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Camp Drumming!!!!


We have just finished a very fun & successful week at Rhythm Trek Camp. We had 13 kids enrolled from ages 7-13. We also had five outstanding volunteers, three from Baobab Youth Performers and two from the Carleton University Music Dept. I had a great time teaching the new version of Gota I learned this past May while  in Ghana…we even got some of the dancing down! Then guest instructor Dominic Donkor worked on hand drumming with the group, introducing some new parts and songs for Kpanlogo…we especially enjoyed singing about “me young girl”. Tuesday afternoon was a change of pace and we did some fabulous art with guest Maureen Clarke. Flower pot chimes….they sounded and looked gorgeous…a great way to make use of some of my old Ghanaian beads.
As always we try for lots of outside time, both in the park and the pool. It was a pretty nice week in all weather wise.

Friday lunch was our Ghanaian food celebration, introduced and cooked by Rory Magill. Delicious…and everyone seemed to really enjoy the food!

We did a final showing of the pieces for parents and friends on Friday afternoon. Very special thanks to the Nepean Rotary Club who made it possible for us to provide four fully subsidized spots for the camp. Everyone had a blast!

girls drumming drumming kdrumming talking with Dominic kids chimeskids painting2 shepainting outside1 outside 2 swim swing menus watermelon painting


And now a few words from the kids themselves:
“I liked the big wide open space”
“I liked the different pieces”
“I liked meeting all the helpers and Kathy & Dominic”
“I met new friends, I learned new things”
“Stick drumming is really fun!”
“I liked making chimes”

“On Wednesday we had lessons from the best drummer in the world!”
“I am definitely coming back!”

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End of Season Notes

Both the ROOTS kids and Baobab Youth were busy while I was away in Ghana in May. The ROOTS kids worked with Dominic Donkor for four sessions and gave an engaging open house performance at the end of May. We are lucky to have him around! He will be back for the Rhythm Trek Camp in the summer.

ROOTS May 2013Baobab Youth also worked with Dominic and learned a new piece, Sikyi,  which we will add to our repertoire. Baobab Youth member Emily, worked with Kathy to give workshops at the Ottawa Children’s Festival in early June….hot days and hot tents. But perfect for drumming!

Emily & Kathy

June was also the celebration month for our friends at Cantiamo Choir, directed by Jackie Hawley who were celebrating 10 years! They invited us to be part of their concert, for a large scale Gahu. Seemed fitting since they graced us with their fabulous singing at OUR 10th Anniversary concert in 2005!

Cantiamo anniversary June 2013 012

We finished the season with our Sankofa concert at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield. We presented our new piece Sikyi, led by Dominic Donkor which was well received. Dominic brought his friends Owuo Begine and Kwame Letsa and they did a great set on their own. Have a great summer….see you in the Fall!







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Kingston Tour!

Baobab Youth had a quick run out to Kingston, ON last weekend for an overnight trip and concert. We were invited to work with the Cantabile Choirs, longtime collaborators and friends of Baobab. Under the direction of Mark Sirrett and Marie Anderson, the choirs always demonstrate amazing musicianship and have an international reputation for their excellence.


The afternoon dress rehearsal gave us a chance to practice our set, and figure out how to adapt our dances to the space at Sydenham United Church. Then the choirs arrived and we did a dress rehearsal with all 100 of us for Gahu which was open to the public.

The youth choir prepared and served an amazing pot luck dinner for us all, then it was concert time.

The choirs sang a couple of sets and we performed a few of our pieces. Then, after intermission the full on Gahu happened beginning with our hatsiatsia. Great concert!






One sad milestone though… our beloved and ancient cricket for Bell Forest died and was unable to be resuscitated. We did everything we could. Bell Forest happened without it…during intermission we paid tribute and poured a libation for the deceased cricket….now we REALLY have to put the search on for a new one!


Next day we all walked on the waterfront and up Princess St. Stops at the famous Pan Chancho Café and a few small purchases.


Thanks for our parent drivers/chaperones: Lorie, Joanna, Russ and Jennifer.  Pictures courtesy of Russ Molot.

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Yesterday was Ghana’s 56th Independence Day! It was also our last day at the Hintonburg CC where we have been holding classes and rehearsals since September. Looking forward to the move back to our space at St George’s now that their renos are over,  but we are very grateful to HCC for having us there! Our final ROOTS Winter class was last night and early arrivals helped our art teacher Maureen lay out the beautiful Adinkra votive candles they made with her. Once they had all arrived we played a great Open House for family and friends, highlighting the pieces they worked on with me this session.  Some Bobobo hand drumming, Gahu stick drumming and Bobobo dancing.  Also a VERY nice stone passing game. See you all in April for the Spring session!

Our Youth said goodbye to HCC by playing an informal  concert for the after 4 program there.


