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End of season thoughts

This has been a challenging week for so many. I feel inadequate in expressing my grief and outrage at the actions in the USA and the systemic racism that continues in many parts of the world, including Canada. I have aligned myself with African culture for more than 30 years; learning, benefiting and exchanging. Longtime connections have resulted in deep friendships and very special family ties. I know my privilege allowed me to engage in the first place. I naively thought in the beginning that it should be possible for all music cultures to be shared among all people. I still believe that. But maybe not so naively anymore. I have made missteps along the way. I continue to learn from my friends and teachers in the global Black community, and reflect on the work still to be done. Those meaningful relationships have sometimes been messy, confusing and challenging but it is in that engagement where the real gains happen. Our lives have been transformed through knowing each other.

Today would have been the last Baobab concert of our 25th and final season, with the wonderful Kwasi Dunyo at the Gboba, leading more than 100 performers in celebration. The sadness I feel that something so vibrant and dear to me is ending, in an unexpected silent chapter, is somewhat comforted by the fact that the whole world will never be the same. We can hope and work for something better to replace it. We must. Thinking of our whole community today. Kahti xo

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Baobab @ RCMP

Fume Fume in action!

On February 12, Baobab Youth, along with Dominic Donkor and Prosper Adjetey performed at the RCMP National Headquarters, as part of their Black History month celebrations. A lot of preparation went into security planning and rehearsals a few weeks before the event. Final rehearsing took place on site, where we went over some last minute details with Prosper and Dominic who had come in from Montreal for the day. While we waited for the gig to begin, we spent time in a lovely meeting room, complete with security detail outside. During that time we were presented with several special gifts: some beautiful pins with the new RCMP insignia on them, waterbottles, and a very nice Certificate of Appreciation. The concert took place in the magnificent atrium of the building. People gathered around as well as looked down from their office windows. We played a few pieces that reflected the range of our repertoire. Fume Fume was a particular hit! Afterwards, one of the parents treated the youth to a box of Timbits from the onsite Tim Horton’s , which were also a big hit! Here are a few photos from the event. We did not take any of these, as our phones were not allowed in the building! Sorry no photo credit was given, but there are a few nice ones. Thanks to everyone who helped out that day!

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Poster Art for Sale!

Over our 25 year history, almost all of our vibrant posters and logos have been created by graphic designer John Sekerka. We have put them together in four distinct and beautiful collages ($10 each unframed or $25 framed). We also have some individual posters that have been plaqued ($25 each). These are available for sale all season. Great for gifts! Contact us at if you wish to purchase any or would like more info. All proceeds will go towards our legacy film project. Special Thanks to Board member Kerry Gogush Cule for organizing and Merge Print & Design for printing. The placqued posters can be viewed on our facebook page

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Dance Party! Celebrating 25 years!

What an fantastic time we all had on Saturday night, at Highlife Time! We started the evening off with a tribute to our longtime graphic designer, John Sekerka. His unique posters for our events over the last 25 years were all beautifully displayed around the gorgeous room at St Brigid’s Centre for the Arts. Collages and individual posters were sold during the evening, and proceeds will go towards a Baobab legacy film project. Many thanks to Board member Kerry Gogush Cule and team who worked so hard to put this part of the evening together! It all looked amazing!

Board Member & MC Dalton Holloway welcomed the capacity crowd to the space, and asked for a show of hands as to who was alumnae, former parents, board members etc. And there was a large sea of hands! So wonderful that so many friends and former Baobab & Akpokli members were with us. A traditional set by Baobab Youth kicked off the show, and was bumped up a notch by our wonderful guests Dominic Donkor and Prosper Adjetey! Pieces included Gota, Fume Fume, and Kpatsa. I had a great time joining Prosper and the dancers for Kpatsa! Dave Hennessy & Ari wowed the crowd with their Kitikpo routine, followed by our senior members in a playful Hatsiatsia. Two E.T Mensah highlife tunes ended the first set, where the youth were joined by horns and guitars form Carleton U Music, as well as the incredible Kofi Ackah and his band, Quando Harrison, Kobby Dolly & Wagner Pierre Pembe. We put a traditional Kpanlogo in the middle, leading into the groovy Mee Bei Obaba.

The dancing was just beginning, and in the second half, the temperature rose even more with a wicked highlife set featuring songs by the late Jewel Ackah, played with incredible energy and groove by Kofi Ackah and band, with Carleton Music Students, and Prosper & Dominic. Many members of the Ghanaian community in Ottawa were in attendance, dancing and singing along to all the familiar lyrics! So much fun was had!

Thank you to all who made this event such a success!

The Awesome Baobab Board of Directors: Evie Gray (chair), Kerry Gogush Cule, Dave Hennessy, Dalton Holloway, Nadine Powers, Cathy Sandiford

Hayley de Bie • Rory Magill • Petr Cancura John Rosefield • Mike GiambardinoDave’s Drum Shop • Carleton University SSAC MusicSekerka Design • Merge Print and DesignFrançois Desrochers • Marc Lepage • Ken HoffmanJane MacDonaldCity of Ottawa Cultural Funding • Ottawa Community FoundationTonight’s volunteers • Our generous donors over the years!

See you on June 6 for our final concert with Kwasi Dunyo and Ottawa Choirs!

