Tag Archives: drumming

Artist Profiles: Doudou N’Diaye Rose

Doudou Ndiaye Rose

Mamadou Ndiaye, etter known as Doudou Ndiaye Rose, was born July 28, 1930 in Senegal. A true cultural ambassador for his country, Doudou N’Diaye Rose was considered as one of the great musician of the 20th century. Guardian of the tradition, but also an untiring innovator, this virtuoso of percussion was perceived as a true conductor, just as the great conductors of symphony orchestras (he conducted bands from 20 to 100 drummers).

He had a passion for sounds and for harmonies, he loved to make his group reverberate like a tremendous rhythmical machine, which he controled with the hands of a master, using his baton to guide the musicians with an irresistible authority and natural charisma. He weaved together an unbelievable number of rhythmical phrases, superimposing them in a complex and elusive pattern, which reached ears as a kind of fabulous melody. He created real symphonies of drums. He enjoyed an international career, traveled the planet, gave fantastic concerts, and composed and collaborated with various famous artists.

Doudou Ndiaye Rose

Doudou Ndiaye Rose died on August 19, 2015 in Dakar, Senegal.

Discography:

Sabar (Encore!, 1986)
Djabote (Real World, 1992)
Dakar, with Bagad Men Ha Tan (L’Oz Production, Naïve, 2000)
Mix, Live (Ornorm Production, 2004)

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Earth Celebration: Feel the Drum Beats Rise through Your Feet

The Earth Celebration

From August 16th to 18th, the lush island of Sado in Japan is filled with the sounds of taiko drums, song and dance. The Earth Celebration is Japan’s longest running music festival, a yearly event which attracts music lovers from all across Japan and the world.

Hosted by the globetrotting taiko drum group Kodo, for 32 years this huge drum festival has brought festival lovers to butterfly-shaped Sado Island, just an hour or so by ferry from Niigata City in northern Japan.

For Kodo members, taiko is a way of life. The drummers spend two thirds of the year touring, performing in packed concerts both in Japan and overseas. The rest of the time the troupe lives on Sado, practicing and developing new works that show just how powerful these deceptively simple looking drums can be. Their dedication to their craft comes through in each performance, coaxing nuances from massive drums that sometimes reach over one meter in diameter.

The Earth Celebration

However, Earth Celebration goes beyond taiko, as each year the group invites musicians from around the world to perform at the Harbour Market stage, bringing together artists of all stripes through the power of music. For the 2019 edition the Kodo drummers will be collaborating with the acclaimed Korean percussion ensemble Kim Duk-Soo SamulNori.

Besides music, visitors can also enjoy light up events at the former Sado Gold Mine, watch movies at the outdoor Hello Japan Sea Cinema, sample tasty food at Harbour Market, and catch fringe events at Kisaki Shrine.

If you plan to check out this music festival, try to arrive one day early to catch a firelight performance of Noh theater on one of the island’s ancient open-air stages. The plays harken back to the Japan of yore, the performer’s carved masks and otherworldly chants made even more dramatic by the flickering lanterns.

Kids are welcome at most of the events, and there are plenty of workshops and other activities to do on Sado to teach and entertain young music lovers.

Heading to Japan and want to know more about how to get to Sado and book tickets for Earth Celebration? The festival website has all the information you need to plan your trip!

headline photo: Kodo

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Les Moncada Chats with Cuban batá Master and Conguero Román Diaz

Román Diaz

Batá drumming is getting more and more popular these days. With a lot of the masters who transmitted the tradition of batá drumming having passed away, the one living master today is Román Diaz, born in Cuba, now residing in New York City.

In Cuba, Román performed professionally with the Cuban legend of Afro Cuban folklore, female vocalist Mercerditas Valdés. She was known for her grand knowledge and recordings of Afro-Cuban folklore and Orisha songs. She recorded with the late master batalero Jesús Pérez. (batá master Francisco Aguabella’s dear friends from Cuba.)

Mercerditas Valdés

Merceditas Valdés is also renowned for having been a part of Pablo “Okilakpa” Roches Batá Ensemble in Havana, Cuba that included masters of masters, Pablo Roche, Trinidad Terregoza, Raúl Diaz and a young okónkolo player Francisco Aguabella. This ensemble was unsurpassable and not many bataleros or musicians can say that they performed with them.

