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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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Rhythm Trek 2012

Just finished a fantastic week at our summer day camp. With the help of volunteers: Carleton Music student Dave Dore; Baobab Youth members Augusta Monet, Emily Klein and Ioyan Manser-Goveas, fourteen young people ranging in age from 7-13 enjoyed an intense week of Ghanaian stick drumming, hand drumming, singing & dancing with myself and Dominic Donkor, outdoor play, swimming, Ghanaian art project with Maureen Clarke and a Ghanaian lunch provided by Rory Magill. It was a fantastic time that culminated in a short performance for parents. See below for some of our fun!

Special thanks to the Rotary Club and the Education Foundation for their support in providing several subsidized spots in the camp.

See a short video of the performance here!



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Drums for Sale!

As most of you know we have been reorganizing over the last few months, which includes consolidating our drum collection, especially since we bought some new ones last summer in Ghana. We have a few drums and other instruments for sale that we no longer need. See below for pics & prices and let us know in the office if you would like to buy anything (613)729-0987


various Ewe stick drums, $75-$100 each

Sogo stick drums $200 each

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Baobab Board

As anyone knows who has been on a board or worked with a non-profit entity, having a committed and vibrant Board of Directors is really important to the running of a healthy and successful organization.  We have always been proud of,  and grateful to the individuals who,  over the years,  have generously given their time and expertise to Baobab’s endeavours. Last night we had a lovely end of year celebration dinner at one of the member’s homes. As we reflected on this year of decision making and budget challenges, we also recalled the great shows and programming that were possible. Next year will look a little different at Baobab…but as a living and breathing organization that has been around for 17 years, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

A big thank you to outgoing Chair Ian Brown, as well as all the members for this season: Hilary Clauson, Alison Clegg, Evie Gray, Carole Johnson, Nadine Powers and Claire Thompson. They have done an amazing job of helping to steer through some turbulent times. Akbesia!

2011-12 Baobab Board members with Hayley de Bie and Kathy Armstrong at an earlier event in the season

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