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Black History Month

February is Black History Month and as usual, Baobab Community is involved in many events this month.  Here’s a glimpse into some of what we have been up to:

Julia Walmsley leads the Thursday night adult drum class

Rory Magill leads the Dagbamba drumming at our recent "Try This!" workshop

Dominic Donkor, in town for some MASC performances, spends some time with my Carleton U Music students

Baobab Youth give a performance at the OSU Childrens Library Fund fundraiser, where many of their terrific books were for sale.

Baobab with OCLF founder Kathy Knowles. We were able to visit and perform with students from the Nima Library and Kathy Knowles Theatre Troupe in Accra during our trip to Ghana last summer.

At the invitation of Nepean High School music teacher, Lee Carter, Baobab Youth performed at two assemblies for Black History Month, highlighting current cultural practices in Ghana. I went in twice to work with Mr. Carter’s vocal students to teach them some songs and dance moves for Gahu, and then at the assemblies, about 100 of them surrounded an audience of peers to create a traditional Ewe Gahu with us.  Other parts of the assembly included a slide show from our trip as we played a couple of other pieces,  as well as some reflections from other Nepean students who went to Ghana last year as part of their social justice club. We also had the pleasure of having former Baobab Youth member Patrick Hoffman sit in with us for Gahu…he is about to graduate from Nepean and it was wonderful to have him play with us again. It was a great collaborative morning all round! See for yourself….thanks to our multi-talented manager Hayley de Bie for the photos!

Also this month, I had an interesting request from a music teacher in Arnprior who conducts a wonderful high school jazz choir called Red Velvet. They wanted some authentic choreography to go with their singing version of Waka Waka , made famous by Shakira during the World Cup in South Africa. The melody is originally from Cameroon and has a very interesting history. Hayley and I went out for an early morning rehearsal with these talented students and I taught them some Kpanlogo moves to go with their wonderful singing, The only challenge was to make sure they could do them while holding a mic in one hand!

And, finally, just this afternoon Baobab Youth performed at a benefit for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). This is an event called “Echoes of Winter” put on by the Kanata Music Academy, and all of their students. A lovely afternoon event at Carleton’s Kailash Mitel Hall, the program featured everything from solo singing, to piano, dance groups,  acrobat-skippers and us! Congrats to Peter who played lead drum for Gota for the first time,  something he has worked on for a few months. We were presented with a gift and a plaque for our participation. A busy but rewarding month!

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Drumming Grannies!

As you have seen in this blog before, there is a wonderful group of women who come to the Baobab Studio occasionally to study drumming with me. Last night they organized and performed at a wonderful event for the Stephen Lewis Foundation; here is a description:

Grannies at the Green Door On Monday, February 6th a fundraising Dinner in aid of the Stephen Lewis Foundation was held at The Green Door Restaurant.  The Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign seeks to build solidarity, raise awareness and garner support for Africa’s grandmothers.  The Green Door Dinner was organized by 3 local Grandmothers Campaign groups: Ammas for Grammas, Capital Grannies, and Grammas to Ambuyas.  African grannies want their grandchildren to be healthy, and to have an education and a future with meaningful work – the same things Canadian grannies want for their grandchildren.  The SLF Grandmothers Campaign contributes to over 300 projects helping African grandmothers and the children in their care with much needed support such as food, medicine, housing grants, school fees and uniforms, and grief counseling.

Jewel 98.5 Radio sponsored the fundraiser and provided strong support – lots of publicity, donations for door prizes and the Silent Auction, as well as Brother Bob from the Jewel’s morning show who was our wonderful MC.  The Capital Grannies Drummers performed, briefly, several times during the evening.  Their final piece was Gahu for Grannies’ (Gahu appropriately means a celebration to bring riches) which emphasized the significant themes of our Campaign: Canadian ‘Grannies’ working with African ‘Gogos’ to ease the pain of AIDS and turn the tide of the AIDS pandemic in Africa.

Having the event sponsored by The Green Door Restaurant, known for its relaxing environment and excellent food, ensured that the evening would be a success. And it was: all the tickets were sold, people ate well, and had a very enjoyable evening.  But the real success was that over $8,000 was raised for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which will make a substantial difference to many of the African grandmothers and the orphans in their care.

Rosemary Carter, Capital Grannies

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Your donor dollars at work….

Thinking of making a donation (see previous blog entry) to our programming ?

Here is some feedback from recent participants…

“It is very clear that you care a great deal about the kids and want the very best for them. How lucky they all are to have you in their lives especially at this stage of their personal growth and development.  You’ve definitely created a special community and second home for them at Baobab where they feel connected and a sense of belonging.”-parent

“My partner and I saw you and your group perform at the awesome African Sanctus concert. It was a phenomenally moving performance. We had to work hard at sitting in proper ‘pewed’ posture as the soul-nourishing voices and rock-about rhythm enveloped all in the church. “-audience member

“The workshop had the right mix of events (cultural background, drums, singing, dance and games).  The instructor never dropped the ball while working through the material. As a result, the flow from one event to the next was seamless. This workshop covered considerably more material than other workshops I have taken of similar length.”-workshop participant

Thank you to you and your amazing performers!!!  It was a fantastic presentation.  It was really inspiring to see students so confident and engaged in drumming and dancing.”-teacher

“What a great concert!!! I asked (my son) what his favourite part was and he said: “The joy of performing with everyone.  It just makes you feel so happy, usually by the second song I just can’t stop smiling.” -parent/youth performer NAC 4th Stage show

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Donor Campaign 2012


We know that there are many wonderful and deserving charitable causes out there to support.  We also know that the current economic times make it necessary for all of us to make careful choices.  Almost every sector of our society is facing financial challenges, and Baobab is no exception.  We hope to continue to offer the excellent and unique arts education programming that we are known for.  With the help of our donors, we had an enriching year last year, making a positive difference in many people’s lives.  If you wish to support our efforts through a tax-deductible financial contribution, we would be very grateful.

This season, donors who contribute $50 or more between Feb 1 and March 30 will be entered into a draw to receive a private workshop in dance OR drumming in your home for up to 8 people, taught by Kathy Armstrong.

Baobab is a registered charity with Revenue Canada 86158 7095 RR0001, tax receipts will be issued promptly.

To make a donation:

  • Call us in the office (613)725-6994 for credit cards
  • Make an online donation through the Canada Helps button on our website

Baobab sincerely thanks you for your generosity during this challenging time for us.

Ian Brown

Chair, Baobab Board of Directors

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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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