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Drumming & Health

Our ROOTS class and Baobab Youth Performers were guests at the recent All Staff meeting for the Centre for Health Promotion at the Public Health Agency of Canada. We were the finale of the day, each group performing a piece for the audience, Kpatsa and Gota. I then spoke about my research on the links between drumming and positive mental, social and physical health that I did with the students at Carleton University. The 
power of drumming  to engage us emotionally and connect us to each other is evident is all we do! We finished the segment with an interactive Bell Forest, wandering through the audience with quiet sounds and rhythms. Always fun when our two groups get to perform together….and even better when we get to share the important message about drumming and healthy individuals and communities!

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The Ride

Baobab Youth kicked off the season with a performance at The Ride, an annual fundraising cycling event to benefit research priorities the Ottawa Hospital. A gorgeous day to drum outside and a great way to meet up after the summer! The group has not been together since the end of the Ghana trip in July. Nice to try out some of our new material that we learned in Dagbamete. We will be welcoming new members at our first rehearsal this coming Wednesday. Thanks to Ian Holland for photos!

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Rhythm Trek Camp…fun fact!

The phrase “fun fact” was a recurring theme throughout our recent summer drum camp. Kids have a way of picking something up and through repetition and twists and turns, having it morph into some kind of inside joke . This week there were lots of “fun facts” about Ghana, communicated by three Baobab Youth members who shared with the campers some interesting experiences from their recent Ghana trip in July. Volunteers Quinn, and Rory, along with Donovan, held the group spellbound with descriptions of food, money, village life and games. Another “fun fact” was that this year we had a co-director for Camp, none other than Dalton Holloway a Baobab Youth alumnus, who was on the very first “Footsteps to Ghana” trip in 2001, and is featured in our documentary of the same name. Also grateful to our third volunteer Ethan, arts & crafts leader Iris, and Rory Magill for his awesome cooking skills for our final celebration! Dominic Donkor and Kathy Armstrong led the drumming and dancing, and the large camp group of 19 plus staff, played a fantastic open house at the end of the week, featuring the music and dance of Kinka, and Fume Fume. A really exceptional group this year!


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A picture is worth…

To finish the blog entries about our recent Ghana trip, here are some favourite photos from those who travelled (to read more about the trip see earlier posts):

I love this because it is a baobab tree and I like the colour variation in the sky. It was taken during one of our morning walks. -Kerry

The village awakens.

My favourite time of day in Dagbamete! -Carol

Baobab seeds!

Market colours.

Market colours II

Dagbamete’s ATM


More drums!

Clare dances! -Michelle

Galen in situ.

Angelina and her wonderful creations!

Angelina & Sakora’s creations. -Ann

School with no roof.

Stunningly beautiful on the coast but with Elmina Slave castle in the background it’s a reminder of the darker parts of Ghana’s history as well. -Kerry

Our magnetic host, Kwasi Dunyo!

Check back occasionally as we add more photos :)

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Home again!

The youth and chaperones made it home last night, after nearly 36 hours of travel (driving in the vans to Accra, flying to Amsterdam, flying to Montreal, then bussing back to Ottawa). Everyone is safe and no one required serious medical attention (thank you, Carol!).

As a wrap up to the trip, here is a summary of the youth members as described by themselves:

  • Quinn is the craziest
  • Polly is the sleepiest
  • Eric is the biggest hypochondriac
  • Adriana is the quietest
  • Magda is the most inquisitive
  • Clare is the bravest
  • Rory is the best eater
  • Olivia is the bravest (due to her forced participation in Nima!)
  • Galen is the snazziest dresser
  • Emma is the biggest worrier
  • Donovan is the noisiest
  • Lydia has the biggest size to personality ratio
  • Sophie is the most accident prone

Special thank you to our fearless leaders, Mama Kathy and Hayley Aku!

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Birding in Ghana

One of the morning routines in a typical village day can include a walk along the red dirt roads leading away from the village centre. This is the coolest most peaceful time of the day. The people of Dagbamete rise early to take advantage of the cool morning, and we often awake to the sound of sweeping and the roosters announcing the start of the day. 

As we walk out of the village the children are getting ready for school, waiting by the roadside for a motorcycle ride. The young men who operate the motorcycles are waiting by the bamboo grove to ferry people back and forth to  work, or on errands. It is not unusual to see two or three passengers on a bike, carrying bundles and packages. I’ve seen women  wearing their bright Ghana fabric dresses and fuzzy mules as they ride by. That’s Ghana motorcycle style!

I have done a little bird watching at home, so I was looking forward to finding some new birds in Ghana as I take a morning walk. I brought a copy of the birds of Ghana to help me out. 

At home I can tell what birds are around me just by the sounds, and I don’t always need to see them. Here the bird sound scape is rich and varied. Hooting, cooing, chirping and glugging sounds come from the cassava fields and trees that line the road side. I have heard so many birds, but haven’t managed to spot many of them. 