In Havana, Cuba, Pablo “Okilakpa” Roche’s batá Ensemble with vocalist Merceditas Valdés, behind the bataleros, front left on bata, Trinidad Terregoza, middle Raul Diaz, and on the right on okonolo is Francisco Aguabella. Legendary ensemble of batá. Those who have performed with any of these musicians have become legends.

To perform with one of their members, as in Merceditas Valdés is in itself “without words.” Merceditas Valdés spread Afro-Cuban Folkloric history and knowledge, along with her vocals, lyrics, dance steps and drummers that performed and recorded with her.

Román Diaz was one of those drummers, relocating from Cuba to New York, to furthermore blossom his career and to spread the word, music, history and Afro-Cuban folklore to New York City and the world in its entirety.

Román has performed and directed many ensembles, too many to mention in this interview and has continued to perform and direct ensembles here in the United States, previously in Europe and now in New York City.

Román Diaz – L’ó dá fún Bàtá, Diaz’s latest album released in 2015

Let’s see what Román Diaz has to say about his life and times in Cuba, and times with Merceditas Valdés and his present movement in New York City.

Román, can you tell me a little about your past, where you were born.

I was born in the City of Havana, Municipality of Central Havana in the Barrio “La Victoria”.

Ekpe/Abakua encounter, Brooklyn, NY 2001. Left to right: David Oquendo, Román Díaz, José “Pepe” Hernández (Ísue of Efori Nandibá Mosongo), Vicente Sanchez.

Can you tell me if any of your family members had a musical history or were musicians?

I had an uncle that was a percussionist/drummer and my grandfather a trovador (troubadour).

Right to left: Chekere: Luis Medina; next: “Kikirito”; José Fernando Almendares “Pito el Gago”, Román Díaz – Havana, Cuba, 1984
Díaz on quinto, participating in a Havana comparsa during carnival 1983 with the group los Marqueses de Atares, who are the subject of a film by Gloria Rolando.

Román, can you tell me how you started to drum or become a drummer in Cuba?

I used to go to the comparsas (groups of musicians and costumed dancers that participate in parades and celebrations) and play bell. It was a friend from school, that motivated me to play in the comparsas. He lived in Solar de Africa, his name was Conrado Lam.

With Yoruba Andabo in Colombia, early ’90s. Román is in the middle on Iya. At right is Mario Garcia Arango.
Román Diaz with Melvis Santa & Ashedi

I would like to ask you about the vocalist whom you used to perform with in Cuba, legendary female Afro-Cuban Folkloric Vocalist, Merceditas Valdés.

Well, it was always a dream for me to play with Merceditas. As a young kid I would dream, just to play with her (Merceditas).

Yoruba Andabo (an Afro-Cuban Folkloric Group) that I was performing with, she came to our group to sing. Yoruba Andabo was already formed, it was formed in the 1960’s. I was given this opportunity to perform with her. (since she was in our group).

Cuban master rumba players performing in New York City, playing Abakua. Left to right: ‘Goyo’ Hernandez, Román Díaz on bonko, ‘Maximino’, Pedrito Martinez, Miguel Chappotin, Juan de Dios (Director of Raices Profundas)

Who first started you on batá?

I learned with Humberto La Pelicula. He lives in Italy. When we lived in Cuba I used to go to Mariano #110, 10 de Octubre (October), that is where I learned.

What does the future bring for Román Diaz?

At the moment, I try to play in the best position that I can perform in, to keep studying music (drumming), because there may be something that I could learn.

The above video is Juan De Dios, filmed by the late Jerry Shiligi, courtesy of Michael Pluznick who also went to Cuba. This was from the year 1985. I, Les Moncada, along with other San Francisco Bay Area musicians sponsored the Cuba trip. This was at the cabaret inside Hotel Cabri, Salon Rojo (in the Red Salon). Román Diaz is playing tumbadora (conga) , he is the drummer in the middle.

Musical Credits for Román Diaz

Percussionist, Cuba:

La comparsa Los Marqueses de Atarés. La Habana. 1983-86.

La comparsa Componedores de Batea. La Habana. 1983-86.

Escuela Nacional de Instructores de Arte. La Habana. 1983-86.

Grupo Raíces Profundas. La Habana. 1984-86. Juan de Díos, director.