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Red Velvet Rhythm

This past Sunday, members of Baobab Youth and the jazz choir from Arnprior’s High School got together to make some great music. The event was hosted by Baobab parents Don Monet & Becky Rynor at their CUBE Gallery in Ottawa. Surrounded by amazing art, the two groups performed a couple of sets for the packed crowd of all ages The choir is named Red Velvet and is directed by Frank Pecora and accompanied by a student rhythm section. They sounded so wonderful in that warm space and knocked us all out with their clear sound and engagement with the audience. A focal point was their version of Shakira’s Waka Waka , including some choreography I taught them from one of our Ghanaian pieces…Baobab Youth followed this number with our traditional Kpanlogo  highlighting the moves in Waka.  The two groups went on to give a South African medley of a Zulu dance song and gumboot set. During the breaks, everyone chowed down on DELICIOUS cupcakes made by our parent community (including some from Red Apron) and took part in the silent auction.  In all, a really great collaboration. We hope to do it again, maybe in Arnprior next time!

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December Gigs

This month Baobab Youth performed at a couple of local events, first for the Midezor Association Christmas gathering, where we performed for the Ewe speaking members from eastern Ontario  and Quebec and the Canada’s Deputy High Commissioner from Ghana. Always fun and an amazing array of traditional food and Bobobo dancing to a DJ…..


Kathy Armstrong with Midezor President Alberta Lawson and Ghana Language and Culture School director, Sam Bonti-Ankomah

A few days later we performed at the Awesome Arts Celebration night, where we met and shared the stage with some amazing beat boxers, rappers, slam poets, other drummers, and just plain awesome kids!


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Gahu, Eh!

Well it was a FANTASTIC evening  at our big show last night, with Nani Agbeli, Carleton West African Rhythm Ensemble and Baobab Youth. It was soooo much fun to get both my performance groups together, and to have the excellent artistic contribution of Nani, who has been connected to us in one way or another since my first trip to Ghana in 1990, although this is our first show together. We had a lot of fun in the massed pieces of Tokwoe and Gahu, with over 50 performers in each! Nani blew us all away in his dance solo to Adzogbo music…what a powerhouse performer he is. And his teaching and motivating presence is so wonderful for us all. Each group also did their thing for a few pieces. Audience turnout was wonderful..lots of familiar and new faces mingling. We so appreciate the generous donations from Julia Walmsley & Nadine Powers for making this specific project possible.  It was great to be able to indulge in such a large scale artistic project…its been a while for sure! We were pleased to see CBC television filming a short segment which aired later that evening and to Chris Thompson and Lyndon Goveas for their video and photos of the evening. Excerpts of the video can be found on our video page and Lyndon’s photos are below, as well as on our facebook page. Enjoy!

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ROOTS Open House

Last night we had the ROOTS Open House to celebrate our Fall session. As luck would have it, Nani Agbeli was in town to work with our older Youth Performers, so he stopped in to hear the ROOTS kids play their Gahu, and do some mesmerizing drumming for them. The class continued on to give a short, but stellar performance of the pieces they have been working on this term,  for family and friends….Bell Forest (emerging from the closet in the half light), Gahu drumming, Gahu dancing, and Kpanlogo singing and drumming. This class is dedicated and loving the drumming…I can’t wait to do more with them in the new year.


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Nani Agbeli Workshop!

Yesterday we welcomed guest artist Nani Agbeli to Ottawa to begin his residency with Baobab Youth and Carleton University’s West African Rhythm Ensemble. Both groups are working towards our November 23 concert “Gahu, EH!” which will take place at Kailash Mitel Theatre on the Carleton Campus.

Nani is based in Boston where he teaches at Tufts University and Berklee. He is originally from the Ewe village of Kopeyia, near the border of Ghana and Togo and our ties with his extremely musical family go way back…..Nani is an exceptional performer and keeper of these traditions and we are very lucky to be able to work with him.

First off though, yesterday Baobab Youth performed a short and well received set at the Granny Fest, in support of their amazing work with the Stephen Lewis Foundation. We then piled into cars and went to meet Nani for an intensive workshop on Tokwoe and Gahu, the two focal points for the upcoming concert. Nani is a tough teacher by his own admission and made everyone work hard. Not only on the nuances and details of the drumming and dance but on the most elusive and critical keys to a great performance: expression and communication of their passion for the music. “I don’t FEEL you!” was a common comment from him, but by the end we were definitely putting it out there.  Here are a few pics….


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Taste of Wellington

The group kicked off our season with an outdoor performance and hands-on drum petting zoo as part of our neighbourhood Taste of Wellington day last Saturday. We set up in front of our temporary rehearsal space at the Hintonburg Community Centre.  The group is smaller this year since we said goodbye to some of our graduating members. But everyone is stepping up to the task of learning lead parts for drumming and dancing and moving outside their comfort zone to try different parts. Its going to be a very good year….


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