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36 power hours!

What a kick off ! In the space of two days Baobab Community launched ourselves into the new season! Tuesday was a fantastic lunchtime event on Parliament Hill supporting the upcoming Global Fund Replenishment Conference in Montreal. One.org along with Environment Minister Catherine McKenna hosted a reception that Baobab Youth were invited to perform at. Special visiting guests mother/daughter activists from Kenya spoke compellingly about their work with HIV/Aids and women’s rights. A real honour to be there.

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That evening, Baobab Community convened our 2016-17 Board members for the first meeting of the season. A big welcome to new members Cathy Sandiford and Sam Bonti-Ankomah. Thanks to hip Board member Ann Maloney for her large-group selfie skills ;) Other members for this year include chair Evie Gray, Tanis Stoliar, Kerry Gogush Cule, myself (ex officio) and Nadine Powers (not pictured). We are grateful for their efforts towards Baobab Community’s efforts!

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On Wednesday, we had our first Baobab Youth rehearsal of the season, followed by a special informal performance at the Art & Rhythm Vernissage with the gorgeous sculptures by Zimbabwean Chaka Chikodzi. Chaka even jammed with us on one of our pieces, using a marimba he made himself.

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We had some fabulous Ethiopian food by Sheba’s Cove on Wellington West, and played a few of our pieces. The event was host by Clare’s family and the setting was beautiful. Welcome to our new Baobab members! Thanks to Kerry & David & Megan & Kathy for pics ! I think we are ready for the year!

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Summer Camp

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Our annual Rhythm Trek Camp was a blast! We had 17 campers, 5 amazing volunteers and 5 artistic staff this year! Thanks to the Nepean-Kanata Rotary Club for their generous contribution towards the camp! We did some Tokwoe stick drumming that I led, some Fume Fume hand drumming with Dominic Donkor, dancing & singing for both, which we performed for family and friends on the Thursday. We also played some fun games left by our awesome volunteers Rory S., Quinn, Ioyan, Emma and Kevin. We had a photo workshop from Kate Settle of Beehive Studios, that turned out some fantastic work that the kids took home at the end of the week. Here are a few pics courtesy of Kevin, Rory, Liz & myself.

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IMG_8814IMG_8801IMG_8804I had to leave camp a day early this year but the group was under the great direction of Rory Magill for cooking and the special Ghana lunch celebration. The afternoon was a wonderful Brazilian drumming workshop with Liz Hanson, who recently moved to Ottawa from Brooklyn. We are lucky to have had them both! In Liz’s words here is how the last day went:

Today was very smooth! Rory made great food and this kids really loved it! They drummed hard all afternoon and learned so so fast. Basically they learned the whole samba arrangement, traded parts and we had time to add the hip hop part too. They put the rhythms together faster than anyone! I never had so many kids with so much experience.
We did a go around at the beginning where they said their names and what they love about music and their responses were so unique! We did some games…had the lunch, drummed snack drummed. Then we did a closing, highlight from the week, highlight from today and word of farewell.
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A truly fun week and a fantastic way to close out our 20th Anniversary year!

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Sankofa weekend

Full groupThanks to everyone for your contributions to make the final 20th celebration so successful and meaningful. The Baobab Youth Performers did a stellar artistic job on their own and with co-performers by their side! A memorable piece was Bell Forest in the sloping garden at twilight :) Close to 20 alumnae came to rehearsal and performed in Kpanlogo and Gahu like they had not ever left the group! Several of them gave terrific introductions to pieces, including their favourite memories.  A few made moving remarks about their time in the group and the importance of this music and dance during adolescence. What a gift to hear that!  Kudos to alumnus Ben Holland for all his hard work in tracking down former members through facebook and other means…his list had over 110 names! Our excellent guest artists for the weekend Kwasi Dunyo, Dominic Donkor, & Prosper Adjetey continue to inspire us and are a longtime part of our history. They have been coaching myself and members of the group for many years both here and in Ghana. A special moment came when graduating member Oliver was playing lead drum in Danse Guerriere, a piece introduced to us by Prosper and Dominic several years back. A the end of the piece, Dominic spontaneously ran out an gave Oliver hug of congratulations for such a great job on a difficult part!