Grupo “T con E”. La Habana. 1986-88. Lázaro Valdés, director.
Concerts in Panamá; Madrid and Barajas (Spain); Peru.

Orquesta Sublime. La Habana. 1988-89.

Grupo Yoruba Andabo. La Habana. 1989-1995.
Performances in Bogota, Colombia; Toronto, Canadá.

Grupo Añakí. La Habana. 1995. “Pancho Quinto,” director.

Percussionist, Europe:

Zurich, Switzerland.
Escuela de percusión de Zurich de Billy ‘Cotún’. 1995.

Paris, France.
Private percussion school. 1995.

Ekpe-Abakuá encuentro en Paris, 2007. Musée Quai Branly.

Percussionist, United States of America:

“Domingos de Rumba,” Esquina Habanera, Union City, New Jersey. 1999-2003
David Oquendo, director.

Collaboration with the Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernández album, New York City, 2000.

Grupo “Omi Odara.” ‘Román Díaz, director. Lecture demonstration with Dr. Ivor Miller. Amherst College, Amherst, MA. April 2002. Funded by the Georges Lurcy Lecture Series Fund and the Willis D. Wood Fund, Amherst College.

Grupo “Omi Odara.” ‘Román Díaz, director. Lecture demonstration with Dr. Ivor Miller. The Bildner Center for Cuban Studies, CUNY Graduate Center, New York City. March 2002.

Grupo “Omi Odara.” ‘Román Díaz, director. Lecture demonstration with Dr. Ivor Miller. African Studies, Columbia University, New York City. February 2002.

Collaboration with Juan-Carlos Formell. New York City, 2003. “Misión Cubana.” Club Jazz Standard, Manhattan.

Grupo “Omi Odara.” ‘Román Díaz, director. Lecture demonstration with Dr. Ivor Miller. A multi-disciplinary conference. April 2003. DePaul University, Chicago. Sponsored by the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

Lecture demonstration conwith Dr. Ivor Miller. Román Díaz, singer. Black Studies: Methodology, Pedagogy, and Research. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. New York Public Library, February 2003.

International Festival of Yoruba Culture. San Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. 2004.

International Ekpe Festival. Calabar, Nigeria. December 2004. Collaboration with Dr. Ivor Miller. Sponsored by the Department of Tourism of Cross River State. Donald Duke, Governor.

Collaboration with Oriente López, pianista. Garden City, New Jersey. 2004.

Collaboration with percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo, singer Marlon Simón, saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera. Philadelphia, 2004.

Collaboration with Paquito D’Rivera, director. “Obra Panamericana.” 2004. New York City; Newark, NJ.

Grupo “Omi Odara.” Lincoln Center, New York City. Román Díaz, director. August 2003. August 2005.

Latin Percussion representative. 2001. 2005.

“Noches Cubanas.” World Music Institute, New York University. April 2005. With Candido Camero, ‘Chocolate’ Armenteros; Orlando ‘Punilla’ Ríos.

Recordings:

Espíritu de la Habana, with Jane Burnett. Toronto, Canada. Won Juno award in 1992.

El callejón de los rumberos with Yoruba Andabo, Havana: (PM Records, 1993).

Aché IV with Mercedita Valdés, Havana (Egrem, 1995).

Aché V with Mercedita Valdés, Havana (Egrem 1996).

Del Yoruba al son with Yoruba Andabo, Havana (Magic Music/ Universal, 1997)

Montvale Rumba, New Jersey. (LP Productions, 2001)

Wemilere. Román Díaz, director. Recorded in 1996, Habana. Produced in 2002, Paris.

“Calle 54,” a 2000 documentary film and CD about Latin jazz by Spanish director Fernando Trueba.

Ay! que rico” with José Conde (2005)

Habana with Gema y Pavel (2006)

(R)evolucion” with José Conde (2007)
In Case Your Missed It, with Marlon Simon and the Nagual Spirits (2007)

Ye-dé-gbé – The Afro Caribbean Legacy with Yosvany Terry (2008)

Yo Se Que Te Gusta with Grupo Irék (2008)

Time Travel. With Raphael Cruz (2008)

Hot House: Cuban Tribute To Charlie Parker with Steve Gluzband (2008)

Herencia Judia with Benjamín Lapidus (2008)

Fiesta Percusiva with Victor Rendón (2008)

Across the Divide with Omar Sosa (2009)

Rumbos de la rumba with Pedrito Martínez, New York (2009)

Okobio Enyenisón with Proyecto Enyenisón Enkama (2009)

I would like to thank the Maestro Román Diaz for his patience & time he spent for this interview, Román is from Cuba and speaks Spanish. Therefore, I translated the interview as in many cases. Gracias Román for his preservation of the batá and Afro-Cuban folklore.

