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If you were downtown least evening near Elgin and Albert Streets around 7pm, you would have seen a bunch of teens in rubber boots and gold shirts hanging around the magnificent Oscar Peterson….then suddenly, they arranged themselves in four lines and rhythmic sounds of stomping and slapping began, as Baobab Youth performed 2-4, our Gumboot dancing routine. This is a short, complicated and groovy routine taught to us by members of Black Umfalosi, who we had the pleasure of working with a few years back at the Kaleid festival in London Ont. Thomeki, who was the main guy teaching us, always counted us in with the phrase 2, 4,  so seemed a natural title for the piece.

We had some passersby taking video and photos, a few honking cars and even a bus driver who gave us the peace sign.It was so much fun, the youth ran up to the corner of Elgin and Queen and did it again!

What a great way to kick off our concert last evening…..

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Wow, Donations!

Former Board member, drummer and Baobab supporter Janet Quirt and her friend Karole Kidd-Witiuk dropped into the studio this morning with more than 50 items of handmade clothing for us to take to Ghana for kids in need. These colourful shorts and very cute dresses will surely be a hit. Thanks to both of them for all their hours of sewing time and generosity!

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In the Studio…

Yesterday, JonaRowan, Augusta and myself were guests on “This Island Earth”, a radio show on CKCU at Carleton University. We played some Bobobo, Kpanlogo and chatted about the upcoming trip to Ghana. The kids were really articulate and we had a great time. It was also a chance to plug our show this coming Friday night at the Fourth Stage at the NAC. Thanks to hosts Ron Steeds and Bill Nagle!

Listen to the interview!

Friday June 17, 7:30pm
Footsteps to Ghana Tour Kickoff Concert
Baobab Youth
NAC Fourth Stage

Tickets $20 For more info and to buy tickets click HERE!

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Kate Bryant

Kate Bryant, a long time drummer in  Baobab Tree classes, as well as a donor and collaborator, passed away this past Saturday, after a struggle with cancer.

I heard the news of Kate’s passing, while we were on the Toronto Tour. It was just  a couple of hours before I went into a concert of African music with the Jubilate  Singers and the Youth Performers.

Although it was not unexpected, her death was received with tears and many fond memories. Just before the concert I told the kids the news and reminded them of the wonderful concert we all played together to our mutual benefit (Stephen Lewis Foundation and Footsteps to Ghana) in January 2010,  the love of drumming Kate expressed and always shared,  and her long time involvement with, and continued support of Baobab Tree.

I suggested to the kids that we dedicate the opening number Ghana Alleluia and Bobobo  to Kate, as I told them of my lovely and engaging visit with her, a week ago Friday, where I played and sang Bobobo music, and she spontaneously joined me with great joy and energy in singing and even hitting the drum.  The kids thought we should just dedicate the whole performance to her. OK with me!

We got through the Ghana Alleluia, and the drumming of Bobobo beautifully. Kate would have really enjoyed the whole project,  as we were performing with an adult community choir, who were really just a little outside their comfort zone, learning the aural music of Southern and Western Africa for this performance. The final piece in the program, African Celebration, by Stephen Hatfield, contains mostly South African melodies, and at one point the  drumming stops and the whole choir goes into a four part harmonic rendition of the South African National Anthem.  We were certainly thinking of Kate then. What a great reminder of all the work she and her Capital Grannies (along with many others) have done for the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and the love she showed to all of us, which came back to her in these last few months, as she was well taken care of in her final weeks.
Her spirit absolutely surrounds us, and I do not not doubt for a minute that her fierce dedication to drumming and community will live on in all of us.

Kate is in the front row, on the right edge, surrounded by the Capital Grannies drumming group.
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Toronto Tour news

Wow! What a whirlwind weekend we just had! A mix of rehearsal, concerts, social time, and wandering the streets of TO made for a busy but rewarding tour and really set us up well for our Ghana trip in just a few weeks. Thanks so much to the five parents who came along and filled the roles of drivers, chaperones, stage hands, CD sellers and scouts whenever needed.

We arrived at the beaches area in the east end (I know I know, its called the BEACH now but when I was growing up just east of there,  it was just the beaches…sounds just a little pretentious now). We walked the boardwalk, checked out shops and had dinner at the Green Eggplant where Kofi Dunyo made an appearance to greet all the group. Later that night we arrived for the dress rehearsal with the Jubilate Choir and their conductor, Caroline Spearing where we went over the whole concert program and spent loads of time working on the logistics to get it just right.

The Baobab Youth were hosted by members of the choir that night (thank you!) and returned with them the next morning for our performance at St Christopher House, for a small but appreciative audience. Our group of 30 split in to two at that point and half went to the Eaton Centre and half to Kensington Market where we had a great time shopping, eating vegan tacos, thai noodles, other fast food and generally just absorbing the great vibes.

We checked into the dorms at Glendon College in the late afternoon, and grabbed a bite in the dining hall. Glendon has beautiful grounds, and it was a good chance for the youth to get a taste of dorm life.  We  headed to the show which went REALLY well.  A very enthusiastic audience, including some friends and family of the group that reside in Toronto. Some wonderful repertoire from South Africa and West Africa, as well as a couple of pieces by  Canadian composer Stephen Hatfield. Small groupings of the youth got to accompany the choir for some of their pieces. Not an easy thing to play drums in collaboration with another group (especially with only one rehearsal) so that was a terrific experience for them and it really worked out well.

After the concert we returned to the dorms for a party in the common room and then to bed…..everyone was tired for the ride home but a stop at DQ made the last leg of the trip bearable. Here is a note from the choir’s conductor:

I hope you returned to Ottawa safely and that your young people had a good party after a wonderful concert. I can’t thank you enough for the effort and energy that you put into this venture. You have such beautiful teenagers in Baobab …the sparkle and professionalism they brought to Saturday’s concert made it one of the best that the choir has ever done. We are so grateful.
-Caroline Spearing,  Conductor, Jubilate Singers

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Tour to Toronto

Baobab Youth is heading to Toronto this weekend for performances and some recreational team building time before our upcoming Ghana Tour.  We will perform with the Jubilate Singers of Toronto, under the direction of Caroline Spearing, a colleague of mine from several (many?) years ago. Together the youth and choir will perform a community concert at St Christopher House as well as a public Saturday night show at Calvin Presbyterian Church. We will also spend some time in the Beaches area  and Ward’s Island. If you are one of our friends in Toronto, check the poster out and come see us!


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A busy weekend…

This past weekend saw a lot of activity at the Tree House. Our artist in residence was Kwasi Dunyo, along with his two sons, Kofi and Andrew. As expected, they charmed us all and worked us hard! Public workshops on Saturday were for families, as well as adult drum and dance. Two of our parent chaperones for the Ghana trip as well as our manager Hayley participated in a effort to gain a few skills for the community drum and dance events we will be attending while in Kwasi’s village of Dagbamete this summer. Sunday was a workshop for our youth performers….we worked on Kinka drumming, Gota, and learned a few Ewe greetings to use upon arrival in Ghana.

We ended the weekend with an informal performance and BBQ at St George’s. This is an annual show we present as appreciation for the wonderful  and affordable home we have for our studio at St George’s. Thanks to the Parish in general and Georges Bouliane in particular! The performance featured Kwasi as lead drummer and it was clear both he and his sons infused us with an amazing energy which is just a taste of what is to come for us in the summer.  Thanks to Board member Ian Brown for awesome stage managing help!

There is no denying the energy for the trip is mounting and the skills of the youth performers are expanding exponentially. Don’t miss the final concert before we go, Friday June 17 , 7:30pm at the Fourth Stage of the NAC Tickets $20 For more info and to buy tickets click HERE!

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Music Monday

Baobab Youth Performers and St George School celebrated Music Monday yesterday with an interactive concert of West African Drumming Dancing and Singing! Music Monday is an annual event that brings together thousands of students, musicians, parents and community members across Canada to celebrate the gift of music in our lives, on the same day at the same time. The Coalition for Music Education launched Music Monday in 2005.

