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Rhythm Trek 2014

Camp groupAn amazing week despite the rain…full of drumming, dancing, singing, food and Ghana day-name art! The kids learned two pieces, Gahu and Kpatsa with Dominic and myself and really worked hard to pull all the elements together. We had great help from assistant camp director Meaghan  and fantastic volunteers Emily, Samantha and Rory. We could not have done it without you! Final food day Friday was a blast with Dongo Rory and Fanta in the bottle gave the traditional food the final Ghana touch. On Thursday we all went to the City of Ottawa Summer Arts Festival in Bellevue Park and performed some of our pieces for kids in City camps. Here are a few pics…

Camp 1Camp9Cam10Camp3Camp5Camp 4Camp7Camp8 Meaghan and SamCamp11Camp12Camp14camp16 Camp17Camp18Camp19Camp20Camp21Camp23Performance2performance 1

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Black Sheep Inn & Kwasi Dunyo

14ME-Baobab-Sheep--3962Last Sunday was our final show for the season. It was a chance to go to our favorite venue and play some traditional repertoire as well as our new highlife music! We also had our Sankofa ceremony,saying goodbye to those leaving the group this year.

Our guest artist was Kwasi Dunyo, a friend and mentor to Baobab since we began, and my first teacher in Ghana, way back in 1990. Kwasi played lead on Atsiagbekor, Zigi and of course the Gahu Finale with alumnae and members of the public.

It was SO wonderful to showcase the highlife tunes we have been working on this year. A couple of E.T. Mensah songs, arranged by Rory Magill and featuring Baobab kids on drums, small percussion as well as electric guitar, bass, drum kit and with the help of a couple of friends on trumpet and sax…thanks Avery and Billy! Kwasi played some great hand drumming with us on those tunes, and I am sure they will become a regular part of our repertoire!

It was especially fun to have a bunch of almunae there…Ben, Claudia, Sara, Willow, Augusta, Ben TS,  Claire and Emma. They all danced and drummed with us…not forgetting the groove at all! Emma was there to see her younger sister Leah who was dancing her last show with us…Leah along with Augusta, Diana, Victoria Anne and Ben TS received their Sankofa pendants, adinkra symbols made in Ghana, that signify the need to look back to where you have come from to inform you of your future path. A great proverb and a very popular one on Ghana. Always hard to say goodbye to such a special bunch and it always seems to be a special bunch. You and your families will be missed!

Fabulous photos below courtesy of Lyndon Goveas. Thanks!



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Africa Day in the Capital

We have been busy…last night we played at a very special event that included African ambassadors and officials from the government of Canada at the St Elias Banquet Hall to commemorate Africa Day. The special guest speaker was the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean who drew a paparazzi-like crew of journalists.

The annual event is marked to celebrate the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which was established on May 25, 1963 in Addis Ababa; it was disbanded in 2002 and replaced by the African Union (AU). The event was attended by ambassadors and diplomats representing more than thirty African nations with food, local custom items amazing attire and music! We represented the music of West Africa and there were three other ensembles in attendance. We were thrilled to be invited by the acting Ghana High Commissioner Mr. Kwaasi Obeng-Koranteng.


African ambassadors and officials from the government of Canada descended on the Government Conference Centre in downtown Ottawa yesterday to commemorate Africa Day.The annual event is marked to celebrate the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which was established on May 25, 1963 in Addis Ababa; it was disbanded in 2002 and replaced by the African Union (AU). The event was attended by ambassadors and diplomats representing more than thirty African nations- See more at:

African ambassadors and officials from the government of Canada descended on the Government Conference Centre in downtown Ottawa yesterday to commemorate Africa Day.The annual event is marked to celebrate the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which was established on May 25, 1963 in Addis Ababa; it was disbanded in 2002 and replaced by the African Union (AU). The event was attended by ambassadors and diplomats representing more than thirty African nations- See more at:
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Rhythm of May

As usual, May is shaping up to be a busy month….we hosted a public open house on May 7th for National Youth Arts Week. It was a great success with 26 youth and 22 children taking part! It was so wonderful to see our youth express their artistic leadership in teaching the music and dance they know so well. They planned the whole session and led all the drumming dancing and singing. Three of them stayed on to help with the ROOTS Open House that followed,  which was great,  as we had a really large turnout for that…thanks Emily, Patty and Diana, we couldn’t have done it without you!


The following week was our final ROOTS class for the year. They opened with a challenging piece…the two interlocking parts for Tokwoe which they spoke and then played on stick drums. Those particular rhythms were also part of the arts class we did this spring session with Maureen Clarke…some cool hanging beads arranged with the patterns of the piece. They got to take those home at the end of the night. The other highlight was the choreography for Kpanlogo, a piece this group has only previously done the drumming and singing for. It was great to see them really into the dance.

