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Kids & Kids

I’m always amazed at how Ghanaian music and dance has the ability to bring so many different ages and backgrounds of people together. Mentoring opportunities are a natural in this music and Baobab Youth Performers are always working with each other to learn and share rhythms and dance moves. These are kids ranging from age 11 through 17…kind of amazing to have such a big span. We also regularly get opportunities to work with other kids in public settings, which gives the Baobab Youth members some experience in teaching and engaging with the public. We just finished a luncheon at Algonquin College Language Institute for graduates and their families where the children had to learn a drum pattern before they could get a stamp in their passport…a lot of fun for our gang too….

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Photo Shoot

Besides the interesting and multi-talented  kids that come through our doors, there are some pretty interesting and creative parents of those kids….we had a chance to work with Ioyan’s dad, Lyndon Goveas, who is a photographer, at the professional Studio Four30. Baobab needed some new shots of the current group, so we spent a fun afternoon last week hamming it up in the groovy east end location. These photos are just a few of my snapshots, until we get the “real photos”. Thanks to Lyndon and his friends at Studio Four30.

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Fif’ Ma’ch

Mama Yenunya — the queen mother of Baobab Tree Drum & Dance Community, and more widely known as Kathy Armstrong —  was honoured by the Ghanaian Association of Ottawa on March 5th. The occasion was the celebration of Ghana’s independence from British rule on the 6th of March, fifty-four years ago. Association president Kwaku Agyei presented Kathy with a plaque in appreciation of her “community participation”, acknowledging her years of dedication to Ghanaian culture in Ottawa, bringing the musical traditions of Ghana to the Ghanaian community, to their children, and, of course, to Baobab Youth, who bring this culture into the wider community. Mr. Agyei noted with gratitude that Baobab is always happy to perform traditional music and dance at gatherings of the Ghanaian community and acknowledged gratefully that, in the spirit of sharing these cultural riches, “they never charge us anything”. Following dances by Baobab Youth and singing from the children of the Ghana Language and Culture School of Ottawa, guests were treated to a truly delicious dinner of Ghanaian specialties presented by a parade of magnificent women dressed to impress. The evening ended with a lively and lovely dance party, with loud, loud, throbbing, infectious music from a DJ brought in from Montreal for the occasion. He spun a seamless set of evidently familiar tunes from the latest craze in Ghanaian pop music, a melding of Highlife and Hiphop called, simply enough, Hiplife. Much fun. Photos  of the occasion include Baobab board member Lina Asmah and manager Hayley de Bie.

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Busy Drumming Times!

Wow, so much has been going on at Baobab Tree in the last few weeks, its been a bit of a blur.  The Baobab Youth performed at two seniors centres in town, the Pallisades and the Hillel Lodge. Audiences at both locations thoroughly enjoyed our show and enthusiastically participated with us at the end by dancing and trying out some instruments. Dominic Donkor came to town to do some school performances with me through MASC and while he was here, spent some time with the ROOTS 11-13 class. They had a blast with him and it really pumped them up for their open house which happened last night. Maureen Clarke was on hand to put the final touches on the fabulous picture frame projects they made with her, using their Ghanaian day names.The kids played a terrific set including a complex  Pete Pete with passing blocks, singing, and drums, as well as the  fast stick drumming piece Gota and a Bobobo featuring the beautiful and long hand drum intro. We’ll start two new sessions of ROOTS (11-13 & 7-10) the first week of April. Always  fun to work with these amazing kids!

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Hayley’s 5 years!

Last week we surprised Hayley at the end of a Board meeting with a little party to celebrate her fifth anniversary with Baobab Tree. Many friends showed up from Baobab’s past and present. Hayley de Bie started as our office manager in February 2006 when the office was still in my house and our rehearsals and classes were at Fisher Park Community Centre. Hayley’s position was generously funded in the beginning  by the Ontario Trillium Foundation. We knew we were getting a top-notch administrator with strong financial skills, but we lucked out with her amazing people skills and love for the Ghanaian drumming world. She accompanied us to Ghana at her own expense that first year, just to gain the insight into what gives us inspiration, and what helps us keep going through tough times. She is one of those people who just gets the job done, no matter what it takes. And it takes ALL kinds of skills! Organizing volunteers, sorting silent auction items, putting towels down under leaky ceilings, driving the drum van on tours, picking up kids when needed, chatting with audience members and families, putting up posters, learning about new social media, lugging Cocoa Camino chocolate in and out of the studio, not to mention dealing with government financial forms and keeping up to date with charity laws! She knows how to connect with our students, adults and kids, their parents, and she knows to keep clear of me on stressful concert days!  Simply put, it feels like Hayley has been part of the Tree for a long time…we can’t imagine it without her!  You’ve probably talked with her on the phone for registering for our programs, you may have seen her bopping in the back of our concerts, but whatever the case, everyone in the community has benefited from her positive and skillful presence. Here are a few pics of her time with us so far and a few comments from her…
“Baobab is a terrific community to be included in.  I have really enjoyed working with every person involved with us.  It is always lots of fun to be around each and every one of you.  You all bring unique qualities to our community which makes it a very exciting place to be.”

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Footsteps to Ghana Contest

Baobab Community is pleased to announce our amazing contest, open from now until June 17, 2011.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased from our office or a Baobab Youth member near you. A skill testing question must be answered to complete your entry.

We are grateful to our sponsors, Chris Tibelius, Carole Gobeil at Unik Tour, Drifters and Adventure Centre.


Guesses: $10


1st: Overland Safari Tour in South Africa1 (value $1950),

2nd: African Quilt (value $400),

3rd: African Table Cloth (value $30)

Winners will be announced June 17, 2011 at our kick-off concert at the 4th Stage of the National Arts Centre. No cash substitutions.

118 day overland trip does not include travel expenses from Canada.


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School Performances

Yesterday the Baobab Youth went on the road for a couple of school shows. Two vans full of drums and five vehicles of performers….our first stop was at Churchill Alternative School where Baobab collaborated with the Churchill Lunchtime Drummers, made up of  kids in grades 4-6 who have been practising their drumming and dancing during lunchtimes the last few months. Lead by myself and teacher Natalie Shorkey, these kids had some great moves and rhythms. Their skills led them easily into a collaboration with the older Baobab kids for Kpanlogo. A huge amount of fun. Churchill School presented us with a generous donation towards our Footsteps trip in July.

After the first show, we moved on to Kanata. where we played at St Anne’s Catholic school to a very large audience of enthusiastic kids.  One of the staff is a parent of ours and her son Rowan gave a great performance on lead drum for Danse Guerriere! The Q&A time was full of great questions and gave our gang a chance to talk about our rehearsals and other aspects of the music and dance we do together. A great opportunity for us to hone our touring and performance skills! They will be needed for our spring tour to Toronto and,  of course,  Ghana. Thanks to all the parent volunteers.

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Shoe La La!

Sunday saw a very different set up at the Baobab Studio…so different that we had to spill out into the big room of our wonderful landlords, St George’s.  Usually its all about drums, drums and more drums but this time it was shoes, shoes and more shoes!

Not to mention scarves, jewellery, boots and purses. This Footsteps to Ghana fundraiser was a big success. Thanks to everyone in our community who donated items for the sale….lots of it was even new and was a big hit with the afternoon shoppers some of whom got there early to wait in line for the best deals. And there were some great deals to be had. There were a slew of volunteers on hand that day, not to mention those who had done all the terrific sorting. A great fundraising event; and quite a few footsteps closer to Ghana and our projects there.

After the busy event, the adults going to Ghana assembled for one of our bonding dinners (wouldn’t you do that if you were going to be taking 23 teens to West Africa?!!!) We had discussions about Ghana, what to expect in terms of cultural customs,  and we ate some delicious food. Baobab instructor and co-founder Rory Magill even bbq’d up some sardines in the driveway prior to the  dinner which he served with kenke and hot sauce (can you say shito?), a favourite among Ghanaians. He served the food with his usual off the wall and totally entertaining accounts of Ghanaian culture. About five months until we leave….getting closer….

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New Funding Announcement!

Baobab Community is pleased to announce that we are recent recipients of funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. These funds have made it possible to purchase large mirrors for our walls, to better serve our rehearsals and African dance classes. In addition, OTF funds have been used to purchase new equipment for our office, which will update and support our new website and social media efforts. Baobab Community is very grateful to the OTF for their support. The Ontario Trillium Foundation is an agency of the Government of Ontario.

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Quiz Night

The Baobab Community hosted our first ever Quiz night last Sunday night. Held at the new Royal Oak pub in downtown Ottawa, more than 90 participants crowded into the space ready to test their memory and recall, while enjoying refreshments which somewhat hampered those skills! Teams of six made it a collective effort with a little friendly competition, sometimes even within the teams… A few American guests upped the ante on the USA related questions, and several Baobab Youth parents were put on the spot,  needing to know names of some of the repertoire performed by their kids. Quiz Master Paul Paquet did a fabulous job, as did organizer Claire Thompson,  a parent and board member with our organization. The event was a very successful fundraiser for the Footsteps to Ghana trip this coming summer. A total of $1860 was made. Way to go teams! Thanks for the support.

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