Me gustaría agradecer al Maestro Román Díaz por el tiempo que dedicó a esta entrevista y gracias por la preservación del batá y el folklore afrocubano.

Les Moncada

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Artist Profiles: Babatunde Olatunji

Babatunde Olatunji

Babatunde Olatunji was one of the 20th century’s greatest masters of percussion. A beloved cross-cultural ambassadors, he made an unparalleled contribution in the saga of modern rhythm as he almost single-handedly seeded the sounds of African music into the American mainstream.

Born in 1927 to a Yoruban fishing family in Ajido, Nigeria, Olatunji arrived to the United States in 1950 to study political science at Morehouse College in Atlanta, where as an undergraduate he began performing informally and produced a popular show based on his country’s culture and traditions. He continued to play music intermittently during his graduate studies at NYU’s School of Public Administration, culminating in a Radio City Music Hall engagement backed by a full orchestra in 1957 – which brought him to the attention of the legendary jazz producer John Hammond at Columbia Records (whose other discoveries included Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, and Bruce Springsteen).

Olatunji’s debut album, Drums Of Passion, was released in 1959 and was an unprecedented smash hit; selling over five million copies, it was the first record to broadly introduce the sounds of African music to western ears. Early career milestones included that fateful performance at Radio City Music Hall, another at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and national TV appearances on The Tonight Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and The Bell Telephone Hour.

Olatunji’s dedication to the preservation and communication of African culture led him to establish his dream – the institute of African Cultural Studies. Headquartered in the heart of Harlem, he made his commitment to education by offering affordable classes in a wide range of cultural subjects to adults and young people – including not only “just plain folks” but also such major cultural icons of the era as Malcolm X and John Coltrane. His expertise in the area of African music and dance led to a diversity of new projects and roles throughout his life: as director of an educational television series; as co-author of the book African Musical Instruments, Their Origins and Use; and as an authoritative consultant for innumerable museum exhibits, media documentaries, and publications. He was active in the Civil Rights movement of the early 1960s, traveling with the Reverend Martin Luther King as a fixture at NAACP gatherings.

Babatunde Olatunji

In the late 1980s, Gratefu! Dead percussionist Mickey Hart released the classic Drums Of Passion: The Invocation as part of his groundbreaking The World CD series for the Rykodisc label, followed by a multi-artist collaboration with Olatunji called Drums Of Passion: The Beat. Baba became an integral part of Hart’s award-winning At The Edge in 1990, along with jerry Garda and Zakir Hussain, and appeared regularly on tour with the Grateful Dead during the height of their fame and popularity – becoming a seminal influence in the drum circle phenomenon which blossomed from those halcyon days. In 1991, Olatunji and Hart co-founded the pan-global percussion supergroup, Planet Drum (the ensemble included Hart, Olatunji/ Zakir Hussain, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Sikiru Adepoju and Vikku Vinayakram) – winning the first-ever Grammy? Award for Best World Music Album, and selling out a national U.S. tour including legendary shows at New York’s Carnegie Hall and the historic Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles.

Olatunji penned many original compositions, including scores for both the Broadway and Hollywood productions of Raisin In The Sun. He assisted fellow Morehouse alumnus Bill Lee with the music for She’s Cotta Have It, the hit film produced and directed by, and starring, Bill’s son Spike.

More recent independent recordings, Celebrate Freedom, Justice, and Peace and Healing Rhythms, Songs and Chants -along with the Grammy?-nominated Love Drum Talk (Chesky Records, 1997) – found Africa’s musical ambassador to the west still forging forward with vitality and dedication, despite his advancing age and the increasing pain and debility he endured as a diabetic.