Sixteen members of Baobab Youth Performers brought the music of Bobobo, Bell Forest and Kpanlogo to the gym at St George School. Parents, teachers, and the whole school population enjoyed a set by the group. Special guests at the performance were members of  the St George Choir junior, who sang and danced Ghana Alleluia accompanied by rhythms from the Baobab drummers. Thanks to their wonderful director Magdalena who prepared them well! The highlight of the concert was the performance by eight primary classes at St George School.  They have been studying the call and response drumming and dancing of Gahu with me over the last couple of weeks, and all 160 of them participated in a large circle of dancers with about 16 of them playing instruments. We had a great time!

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Spring Donor Campaign

Dear Friend of Baobab

Meet Victoria, age 8

  • “I thought that Baobab was hard when I first saw everyone doing different beats at different times but it was not. I learned that different people from different families can have a lot in common. I made a lot of friends in Baobab, I think its really cool. “

Why Arts Education?

Because of the multifaceted way in which the arts engage youth, community arts programming can offer untraditional ways in which to address personal, academic, and social issues. What looks like simple avenues for self-expression are in fact processes that work through and address many issues.

“Effectivity of Popular Arts & Culture as Medium of Youth Engagement” Youth On Youth, , Pg 32

Comments from youth:

  • “When I drum I feel free. It feels like I’m drumming out all my problems.”
  • “Dancing helps me get rid of my bad feelings and good feelings come inside me.”

Did You Know?

Last year more than 9,000 people participated in Baobab’s community arts projects. This number includes audience members at more than 23 local and touring performances. In addition, approximately 220 adults and seniors participated in classes, more than 20 teachers in workshops and training and over 300 children and youth engaged in our arts education programming.

What’s New at Baobab?

Baobab has a new partnership this year with Hintonburg Community Centre.  With support from the City of Ottawa Community,  free drum classes  for students aged 7-12 are happening weekly at the Hintonburg Centre. Our youth gave an interactive performance to kick off the January session and former Baobab Youth member Ben Holland is teaching the weekly classes. It’s a great example of the mentoring opportunities and circular paths our programming inspires and achieves.  We have plans to expand this program next year to the students at the east end Boys and Girls Club.


Your continued support of our efforts is greatly appreciated and  tax receipts will be issued promptly. Due to the overwhelming popularity of last year’s  “donor dinner giveaway”  once again,  all donors who contribute $50 or more between April 15 and June 30, 2011 will be put into a draw to receive a Ghanaian dinner for eight guests in your home, courtesy of our head chef and board member Lina Asmah!

Contact Hayley in the office to make a donation by credit card, (613)725-6994 or or send a cheque to

Baobab Community, 415C Piccadilly Ave  Ottawa ON K1Y 0H3

Sincerely,  Nadine  Powers,  Chair of the Baobab Board of Directors

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Granny Fest

It seems that there is no end to the interesting people I meet through drumming, and the extraordinary situations and communities connected through music. Yesterday I had the pleasure of performing with the Capital Grannies, at the Ottawa Granny Fest, a day of inspiring speakers and workshops for the amazing members of the numerous Granny groups that are in this region and further afield…some even came from Sherbrooke, Quebec!  If you don’t already know about the work of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign and their work with the Stephen Lewis Foundation click here! A couple of years back, Kate Bryant, one of the long time and dedicated students in our adult drumming classes at Baobab Tree,  approached me about having her Granny group come for some drumming workshops,  as they wanted to find a way to express themselves and engage support through music. Its been tough to fit in workshops with this busy group of women but they have persisted and I have taught them Ghanaian hand drum patterns, a stick drumming piece, some songs and chants, all that they can lead themselves.  They have even made two sets of gorgeous sono tube drums for use at their events. Whether its motivating each other at their own workshops or getting attention from politicians on Parliament Hill, these ladies are fast becoming a powerful rhythmic force. While I don’t get to perform with them too often, their commitment, resolve and caring to the cause and to each other is so inspiring to me.  I look forward to my musical  time with them and I certainly count them as friends.

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