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Teacher’s Art Workshop

Yesterday, fifteen teachers from across the Ottawa Carleton Board of Education came to the Baobab Studio to make art with Maureen Clarke and get some creative ideas for Black History Month projects with their students. Organized by CAT Visual Arts resource teacher Holly Blair, the afternoon session went quickly,  including discussions about the links between rhythm, patterns, drumming and art in Ghana,  West Africa with Kathy Armstrong.  By the end, all of the teachers had wonderful frames with adinkra and kente patterns to take back to their classrooms .  A small taste of what is to come April 15-17 at our weekend workshop for teachers (see the events page for more information).

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Drumming for Hintonburg

Baobab Youth Performers kicked off the new year with a free show at the Hintonburg Community Centre this afternoon.  With an audience of about 50 kids from the  after school program, as well as various parents and staff, the Youth Performers got the kids fired up about drumming just in time for the winter session of free weekly drum classes,  which begins there tomorrow. These free classes are a partnership between the City of Ottawa and Baobab Community and will be taught by a Baobab Youth Alumni, Ben Holland, now a Carleton University student. Funding from the City of Ottawa helped with the purchase of some cool looking and sounding hand drums from Dave’s Drum Shop and the general cost of the classes.

We are  very excited about this initiative!

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Rhythm Café

“We  really enjoyed our time today at Rhythm Cafe. It was so great to see so many young people engaged in an experience that they would not have without the existence of your program. Your description of the program in the EMC was right on, it was fun and entertaining.  Even the coffee was good.  We look forward to attending any future presentations.” -Rhythm Café attendees

A fabulous afternoon with the Baobab Community happened this past Saturday. Our annual fundraiser was book-ended by an all ages workshop on the front end and a dynamite adult dance class performance at the end. Members of the community, including our local MPP Yasir Naqvi joined myself and the Baobab Youth for a hands-on  workshop in the music of Ghana. Crowded into the studio ,we soon had several layers of groove happening. Moving into in the larger room nearby the youth with guests Dominic Donkor and Prosper Adjetey performed several recreational pieces in our repertoire…..a highlight was the surprise ending to Angie and Rowan‘s duet in Gota!

The Monday night adult dance class has been working hard with Prosper Adjetey on a difficult piece form the northern part of Ghana called Bawa. Dancers have to know the intricate drumming beats given by Dominic Donkor, in order to respond. We were all mesmerized! The class joined Baobab Youth for a fun jam at the end.

Proceeds from this annual event go towards the general arts education programming that Baobab Tree does, as well as the youth trip to Ghana next summer. Thanks to all who volunteered and those who came out to support, especially the local businesses who contributed to our Silent Auction, and our sponsors Camino and Bridgehead Coffeehouse. We are always grateful to our manager Hayley de Bie who put all the logistics together with parent volunteers. An awesome job as always!! 

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Baobab on Ice!

OK we weren’t quite on ice….but right above it at the Rideau Curling Club here in Ottawa. Baobab Youth performed yesterday at a fundraising Bonspiel for Farm Radio International, an amazing organization that does terrific work in Africa. Curlers (is that the term?) played in the morning and afternoon and were treated to a wonderful lunch in between and entertainment by the youth. The crowd, supportive and knowledgeable about development was a great and enthusiastic audience for us and interested in our ties to Ghana. One of those win-win events. And as far as I can remember in sixteen seasons, we have never played a bonspiel. Always new frontiers….

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November Indulgence Campaign

As part of our “Footsteps to Ghana” fundraising, Baobab Youth is selling coffee and chocolate during the month of November. High quality fair trade, organic chocolate from Camino & coffee beans from Francesco’s Coffee. Delicious treats that give back!

Great for holiday gift giving, teacher thank-yous, stocking stuffers etc. To place your order contact a Baobab Youth member that you know, or contact our office (613)725-6994

Orders are due by November 24th Delivery early December. Payment due at time of order. Thanks

COFFEE: Guatemala French Roast (bold) , Caffé Mondovi (medium), Espresso Garibaldi and Columbian French (decaf) $16-$18lb

CHOCOLATE: 100g bars: Milk with Sea Salt, Raspberry, Panama Dark80%, Milk Chocolate, caramel Crunch, Dark55%, Almonds, Orange, Mint ($48 for box of 12 bars)

32g bars (new puffy ones!): Peanut Butter fill, Almond Butter Fill, Almond & Raisins ($30 for box of 20 bars)

Hot Chocolate Powder 275g/336g tins: Milk, Dark & Chili & Spice ($48-$54 per box of 6 tins)

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Pumpkin UP the Party!

