Baobab Youth are coming back this season some of the kids will be leaving the group (as happens!) to pursue their other interests, focus on school and just move on with their lives. Last night was poignant in that both energies were felt in the room…lots of chat amongst the youth about these changes. Many of the kids have been with us for 4, 5, 6 years and its such a pleasure to watch them grow, change, deepen and reflect together.  A privilege for me. Always. I am seasoned enough that I can embrace the cycle…even if there are a few tears shed in private :)

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