Ghana’s 50th is also drummer Yacub Addy’s 50th year as a stage artist

It didn’t occur to me until the January 26, 2007 segment of Dick
Gordon’s radio program “The Story” was broadcast in the U.S. Friday, that
Ghana’s 50th Anniversary in 2007 is also the drum master
‘s 50th year as a respected traditional stage artist and
cultural organizer.

The segment includes two interviews, one with the mother in an African-American
family that moved to Ghana seven years ago, and one with Yacub
, which was
recorded in Washington, DC in May 06 while he was on tour with his percussion
and vocal ensemble Odadaa! and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with the one
and only Wynton Marsalis. Together the two groups performed Addy and Marsalis’
2+ hour co-composition “Congo Square”, which honors the historic square in New
Orleans where African slaves were allowed to perform their own music and dance
on Sunday afternoons from the early 1700s to the mid 1800’s.In the interview Yacub remembers his early concerts in 1955 in Accra and talks
about how no one in Ghana at the time was interested in traditional music and
dance being on the stage, not even his own family (a number of whom are now
known widely in the field). He remembers that it was not until he and his
brothers went to the Munich Olympics in 1972 and films of them playing their
drums while European audiences cheered were shown in Ghanaian theaters, that
traditional cultural performance became popular in Ghana. Addy also talks about
his personal experience of performing in Congo Square in New Orleans, where the
premiere of he and Marsalis’s piece called “Congo Square” took April 23, 2006.

Although Yacub does not mention it in the interview, after a number of smaller
performances for several years, it was in 1957 that he put on Ghana’s first
large concert of traditional music and dance at Accra Community Center and
Ghanaians first began to see what he was trying to do. From 1957 to 2007, from
Ghana to the UK and on to the United States … not an
easy path, but a rewarding one.

If you would like to listen to the interviews, go to and press on “listen”. It is the January 26, 2007
segment of the program. Yacub’s interview is the second of the two interviews
that play back to back.

“Congo Square” will tour again in June 07 to summer festivals in the U.S. Summer
07 should also see the release of the studio recording of “Congo Square”. Yacub
is also available with Odadaa! for selected performances and master

Author: sgpucci