We all appreciated the volunteer efforts of Meaghan Cullen, who stayed on to help with the end of the ROOTS sessions, even though her Practicum course through Carleton U Music has ended. She has developed some great drumming and teaching skills,  and given so much of her time and energy. It won’t be the same without her and we hope she’ll be back next season in a new capacity!

A couple of interesting gigs are coming up at the end of the month for Baobab Youth…stay tuned….


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Boston-Final Day

Everyone slept in on our final morning. On purpose…we wanted to get a good rest,  as sore throats were starting to emerge and we knew we had a challenging workshop with Nani Agbeli later in the afternoon. The youth themselves had asked if we could check out Harvard so we adjusted some plans and headed through town to Cambridge. Not exactly a straight or easy route,  but interesting. Our van had an unexpected tour of the MIT area and a drive back up Mass Ave. when we took a wrong turn. One of our chaperones has some familiarity with the Harvard Square area from her college days so we all met in the Coop. What a bookstore! I was hoping someone would just magically drop a thousand dollars into my account. I could have spent that in about 30 minutes.

Harvard 1Harvard 2We split up into groups and toured around Harvard Yard, where SO many movies have been made. Since it was pre-frosh weekend, there were several musical combos walking around and playing, trying to get future students to sign up for an ensemble next year. I think Emma almost got signed up for one :) Great architecture; good mix of old and new,  and really lovely scale overall.

Harvard 3Harvard 4Harvard 5Everyone grabbed a bite and then headed back to Medford to get ready for our workshop with Nani. We arrived at the Music Building, our third time now, so it really felt comfortable going there.

GranoffWe had decided to work on Tokwoe with Nani and we began with everyone dancing, after showing him where we were with the arrangement he taught us a couple of years ago. As usual, Nani asks for full commitment in terms of body response: head movement, torso angles, deep knee bends, very flexible back etc etc. He decided to add a new variation which was really fun….including a new drum part for me on lead which I was scrambling to put in the right spot. We danced for a long time and only had time to correct small supporting drumming parts before it was over. But the workshop continued on in everyone’s thighs. Ouch. There was some trouble getting up stairs for the next 48 hours :)

Nani WS 1Nani WS 2Nani WS 3Nani WS 4Nani WS 5Post workshop we watched some of Nani’s rehearsal with his community adult group Agbekor Society, founded by David Locke more than twenty years ago, who has been a wonderful guide for me over the years with this music and community. Really inspirational evening!

Kathy & Davidgroup Nani & DavidBut we were all FULL in so many ways and did not stay more than an hour. We headed back to the hotel and had some swims, did some packing, reflecting, and some visiting back and forth. And… some more visiting back and forth. And….some more visiting back and forth.  ;)

What a great group of youth to travel with. We ALL had fun. And Cliff bars took on a status usually reserved for Fanta in Ghana. Go figure. Until next time! Akpesia!



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Downtown Boaston

We had a great day in downtown Boston yesterday. The weather was pretty crappy but we kept to our schedule and really enjoyed ourselves! We started with a tour of Paul Revere’s house which was built in the 1600’s and which he lived in as a silversmith (among other freelance jobs) during the latter 1700’s, when he made his famous ride. It was a large house by the standards of the times, but still we were amazed that he lived there with his first wife and 8 kids, and then when she died giving birth to the last, he remarried and had 8 more with his new wife. Yes they all slept there in rope beds. :)

Paul revereAfter a little steeping in history and context we travelled the cobblestone streets along the Freedom Trail to Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall for some shopping and amazing lunch choices. It was pouring outside but we,  along with a bunch of other youth bands and tourists enjoyed seeing all the stalls of fresh seafood and crazy things to buy. Live music from a youth orchestra in the rotunda and some funky sights and smells.

Quincy rotunda

We then walked past some amazing architecture, through the very old city cemetery which was incredibly beautiful. A rainy day helped to give the old stones both beauty and dignity. A common symbol of the day was a skull and wings, one of the earliest non-religious symbols on tombstones….signifying both death as well as the fleeting time of life.

State buildingMagnoliacemetary 1Cemetary 2A short while later we ended up at the Boston Commons, a glorious green space that would have just been a little nicer had the weather been sunnier….we continued on to the eclectic and oh- so-expensive Newbury St as well as Boylston St, where tributes to the Boston Marathon runners were everywhere…pretty moving… “Boston Strong” tees and posters and emotions. Boston common1Boston Common 2We were walking towards our dinner destination when we came upon a curious but incredibly beautiful archway along the harbour where the  most amazing American flag billowed in every direction. Hard to describe, but a nice surprise. After walked along the windy and cold waterfront, we arrived at the Boston Sail Loft for dinner, a very quaint and REAL former sail loft on one of the wharfs. Everyone enjoyed some great seafood and views. No question we were all pretty bagged heading back to the hotel!