As a faculty member in his final years at both the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, and the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York, Olatunji tirelessly pursued his mission of spreading African culture through the teaching of traditional drumming, dance, and chant. He lectured and taught at Universita Degli Studi Ni Napoli (Naples, Italy); Kodo Drum Society (Sado Island, Japan); Tantra Galarie (Interlocken, Switzerland); Frankfurter Ring (Frankfurt, Germany), and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond, Virginia). In 1996, he was named Impresario of the Ghana Dance Ensemble, one of the two national dance companies of Ghana, and for many years led annual workshops at the International Centre for African Music and Dance at Ghana’s University of Accra.

Babatunde Olatunji

In 1996, he also received an honorary doctorate from Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York for his outstanding and selfless service to the arts

Babatunde Olatunji passed away Sunday, April 6th, 2003, at Esalen Institute, California, with his family by his side.

Discography:

Drums of Passion (Columbia, 1959)
Zungo! (1961)
Flaming Drums (Columbia, 1962)
Olatunji
Drums!, Drums!, Drums! (Roulette, 1964)
Soul Makossa (Paramount, 1973)
Dance to the Beat of My Drum (Bellaphon, 1986)
Drums of Passion: The Invocation (Rykodisc, 1988)
Drums of Passion: The Beat (Rykodisc, 1989)
Drums of Passion: Celebrate Freedom, Justice & Peace (Olatunji, 1993)
Drums of Passion and More (Bear Family, 1994)
Babatunde Olatunji, Healing Rhythms, Songs and Chants (Olatunji, 1995)
Love Drum Talk (Chesky, 1997)
Drums of Passion [Expanded] (2002)
Olatunji Live at Starwood (2003)
Healing Session (Narada, 2003)
Circle of Drums (Chesky, 2005)

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Artist Profiles: Baba Olajagun

Baba Olajagun

Born in Oka-Akoko in Ekiti State of Nigeria, Baba Olajagun (vocals, talking drum) is a pillar of New York’s Nigerian community. A highly esteemed master drummer, teacher and ceremonial performer, Jagun first came to the U.S. as a member of Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s Egypt 80 band.

Residing in New York City since the early 1990s, Baba Jagun has focused his efforts on keeping the traditional rhythms of his homeland present and accounted for. The 2003 release of the groundbreaking dance remix “Odo Oya” on Spiritual Life Records put Olajagun on the map as a recording artist in his own right.

Jagun’s own orchestra, Ancestral Rhythms, features some of the most skilled and exciting percussionists currently based in New York City: Kunle Ade (conga, jembe); Baba Azizi (conga, djembe); Foly Kolade (conga); Segun Ajaye (conga, djembe); Arthemio (conga); Tunji (sakara); Oscar Debe and Jojo Kuo (trap drums), and Judith Rahilly (backing vocals).

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Artist Profiles: Ayo Adeyemi

Ayo Adeyemi

Ayo Adeyemi was born in Nigeria where he was initiated as a babalawo in the indigenous Yoruba religion, Ifa. He has been drumming, singing and dancing since he was a child.

In the 1980s, Ayo, whose name means “happy,” moved to the United States, where he lived and toured with renowned Yoruba master drummer Babatunde Olatunji for eight years. Ayo has performed with The Grateful Dead, Mickey Hart, Keith Richards, Ginger Baker, Carlos Santana, and at the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.

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Artist Profiles: Diplomats of Drum

Diplomats of Drum

The Diplomats of Drum are a band from Malaysia that comprises of each ethnic race in the country. The Diplomats fuses Malaysian melodies and rhythms with global beats and melodies, creating a unique brand of global Fusion. The global beats that they have pioneered have influenced many movements where they have played and they are highly regarded as the most exciting and promising youthful, ethnic-flavored percussion ensemble.

Born from pure creativity and experimentation with rhythms and percussion, the Diplomats of Drum started as an energetic bunch of street performers, slowly changing into a serious all percussion ensemble. Their enthusiasm is infectious and their diverse unified beats, combining showmanship and acrobatic stunts in their performances attract audiences. Eventually they evolved into a global fusion band. But they have not forgotten their humble beginnings, and have incorporated their drumline like percussion style and rhythms into their stage performances.

Influences include Indian classical vocals, Gaelic chants, traditional Malay rhythms, Afro beats and Latin grooves, Bhangra rhythms, Scottish Bagpipe, sitar, jembe and a drumline.

