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Batik & ROOTS

In keeping with our tradition of rounding out our drum and dance classes with some visual arts, the Fall ROOTS class had a wonderful batik session with Eloise Holland recently. Using traditional Adinkra symbols that she made into stamps, the kids used hot wax to create the resist on cloth, and then dipped them into the vat of their dye choice. A couple weeks later and the results are gorgeous! We will be displaying them at our ROOTS Open House December 6 from 6:45-7:15pm, where the ROOTS kids will perform some pieces they have been working on. This group has accomplished a lot this Fall, including two performances already. Their energy and enthusiasm is amazing.


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Nani Agbeli Residency

We had a great weekend working with the amazing drummer and dancer Nani Agbeli who joined us in Ottawa, travelling from his full-time position as Director of West African Arts  at the California Institute for the Arts.  He worked with a group of 30 adults at our monthly Friday night class, connecting the five parts of Gahu, his excellent teaching making it possible to connect so many people and syncopations.

On Saturday we held a Beat Retreat for our Youth Performers, a four-hour immersion into the music of Tokwoe and Gahu. Technique, style, arrangements were all worked on, however the main focus and success was getting these teens and pre-teens to work on their onstage presence and energy ! Not easy but worth it! Nani made sure to compliment those working hard and told one of our youth he would pay $1000 to see him perform, he was grooving so well. We finished with a dinner from Ghana House Cuisine, a local favourite. Akbesia,  Nani, see you back here next season for a big show!

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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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