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Boston Sail loftoutside dinner


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Baobab & Kiniwe

Kiniwe posterBaobab Youth had a FANTAstic concert with Kiniwe last night, the Tufts Music African Ensemble directed by Nani Agbeli. We greeted concert goers in the lobby with our Bell Forest which sounded lovely in the space.

BellForest TuftsOur feature piece on the program was Danse Guerriere, which came second in the program. The youth did a great job and really enjoyed playing for an audience that knows this style of music so well, and the audience loved them back. Check out the video  here! (thanks to parent Stuart McCarthy).

The rest of the concert was various formations  of  the Kiniwe drummers and dancers, Agbekor the adult community group and another guest artist, Saeed Abbas a fantastic northern Ghanaian drummer. He and Nani did a virtuostic duet that prompted some money praise on the foreheads…

The students at Tufts did a high octane performance of Adzogbo, with full costume that was magnificent and so much work to put together. There were drum-only versions of Tokwoe and Gahu and a Kpanlogo that featured men and women separately, including a crazy highlight of an exit for the men….they were all in full plank form on the floor and did jumping pushups as they exited across the stage. There were many jaws permanently dropped amongst our youth! An impressive Atisiagbekor and women’s Atsia followed and then the Kpanlogo finale with everyone on stage. We have a few pics of that, including some very happy post-performance pics. What a night! Here is the full concert link, courtesy of Tufts University.

Dance party

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Boston Tour

Baobab Youth members are having a great time in Boston! We arrived after an easy drive down. I love listening to my passengers’ playlists….there are always some great new bands to discover and some of my own favourites. We are staying in Medford so we have easy access to Tufts University. The hotel is great! Each room is a suite and the huge couches are a hit.

Boston HtelThe chaperones are a great bunch and we couldn’t do it without them! Mix of parents and the amazing Hayley de Bie.

Boston chaperonesOur first day was hanging around Davis Square, a hip neighbourhood near the University…..with second hand shops, other funky stores and a GREAT café with killer coffee…called Diesel no less. Everybody happy! Especially the director!

Davis square nameDavis Square 1

Davis Square2


After  a bite in Davis Square, we went to Tufts for a look at the Music Building where we were going to be performing. We had arranged to get a tour from first year grad student, Brett, a drummer who is working on a Bobobo thesis. The Granoff music building is impressive in its beauty, facilities-classrooms, practices rooms, library (the moveable stacks were a BIG hit;) and of course Distler Hall.

Distler HallThe World Music Room had us all DROOLING!  And when we left, Nani was beginning a rehearsal with guest artist Saeed Abbas for the show.

World Music room 1World Music room 2Nani & Saeed AbbasBrett was nice enough to show us around some of the rest of the campus and since it was a spectacular weather day, we climbed up tot he roof of the Tisch Library where you can see the Boston skyline.

Campus 1Campus 2Campus Boston view

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Today Baobab Youth  performed at the Annual GrannyFest in Ottawa. This is one of four causes we regularly donate our time to. The Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign is a simple and powerful force. Their work for the Stephen Lewis Foundation is impressive and the women who are part of this movement are extraordinary. They gave us a standing ovation at the end of our performance. It was very meaningful for us. We know that they understand how powerful music and dance can be, and how different the opportunities are for youth in Ottawa when compared with youth in Africa.

What strikes me is just how all of our actions are intertwined. I have had the privilege of  working with members of the Capital Grannies, for several years,  teaching and performing drum pieces and songs with them, initiated by the amazing, late Kate Bryant with guts and humour.Baobab recently lost another friend to cancer, former Board member Kevin Thomson,  a founder of  of the much loved and much enjoyed Cocoa Camino. A lover of Africa, ideas, people and community, Kevin left an indelible mark in so many ways, as was celebrated by his friends and family last weekend. His time with Baobab’s Board of Directors was incredibly useful to us in our early days.  He shared his business skills, friendship, creativity and and integrity with us. In lieu of flowers at his life celebration, Kevin’s wish was for people to donate to the Stephen Lewis Foundation. So today we dedicated our performance to Kevin. Akpe kakakaka!
The ripples will continue to expand.

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Baobab Youth and students of the Ghana Language and Culture Association came together last night with guest artists Prosper Adjetey and Dominic Donkor for a wonderful show! The performance was the culmination of a month of workshops, and featured Tokwoe, two styles of Gota, Fume Fume, Husago and a Kpanlogo finale with all the performers. It was an intimate and personal vibe that also gave the audience a chance to see and hear a funny and engaging duet by Prosper and Dominic. A big thank you to Carleton Music Practicum student Meaghan Cullen, who put the elements together as part of her course work with us. She did an awesome job, taking on all the various tasks of concert production including design conception,  media,  budgeting,  renting lights, program, logistics and artistic details.  Thanks also to the volunteers who made it possible.

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