We’re a bunch of happy go lucky noise mongers who love music and everything about it. After many years of being session musicians, we decided to get together to form the Diplomats of Drum.”

We officially got together as a band in 2006, but have been playing as percussionists for some time before that. We decided to progress and maintain the band concept after being asked to perform at a friends charity gig. We liked that way we sounded, so we stuck to playing as a band, combining our percussive skills with the new found melodies, and added a few more members to complete the gang!

We’re a hodge podge of soundscapes! What we did is, we took the traditional melodies and rhythms of Malaysia, and fused them with instruments and sounds from other countries! In particular, we love Celtic music…so that’s why we lean a bit more towards it. Hence the term global fusion that is closely associated with us. Plus, we incorporated the percussions into the band, so we’re pretty loud!

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Artist Profiles: Sikiru Adepoju

Sikiru Adepoju

Sikiru Adepoju was born November 10, 1950 in Nigeria. American percussionist Mickey Hart calls him “the Mozart of the talking drum.” Sikiru Adepoju first came to the focus of the American music scene through his involvement with the Grammy Award-winning Planet Drum project. His technical mastery of the talking drum and various indigenous percussion instruments (dundun, gudugudu, gome, omele, sekere, etc.) have gained acceptance and respect among music listeners of all tastes.

Born in Eruwa, Western Nigeria, Sikiru grew up in a “talking drum family” where he began his tutelage of the instrument at his father’s side (Chief Ayanleke Adepoju), at the age of six. He then went on to tour and record several albums with renowned Nigerian Juju artist Chief Ebenezer Obey and his Inter- Reformers Band. Obey, who called his personal style the miliki (enjoyment) sound, began where noted juju entertainer I.K. Diaro left off. Obey drew in such Western elements as multiple guitars and a Hawaiian steel guitar soloist, adding them to the traditional rhythmic foundation.

After he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1985, Sikiru soon met world-renowned percussionist and leading African music artist Babatunde Olatunji. Shortly after meeting Olatunji, Sikiru joined his Drums of Passion ensemble and began a 17 year period with the group, recording and touring extensively throughout the world, until a year before Olatunji’s death in 2003.

While a member of Olatunji’s Drums of Passion, Sikiru recorded with Stevie Wonder and Carlos Santana, and performed with the Grateful Dead, where he met Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. It was after meeting Hart that Sikiru also joined Hart’s Planet Drum ensemble. In 1991 the group’s debut release, Planet Drum, hit #1 on the Billboard World Music Chart, remaining there for 26 weeks, and went on to receive a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album. In 2002 Sikiru joined Mickey Hart’s Bembe Orisha (party to the spirits).

Adepoju formed various bands, including The Honeymakers, Afrika Heartbeat, Sikiru Adepoju & Heart Beat, and Limbo Rhythm Project.

Discography

The Apocalypse Now Sessions, with Rhythm Devils (Rykodisc, 1979)
Juju Jubilee, with Ebenezer Obey (1985)
Drums of Passion: The Invocation, with Babatunde Olatunji (1988)
Drums of Passion: The Beat, with Babatunde Olatunji (Rykodisc, 1989)
At the Edge, with Mickey Hart (Rykodisc, 1990)
Planet Drum, with Mickey Hart (Rykodisc, 1991)
Jungle Fever, with Stevie Wonder (1991)
Drums of Passion: Celebrate Freedom, Justice & Peace, with Babatunde Olatunji (1993)
Big Bang, percussion anthology with various artists (Ellipsis Arts, 1995)
Mickey Hart’s Mystery Box, with Mickey Hart (1996)
Watchfire, with Pete Sears & Friends (1996)
Supralingua, with Mickey Hart and Planet Drum (Rykodisc, 1998)
Honour Simplicity, Respect the Flow, with Kai Eckhardt (2000)
The Best of Mickey Hart: Over the Edge and Back, with Mickey Hart (2002)
Ijinle Ilu, with Afrika Heartbeat (2003)
Life After That, with Airto Moreira (2003)
Soup’s on Fire, with Jana Herzen (2003)
21 July 2004 San Francisco Ca: On The Road, with The String Cheese Incident (2004)
Circle of Drums, with Babatunde Olatunji (2005)
Ara Kenge, with Bola Abimbola (2005)
Global Drum Project, with Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain, Giovanni Hidalgo (Shout! Factory, 2008)
The Rhythm Devils Concert Experience, with Rhythm Devils (2009)
Mysterium Tremendum, with Mickey Hart Band (2012)
Superorganism, with Mickey Hart Band (2013)
RAMU, with Mickey Hart (Verve, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Obo Addy