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IMG_8603The generous use of the  Sher family home and garden was perfect for the concert, fitting everyone in but keeping an intimate feel.  Robin Burgener did a great job setting the mood with twinkly lights and sound system.TS IMG_0271 dessert table

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Special thanks to Ian Holland for the two amazing slide shows that kept everyone mesmerized and either laughing or crying. Also to Rory Magill for cooking delicious food for the party on Friday and the Dunyos all weekend. Our house was a revolving restaurant with a lot of laughter and chaos. Good friends Lois McGrath and Andi Murphy for housing guest overflow. Baobab parents helped out enormously with baking, admin, drum movement and silent auction tasks.

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Our Board of Directors Evie , Erica, Nadine, Abby, Ann, Emily, Tanis worked tirelessly all season to realize the Anniversary plan we conceived a year ago. In particular for this weekend, a big shout out to Kerry who pulled all the threads together in a calm and creative manner. It was really a team effort with a GREAT team!

The Ghanaian Adinkra symbol “Sankofa” teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Saying good bye to current grads Emily, Oliver, Patty & Jona was very difficult but it was a fantastic opportunity  to celebrate all they have contributed to the Tree! Lots more pics on our facebook page.

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Can’t just wait to see what the next few years of Baobab Community will bring!

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Mental Health Matters

IMG_0102The First week of May is designated as Mental Health Week by the Canadian Mental Health Association . It’s an annual national event that encourages people from all walks of life to learn, talk, reflect, and engage with others on all issues relating to Mental Health. We know that participatory music making and dancing is a wonderful way to support our mental and social health, especially for children and adolescents.  Baobab has recently adopted the Youth Services Bureau as one of several charities that we support through our performances to raise awareness and funds for youth well-being. Last week we played at the YSB Youth Recognition Awards dinner, bringing music and dance to the evening as well as involving some youth in our pieces.

Last night we performed at a local house concert to raise funds for the Attawapiskat youth suicide crisis. Organized by teacher and Baobab parent Lynn Rainboth, the evening featured several youth singing, playing, rapping and drumming. Algonquin Elder Annie Smith St. Georges and Metis Robert St George opened the evening with smudging and prayer, and later joined in our playing of Bell Forest. The weather permitted us to have the outside which was magical. A video of the performances along with messages of hope and collected donations is being sent to Attawapiskat. Thanks to Lynn for organizing!

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AGM (Awesome Greet & Meet)

IMG_0084Today was truly the most spectacular weather day Ottawa has seen in months. And it was also the date of our Annual General Meeting where we share with our community thoughts about where we have been recently, where we are going and celebrate all that is Baobab. Kudos to those that came out on a day where they could easily be off sailing, picnic-ing or gardening.  Our Board of Directors, led by interim chair Evie Gray did a spectacular job preparing, organizing logistics and making delicious food for the event. The youth, arriving after a morning community performance, easily made up half of the attendees. Probably the youngest demographic at an AGM that we have ever had! After a few presentations, including some finance info from Hayley, the youth and ROOTS members present did an impromptu Kpatsa. We finished in record time! Congrats to all. Minutes from the event will be posted here shortly. In the meantime, here are a few snapshots.

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Toronto/Ottawa Youth Connection!

IMG_0047At rehearsal this week we hosted members of the talented music department from Riverdale C.I. in Toronto. Teachers Nancy Flood and Camilla Rayman and I have been communicating for a couple of months to set this up. On a four day tour to Montreal and Ottawa,  they stopped in to do a Gahu workshop with me. About 50 students and staff drummed and danced and learned Gahu songs. We had a break for local delicious pizza from Napoli’s while Baobab Youth arrived from school. Thanks to our parent volunteers Michelle and Rhonda who organized fruit and drinks for everyone. After eating, Baobab performed a few pieces for the Toronto gang, and then we did a massed Gahu together. Lots of fun. Nancy Flood and I go way back to Scarborough Music days and as well, she has studied with our man Kwasi Dunyo, and even been to Ghana herself. It was great to reconnect. We hope to do another project together, maybe next year!

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Welcome!

