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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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Gigging for Latrines!

Baobab Youth performed at the recent benefit put on by the Rotary Club of Nepean-Kanata, to raise funds for a new latrine system on the village of Dzogadze in Ghana. The concert was organized by Liliane Lalonde-McKennirey, a pianist and music teacher who accompanied us on our first trip to Ghana in 2001. There was an eclectic group of performers including the Orkidstra and the Goulbourn Male Chorus. We have spent many good times in Dzogadze watching and participating in local performances, as well as learning from the amazing drummer and dancers there. Their special piece in Dzogadze is Atsiagbekor a challenging and energetic story of battles fought. Its an amazing place and we are so pleased to offer our support. Here is a note from the chief:

Hi Kathy,
Liliane made me aware that you are going to perform a concert to raise fund for the WC project for Dzogadze. I want to thank you very much for this generous gesture. I am so grateful. My greetings to everybody. Wishing you a very wonderful weekend.

Torgbi Agblah.

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20th Season Launch

Last Saturday was our launch event for this Anniversary Season. What a day! Current Baobab Youth, alumnae, Board members, volunteers, families, special guests and the general public gathered to kick off our 20th celebrations. Our new tag line “Connecting with Rhythm” was visible in the special t-shirts designed by Mark Taylor of Friction Creative. They looked fantastic, up close or from a distance! We will be selling them throughout the year at all of our events.

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dsc_0134The launch took place in the lovely Somerset Square, and although it was a chilly day, the autumn sun lent an amazing energy to being outside. We are grateful to our sponsors for the event: The Red Apron for delicious pumpkin loaf, Bridgehead Coffee and the West End Well for logistical support at the event. Everyone enjoyed themselves. Board Chair Erica Sher kicked off the celebrations by welcoming everyone and giving a little background to the event. The group played a few pieces, beginning with a Drum Talk that started down the street on Wellington.

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Quite a few alumnae were present and helped dance and drum a couple of fave pieces: Gahu and Kpanlogo. Members represented years from 1995 right through to recent grads! So fantastic to have them there. We look forward to seeing more alumnae during our other events, especially the Sankofa weekend June3-4, 2016.

Baobab AlumOne of the earliest Baobab Youth members, Sarah-Jane Laberge, who started in 1995), spoke of her time with us during her formative years. It was a heartfelt, funny, and  poignant speech, moving many people to tears.  She talked about the community of individuals in the group that made a difference to her life in many ways. We also heard from Emily Klein, a longtime current member (in her last year with us) who spoke of her passion for this music and dance and the way the music brings joy and energy to her life. It was fantastic to hear from both these women.

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As a registered charity, Baobab Community has been fortunate in receiving funding through grants and donations from the City of Ottawa, the Ottawa Community Foundation (Gaia Fund), the Rotary Club, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Representing the Ontario government was the MPP for Ottawa Centre, Mr. Yasir Naqvi, who spoke about his experience in one of our drumming workshops, as well as congratulating us on our success. Federal Liberal candidate Catherine McKenna joined joined us as well for a while in between campaigning for the upcoming election.

event & guestsMr. NaqviThis is a special year, and we are grateful to be doing what we love. It has been an amazing adventure from 1995 to now, full of joy, challenges, growth, development, re-thinking, outreach, and connecting with rhythm. We look forward to what is ahead, both in the rest of this year and beyond!

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photo credits: Ben Holland, David Farley, Ian Holland and Kerry Gogush Cule
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Camp Week!

campgroupWhat a fantastic week at Rhythm Trek Camp! A group of 16 campers gathered last week each day to drum, dance, sing, play cards, eat together, swim and play games. Coached and guided by 5 wonderful volunteers: Sam, Quinn, Rory, Brianna & Patty. Taught by Kathy Armstrong, Dominic Donkor, Rory Magill and with an impromptu performance by visiting drummer dancer Nani Agbeli. What a great week! We learned some Bobobo and Danse Guerriere rhythms, dance moves for each, Pete Pete singing, mudcloth art projects and Ghanaian food day. The campers ranged in age from 6-13 and were awesome mentors to each other. A real treat to spend time with this group! See you next year! Special thanks to the Rotary Club of Nepean/Kanata for their support, as well as St. George’s Parish for space. Here are a few shots of the fun:

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