more info »

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….

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in Footsteps to Ghana, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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! “
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Sunny Day in Wakefield

Yesterday we had the pleasure of performing for annual Great Grannies Concert in Wakefield Quebec. This amazing group of women has been staging this fundraiser for the grandmothers in South Africa for years, and its been our honour to have been involved since the beginning, first with our adult group Akpokli and this year with the Baobab Youth. Summer being summer, we had only 10 of the 22 kids in the group, but these ten worked hard and played well, (including three new ROOTS kids who are moving up to the older group this season- Iris, Jona and Ben TS….)

Now, we play lots of fundraisers for wonderful causes, some more formal than others but this one is always quirky and a huge amount of fun…held on the locally famous covered bridge, performers are met by an amazing group of friendly volunteers and “grandmothers” dressed in breezy and groovy clothing. We were in great company, the Sifa Choir and the Ramesha Drummers performed, among others. This being Wakefield, there were tons of cyclists, swimmers and bridge jumpers meandering throughout the event. This is very African, this coming together of arts, community focus and everyday life, all just happening around us. Some of us went swimming after the gig in the beautiful Gatineau river, and one of us even did the big bridge jump!

A great way to raise some money and a chance for the group to dust off our drumming hands and get ready for what promises to be a busy and exciting season……Thanks to Carole for the photo.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rhythm Trek Camp

“I liked how everyone drums and it sounds sirously good and it makes real music. I like the Gahu dance and drumming because it makes my upsidedown frown UP!
I am 9 years old, my name is Nasteho.”

Last week was a special week at the studio, bringing 13 kids ages 8-12, two Baobab Youth mentors, and music, art and food instructors together for a fabulous and fun cultural learning experience.

Kathy Armstrong worked with the kids on Gahu drumming and dancing, a great intro piece from Ghana played with sticks. Rowan and Claudia were our amazing volunteer mentors from Baobab Youth. They taught the kids some great rec games, oversaw the lunchtimes and spent time working on their own leadership skills through some lead drum parts which they showcased at the end of the week.
As Rowan, age 14 said” This year’s Rhythm Trek Camp was a great success. All the kids learned so much and were so much fun to work with. I also loved learning lead drum for Gahu and Kpanlogo. Once again I can’t enforce how gifted, fun and exciting all of the campers are.”

On Tuesday, everyone made a fabulous Adinkra art project with artist Maureen Clarke – a keepsake box- beautifully painted and inscribed, which they took home on Friday.

Ghanaian Dominic Donkor came in from Montréal to work with the campers for two days, teaching them drumming and dancing for Kpanlogo, aided by teacher and Baobab Board member Nadine  Rory organized the Ghanaian food segment, making menus for the chop bar “New Friend-chop Bar” (named by the kids) and cooking and serving the food on Friday at our lunchtime celebration.

Through the generosity of the Rotary Club and Queen Elizabeth School we were able to offer four subsidized spots to the camp. The community presentation at the end of the week was a great showcase of all the fun and hard work that took place. Thanks to all who participated and helped out. Can’t wait for next year!
A few closing words from 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. “

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Drumming in Kingston

Yesterday I drove to Kingston and picked up Kofi Dunyo who had bussed in from Toronto. We are teaching for the week at a wonderful camp for kids called Pushing Boundaries. Its an arts camp with drumming, singing, visual art and social justice themes. We took a walk through Kingston to all the outdoor locations for the camp, although we will me mostly based in the beautiful and old Sydenham St United Church. The artistic week will unfold organically and culminate in a memorial event honoring the Hiroshima bombing Anniversary. There will be a strong theme of peace at the event, including the launching lanterns into Lake Ontario at the end. Looking forward to the week!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment