Dear Baobab Friends,
After twenty-five years of cultivating community relationships through West African drumming, singing and dancing, we are announcing that 2019-2020 will be our final season. This 25th Anniversary year will celebrate all that is unique and memorable about Baobab’s program, with special concerts, artistic collaborations and a cultural immersion experience in the village of Dagbamete, Ghana!
A catalyst for creating intercultural learning opportunities, Baobab has been a leader in Community Music, using multi-age groupings to foster healthy relationships and connections among children, adolescents, adults and seniors in the Ottawa area. “We have been a dynamic force in the Canadian music scene for a quarter of a century,” says Kathy Armstrong, founder and artistic director of the Ottawa based, non-profit arts education organization. “Through participatory music-making, we have provided powerful opportunities that have engaged people of all ages at the local and international levels.” Artistic partnerships with several choirs, jazz ensembles, Nexus, Mighty Popo and visiting Ghanaian masters have enriched the group’s creative capacity. Performances at the National Arts Centre, the Senate on Parliament Hill, Ottawa Folkfest, Westfest, Fuse and Bluesfest, as well as tours to Banff, Toronto, London, Kingston, Peterborough, Washington, Boston and Syracuse have introduced thousands to the vibrant energy of the Ghanaian drumming and dance forms.
Baobab has always lent its performing skills for local charities, creating special events with the Capital Grannies, One.org, CHEO, Osu Childrens Library Fund, the Food Bank, the Ride, and the Youth Services Bureau among others.
Armstrong’s 30-year relationship with the small village of Dagbamete in the Volta region of Ghana figures prominently in the integrity and longevity of the program. “The inspiration for Baobab was informed by my musical education in the emerging dynamic world music scene in Toronto in the 1980s, and my own studies with Master Drummer Kwasi Dunyo in Ghana beginning in 1990, where I observed the powerful connection between the drumming traditions and the healthy interconnectedness of the people who played, sang and danced together.”
Armstrong subsequently founded the charitable organization, Baobab Tree, in 1995. In 2001, the Baobab Youth Performers embarked on the inaugural Footsteps to Ghana trip to Dagbamete, establishing a cultural immersion experience for youth that continues to this day. Dalton Holloway, now 34 and a Board member with the organization, went on that first Ghana trip. “Going to Dagbamete changed how we played the music when we came back to Ottawa,” he says. “It changed us. It allowed us to understand the context of the music and to make connections with others through our shared experiences.”
“It’s the breadth and depth of the relationship building that has made Baobab unique,” Armstrong says. “Our time in the village during our cultural study visits has established reciprocal and respectful partnerships that have grown deeper over time”. In 2017 Armstrong was given the honour of joining the council of elders in the village, with a mandate to continue arts and education development initiatives. With that in mind, she has worked with the elders in Dagbamete to establish a biennial arts festival that will carry the Baobab name forward. The inaugural summer 2020 Festival will be the culminating event in the final 25th season of Baobab Community in Ottawa; and will continue on as a legacy to the enduring impact this unique organization has had on thousands of people.
Baobab’s roots are deep and its branches wide. Through the many people touched, influenced and impacted by the organization, Baobab has sown many seeds of transformation. Please join us in coming together to celebrate our final season!
We will announce details of 25th and final season at the upcoming April 13th concert. You can find out information about that concert HERE!