Crows here are easy to spot, and bigger than ours at home, more the size of a Raven. They look like they are wearing white sweater vests, and caw loudly like ours. The bigger trees along the roadside are the best spots for new bird discoveries. I spotted a pair of Yellow-billed Shrikes and  a Blue-headed Flycatcher. Their silhouettes are similar to birds we have in Ontario. 

The Baobab trees are a favourite perch, and the birds seem to be communal enough that they don’t mind mixed company in these giant trees. I saw a Senegal Coucal, and some Green Parrots, and a pair of Hornbills. They look a little like collapsed umbrellas, and seem to be unaware of their own weight as they land on small branches and bob up and down trying to centre their weight. 

One morning I was thrilled to see a pair of Falcons keeping watch over a cornfield. They must have had their fill of rodents, because they were dozing, and not bothered by the little sunbirds that flew past them. 

I’ve really enjoyed my hunt for Ghanaian birds that speak a different language, and wear brighter clothes than the birds at home.

– Eloise

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Festival of Friends and becoming an elder!

On Saturday, we participated in the Festival of Friends, a celebration of Kathy and Kwasi’s 27 years of collaboration. Baobab Youth and three local groups performed and over 300 members of the community joined us.

To make the day even more amazing, Kathy (also known as Mama Yenunya Ewui Kwasiwa) was granted a special honour and was enstooled as an elder in the village of Dagbamete. It was a moving and touching ceremony and we were grateful to be a part of it.

To find out more about the history of this connection and the Festival please visit HERE!

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Friday Preparations

Friday was a pretty low key day for our crew after rehearsing with Sammy and Kofi (from friends from Dzogadze). There was a buzz in the village, though. All around us, people were getting ready for the festival: painting buildings, delivering drinks, setting up tents, installing the sound system for the dance party, and even moving sand around to adjust the flatness of the ground in certain areas.

The festival’s kicked off in re afternoon with some energetic performances from the Bobobo group and a group of teen girls from Dagbamete. 

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Kakum Rainforest Canopy Walk

In the middle of the trip, Kathy had arranged for us to travel to Cape Coast for around three days. While we were there we had a very busy and exciting day, where we had the opportunity to visit the Elmina slave castle and the Kakum rainforest’s canopy walk. I chose out of the two, to write about the rainforest walk.

As we drove along the very bumpy dirt road, we noticed that it starred to drizzle. We thought we would be experiencing the rain part of the rainforest but luckily for us it didn’t pour while we were on the walk. The Rainforest canopy walk consists of a couple different trails, and around 7 different rope bridges, all made by a group of Canadian and Ghanaian climbers.

We walked up a steep stone path with our guide, through giant clumps of bamboo and massive trees that were as tall as three or more story buildings. We walked through twisted vines and acres and acres of greenery and wildlife, all the while listening to hundreds of different bird calls and other rustling sounds. It made us feel like we were in a whole different world. In some ways we were.

When we got to the hill at the top of the stone walkway there was a sort of tall wooden hut. Following our guide we walked up the stairs. At the top of the structure was the start of the bridges. We got a small pep talk from our tour guide and then he sent us across. It was wonderful. I was scared at first; I think we all were, then I looked around. We could see for miles. Everything was so lush and green, and when you look down you were staring into the vast rainforest full of millions and millions of trees, small and big.

The bridge swayed a little as we walked which startled everyone. The bridges are made of thick heavy metal rods stretching along their length and ropes to hold on to as you walk along the single plank of wood meant as a walkway.

By the time everyone had gotten off the last bridge on to the stone path, nearly everyone wanted to do the walk again, but we didn’t get the opportunity to. When we reached the parking lot and gift shops, most people’s cameras had about 100 new pictures of the wonderful canopy walk. In the end I don’t think any of us could forget such a wonderful experience.

– Lydia

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A busy few days…

We have recently been having blog problems, so sorry for the gap in writing. In the meantime, we have had a great three-day road trip to Accra, Cape Coast and Elmina! After a small roadside breakdown (expected on any Ghana trip), we spent 24 hours in Accra hanging for the afternoon at the Kathy Knowles Library in Nima. The youth theatre group, led by the amazing Martin Legend performed excerpts from their new original play called “The Man from the Past”…it was spellbinding and we were so wanting to hear what happens at the end, we made Martin promise to send us his script by email so we can read it. This was followed by a performance of Fume Fume by us , and then a few high octane drum and dance pieces by their troupe. A really nice youth exchange!

Afterwards we had a great meal at Chez Afrique, a wonderful throwback Ghana Independence-style outdoor restaurant complete with traditional and more international dishes. Their grilled snapper, chicken and octopus were hits. After sleeping at the Yiri Lodge,  we went to the amazing but stressful arts market at the Centre for National Culture. A great opportunity to try bartering. Everyone did well, buying some great cultural gifts and sharing tips on how to get a deal. The trip to Cape Coast was long but we were thrilled to land at Hans Cottage Botel where we spent the next two nights. More on that coming soon….

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