Last Saturday was an amazing community fundraiser for our Footsteps to Ghana campaign. The O’Nyon family, friends of Baobab Community,  hosted a pumpkin carving party and house concert with fantastic food and drink. The weather was crappy but that didn’t keep people away, and after carving great orange heads outside, about 80 cold neighbours and friends of all ages crowded into the Westboro home for the rest of the festivities. The outdoor drum and dance concert was hastily arranged inside by moving furniture and adapting to what seemed to be a large space, until you got 20 teenage performers and their drums and gumboots into position. The rhythms reverberated off the walls, and the dancers smiles lit up the room, creating a humid cacophony of fun.  It was a real village experience, bringing people, food, drink and community together. The event raised more than $500 in donations for the trip to Ghana in the summer of 2011. many thanks to the grand efforts and generosity of the O’Nyons! To see more info about the trip to Ghana click here!

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Mighty Popo

So one of my other hats is teaching music at Carleton University, in the School for Studies in Art and Culture. I am teaching a new fourth year seminar course this year  that I got to design from scratch (FUN,  WOW!). We are looking at traditional and popular African music  through the lens of some of the issues that surround it. What defines African music, its identity, ownership and copyright, fusion of styles, among other things. Its been really interesting and I am learning a lot along with the students as we probe some of these areas. I invited Mighty Popo in the other day to chat with the class about his music, his career and his new acoustic direction, inspired from studies in his native Rwanda in recent years. I’ve been a big fan of his since moving to Ottawa in 1994. We have often played at the same events and its been amazing watching the path of his career.He is certainly true to his own soul and artistic curiosity.  He was an excellent speaker and the students had lots of questions that sparked great discussion. He taught us a very cool song from his forthcoming CD, a simple melody with a clapping pattern in 5/4. We then played around with the “harmonies” getting a sense of how the tradition weaves melody in and out.

Baobab Tree is currently raising funds for a Youth Culture Project in the village of Dagbamete, Ghana, which we will take over when we go next summer. We will be supporting the formation of a young people’s drum and dance ensemble in the village, as many youth in Ghana (like elsewhere in the world) are not playing and dancing the old traditions, although they are part of the larger community and are certainly around & drumming when our youth visit. Popo is also working with youth in Rwanda and Burundi and encouraging them to look to the villages for inspiration in the traditional instruments and songs, for whatever style of music they play.

His new CD is beautiful and will be released at the Bronson Centre on Sat Oct 30 at 7pm. You can find out more about Popo at

Thanks to Carleton Music Dept for supporting his visit!

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Foosteps to Ghana Film Screening

Last night we screened the Footsteps to Ghana film at the fantastic vintage Mayfair Theatre. It was a magical evening beginning with a creative intro dreamed up by Rory Magill. The current Baobab kids filled the aisles with the sounds of Bell Forest, surrounding the audience with an array of cricket, frog and other natural sounds. The bells came next  in complex 12/8 patterns typical of West African rhythms, played with soft mallets and the deep totodzi drum was the last to add its rich timbre. The screen was then filled with some old video footage of mine from a trip to Ghana in 1997: young kids playing Gahu on tin cans, plastic pails etc. The older kids mentoring the younger ones in both dance and drumming. Our Baobab kids soon jumped up and began a live performance of Gahu as the video footage merged into an older kids Gahu from Ghana, with drums, costumes and vibrant faces. Our kids played with them and then  continued on after that faded out.

The live music finished to rousing applause and then we all sat down to watch the feature film, shot and directed by Francois Desrochers. At the time we only had a hand held personal video camera, one of the first digital ones available (2001 remember??) What he accomplished with that simple camera and  NO budget was,  quite simply, amazing. We were pleased he was able to be at the screening and he and we received lots of compliments afterwards.

Some comments from audience members:

“I just wanted to say what a brilliant film that was.  I wasn’t prepared for the flood of emotion it evoked”

“What a wonderful film. The youth group sounds amazing!”

“I must say, after watching the documentary last night, I’m all the more bummed that I’m not able to go with you all.  That said, I’m quite excited about the incredible opportunity ahead for my guy and the rest of the gang! “
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School Visit for Arts Workshops

Students from a grade two class at Queen Elizabeth School here in Ottawa came to the Baobab studio last Friday for a full day field trip. We drummed in the morning, had a lunch break outside and then made beautiful Adinkra art in the afternoon. Teacher Nadine Powers is committed to enriching her students’ learning through music, dance and visual art so this seemed like a great fit.

The class of 17 drummed and danced Kpanlogo music in the morning with myself, and then made an amazing group Adinkra painting, as well as their own to take home. The afternoon was led by Maureen Clarke, who has been doing a lot of teaching for Baobab Community lately. The kids all studied and learned about the famous Adinkra symbols of Ghana which often symbolize proverbs or character traits. The class as a whole chose the symbol Unity for their class piece. Check them out!

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Culture Days

Members of Baobab Community participated in Culture Days by drumming at a few events around the city:

This past Friday and Saturday Ben C, Rory and Kathy drummed the unveiling of two of the recently installed sculptures on Wellington West. Ottawa’s newest Public Art Commission has 18 beautiful marble sculptures by artists Marcus Kucey-Jones and Ryan Lotecki!

Sculpture Days was staged under the auspices of Culture Days, a national, grassroots arts and culture event that was celebrated in every province and territory in Canada last weekend.

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