Ref 8Baobab Youth Performers performed a couple pieces at  the OCISO (Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization)  “Refugee Welcome Event” this afternoon at the Jim Durrell Community Centre. It was a very moving experience!  The gathering exceeded OCISO’s hopes for attendance…more than 250 people were there. Lots of kids…many of the families are quite large. Welcoming speeches by members of OCISO, as well as MP David McGuinty, MPP John Fraser and Councillor Riley Brockington were interpreted into Arabic. When we got up to perform Danse Guerriere, with lots of drumming and dancing, dozens of phone cameras appeared as well as smiling faces, and children who gravitated towards our performance space. By the time we did our second piece I had a young girl just standing next to me while I played. Our second piece was Bell Forest, and we moved into the crowd handing out extra frog  and cricket soundmakers to the children so they could add to our rainforest rhythms. Afterwards we shared some musical time.  Very special. As we finished our performance, plates of flatbreads with hummous and various other yummy things were being delivered to the tables. It was very festive and we were thrilled to be part of it. Hopefully we will have another opportunity for more interaction at a future date! Here are a few photos thanks to one of our parents, Kerry.

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Welcome!

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  • Baobab Youth Performers performed a couple pieces at  the OCISO (Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization)  “Refugee Welcome Event” this afternoon at the Jim Durrell Community Centre. It was a very moving experience!  The gathering exceeded OCISO’s hopes for attendance…more than 250 people were there. Lots of kids…many of the families are quite large. Welcoming speeches by members of OCISO, as well as MP David McGuinty, MPP John Fraser and Councillor Riley Brockington were interpreted into Arabic. When we got up to perform Danse Guerriere, with lots of drumming and dancing, dozens of phone cameras appeared as well as smiling faces, and children who gravitated towards our performance space. By the time we did our second piece I had a young girl just standing next to me while I played. Our second piece was Bell Forest, and we moved into the crowd handing out extra frog  and crickRef 3Ref 4Ref 5 Ref 6et soundmakers to the children so they could add to our rainforest rhythms. Afterwards we shared some musical time.  Very special. As we finished our performance, plates of flatbreads with hummous and various other yummy things were being delivered to the tables. It was very festive and we were thrilled to be part of it. Hopefully we will have another opportunity for more interaction at a future date! Here are a few photos thanks to one of our parents, Kerry.
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Connections and Culture weekend-20th celebration

concert11What a great success this past weekend was! So many wonderful people, having so much fun with Ghanaian music, dance and food! We must first thank the Baobab Board of Directors who did an outstanding job of pulling all the elements together. Evie Gray, Abby Forson, Ann Maloney, Kerry Gogush-Cule, Tanis Stoliar, Emily Klein, Nadine Powers and our chair, Erica Sher.

In attendance at the concert Saturday night was the new Ghana High Commissioner, His Excellency Dr. Sulley Gariba, the Deputy High Commissioner, Mrs. Florence Akonor, President of the Ghana Association of Ottawa, Mr. Bismark Otoo and many more members of the Ghanaian community of Ottawa who are friends to Baobab. Also wonderful to see so many alumnae and families in the audience!

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Baobab alumnus Ben Holland (ROOTS, Youth and currently Carleton WARE) gave a funny and moving account of his 15 year involvement with this music and dance and a tribute to Baobab and my patience as a teacher ;). Our guest artist for the weekend Nani Agbeli, was a perfect choice for inspiring performers, audience members and students at the public workshops with his incredible, magnetic performance and teaching skills. The Ghanaian dinner at the end of the weekend was a tribute to the richness of the culture and the connections we make stronger through our collective love of the music and dance. Akpe kakakakaka to all! Photos courtesy of Ian Holland, Kathy Armstrong & jp Simbandumwe.

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ROOTS Fall 2015

This Fall’s ROOTS class was the largest we have had in a while. Great kids who work well together and did some amazing drumming and singing, which they showcased last night at our end of term open house. They also worked with Maureen Clarke to produce some great Ghanaian Adinkra art. The symbols were chosen to represent the kids’ thoughts about participating in drumming: leadership, abundance, strength & humility, friendship and peace & harmony. Once joined together, it became a colourful group piece which they gifted to the whole Baobab Community. We will happily and proudly display it at our 20th Anniversary Events this year! Yay ROOTS! Next session begins in January.

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