All these awesome photos courtesy of Marc Lepage! You can find him at :

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Highlife Time


October 2nd 2019

Two-time Juno Winner, drummer Kofi Ackah will join Baobab Youth for “Highlife Time” the first concert in our 25th Anniversary season, on Saturday November 2 at St Brigid’s Centre for the Arts. Kofi comes from the legendary Ackah family in Ghana. His father, Jewel Ackah, was a founder of the popular highlife music genre. As a teenager, Kofi joined his father’s band as a percussionist and travelled to entertain Ghana’s president. Ackah was the drummer of the 2005 Juno Award-winning band African Guitar Summit, regarded by some as the best African music band in Canada. He played Canada’s Live 8 concert, sharing the stage with the likes of Bryan Adams and Neil Young. He currently performs with the Okavango African Orchestra which also won the Juno award for best World Music album in 2017. Ottawa audiences will remember him well as the drummer in the Mighty Popo Band. For this special project, Kofi will be bringing two members of his late father’s highlife band, keyboardist Quando Harrison and bassist Kobby Dolly. The highlife band will be augmented by a student horn section from Carleton University’s Music program and longtime Baobab friends and teachers, Dominic Donkor and Prosper Adjetey, both former members of the Ghana National Dance Ensemble.

In short, this will be an all-star evening, that will get the audience grooving and dancing, and help kick off Baobab Community’s 25th and farewell season! Concert starts at 7:30pm

The evening will begin at 6pm with a special vernissage and vintage poster sale, featuring the fantastic archival poster art of Baobab’s graphic artist, John Sekerka. Cash bar in Brigid’s well.

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Rhythm Trek 2019

It is with mixed feelings I write about the last Rhythm Trek camp for Baobab. Our first camp was about 2007, well into our history (Baobab was founded in 1995). Here are a few photos from the first few camps.

These camps have been a tremendous amount of work, but also SO rewarding…offering ways to learn new repertoire, recruit new members to our yearly programs, provide mentoring opportunities for our older students, give context to the music through art projects, traditional Ghanaian food celebration and just drum, dance and sing for HOURS on end. That is something we rarely have time for in our busy North American lives. Thank you to all who have contributed over the years: Rory, Gaelen, Maureen, Natalie, Eloise, Dominic, Prosper, Nani, Dalton, Dave, Nadine, parents, friends, and student volunteers. You have made this a unique and powerful experience for so many young people.

Today we had our open house (after a fabulous Ghanaian lunch) and performed four wonderful pieces; “Pete Pete”, an excerpt from “Adzogbo”, the Zulu “Thula Klizeo” and the drumming, dancing and singing of “Bobobo”. What a great crew!

We also paid tribute to our wonderful volunteers: Dave, board member and alum from the VERY early years, Donovan and Kieran, Baobab Youth members who volunteered for the first time this week! And the amazing Quinn, who marked this week as her 10th camp!!! Started a as camper and moved seamlessly into mentoring the young ones. Quinn, Donovan and Kieran are all in the youth performers and bring their leadership to that group. They worked so hard this week, and we are so proud of them!

Here are a few more pics from this fantastic week. Thank you to all our donors who made this opportunity possible for our subsidized students. My heart is full….now on to the 25th & farewell season. -Kathy

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Black Sheep Sankofa!

We had a great show yesterday at the famous Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, Quebec situation on the beautiful Gatineau river. A longstanding tradition at Baobab, we have played there every year since we began in 1995. We had guests Rory Magill and Dominic Donkor perform with us. Rory leading the group in the northern Ghanaian piece Takai, and Dominic taking the lead for Danse Guerriere, Kpanlogo and a very spirited Fume Fume! The group was a fabulous cohesive unit, displaying the fruits of a full season.

Our final show of the season is also the show that we say goodbye to members of the group that are moving on. Sankofa is the Ghanaian Adinkra symbol that teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. This year we said goodbye to Alistair who has been with the group since he was 6 or 7 years old. A veteran of our summer camp, Rhythm Trek, our ROOTS class, and for the last few seasons, our youth group. We wish him well! Alumnae are also encouraged to come out to this show and we had a surprise dance floor appearance by two alumnae from Baobab’s former Adult group Akpokli. They still got the moves!

A great way to end the season! Special kudos to Dave Hennessy, Board member, alum and youth coach! Dave has been a huge help this season in all aspects of Baobab’s programming. Thanks also to Baobab’s Board of Directors and our finance manager Hayley! Team Awesome is an understatement! See you at our Rhythm Trek Camp in August!

Baobab Youth Performers 2018-19
with Kathy Armstrong, Dave Hennessy and Dominic Donkor
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Gahu Project & Tour

After our performance at the Kitchener Market

Just back from a wonderful four-day tour to Kitchener-Waterloo with Baobab Youth, Here are some media links:

Check out this short video

….and some CBC coverage

At the Wilfrid Laurier Residence building where we stayed.
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Had a great time last night at the Wooden Beats Concert! Baobab Youth Performers were joined by Tine Rufaro Marimba Band for a couple of sets of West and Southern African music. We did a couple of collaborative pieces, layering melodic and rhythmic beats of overlapping twos, threes, and fours. Very fun! The intimate, funky Kildare room at St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts made for a very special energy in the room. A great turnout for the concert and a successful silent auction made this a real success for our organization! Big thanks to the Baobab Board of Directors, Hayley de Bie, Rory Magill and all the parent volunteers for their hard work! At the event, with the help of our alumnae, we also launched our 2019-2020 Season which will be the 25th and farewell season, (see previous blog post). More details on that coming soon…What a special evening it was all around!

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A Very Special Announcement!

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,, 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 HERE!

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