Obo Addy

Obo Addy was born January 15, 1936. He was a prominent member of the first generation of African musicians to bring their traditional and popular music to Europe and the United States of America. This versatile magician of the drums embodied the past, present and future of Ghana’s musical culture. He celebrated past traditions while embracing new ideas and foreign influences. Internationally, Obo Addy’s contribution can be measured by the fact that he was one of the key originators of the seminal musical movement now known as “Worldbeat.”

His musical background was a combination of the rigorous standards of ritual music he learned from his father, a Wonche Priest (A Wonche Priest of the Ga culture is a traditional spiritual healer, herbalist, community adviser and conflict mediator. His skills include complete mastery of music and dance as used in rituals he performs for the community.), with the flashy international pop music he performed as a young professional with big bands in Accra, Ghana. After moving away from performing Western standards on the nightclub circuit, Obo Addy joined the National Arts Council of Ghana, becoming a master in the traditional music and dance of the many cultures in Ghana. He later moved to the United States where he created two colorful performing ensembles, each expressing one of the two closely-related sides of his musical personality: traditional and popular.

Okropong, meaning “eagle” in Obo Addy’s native Ga language, performed traditional Ghanaian music using a variety of hand and stick drums, talking drums, bells and shakers. While the musicians built layers of driving rhythms and singing, the dancers, clad in colorful West African garments, engaged in an energetic physical “conversation” with the drummers and the audience. Occasionally, Obo Addy complemented the drummers by playing the Dzili or Giri (a marimba-type instrument) in a manner which demonstrated the strong connection between traditional African music and jazz improvisation.

Bringing the jazz connection into the fore was Obo Addy’s second ensemble Kukrudu (Ga for earthquake’). This eight piece ensemble of African and American musicians performed a rich synthesis of musical styles on Ghanaian percussion and Western instruments including saxophone, trombone, guitar, electric bass and drum kit.

Not only was he a percussionist of consummate skill, but Obo Addy was a singer and vocal arranger of unique character whose harmonic ideas and expressive vocal tone demonstrate for audiences the very real connections between West African and African-American singing styles. The musical compositions performed by both Okropong and Kukrudu were are frequently preceded by stirring polyphonic vocal introductions which displayed these characteristics.

Obo Addy – Photo by Tom Pich

In addition to his performing activities, Obo Addy gave instrumental and dance residencies at academic institutions and was the founder and artistic director of the annual Homowo Festival of African Arts in Portland, Oregon. This festival showed American audiences how the music and dance performed by Okropong fits into its broader cultural context. Obo created a strong residency program titled “Rhythm Explosion” aimed at high school age students and not only showed the evolution of traditional to contemporary music but builts in several lecture-demonstrations for music students.

Since his international debut at the 1972 Munich Olympic games, Obo Addy toured extensively in Europe, the United States, the Middle East and Australia, throughout the seventies with his brothers in Oboade, and since 1980 with Kukrudu and Okropong.

In 1992 Obo Addy was commissioned by the innovative classical music ensemble, the Kronos Quartet, to compose “Wawshishijay” for their chart-topping album Pieces of Africa.

In 1996, Obo Addy was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship Award by the National Endowment for the Arts. This is the highest honor a traditional artist can receive in the United States. Obo was the first African born artist to ever receive the award.

Obo Addy died September 13, 2012.

Discography:

Kukrudu (Cascade Recording Studios, 1981)
Obo (Avocet, 1984)
Okropong – Traditional Music Of Ghana ‎(EarthBeat!, 1990)
The Rhythm Of Which A Chief Walks Gracefully ‎(EarthBeat!, 1994)
Let Me Play My Drums (Burnside, 1997)
Wonche Bi (Alula Records, 2001)
AfieyeOkropong (Alula Records, 2003)

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Artist Profiles: Mustapha Tettey Addy

Mustapha Tettey Addy

Mustapha Tettey Addy was born in 1942 in a small village near Ghana’s capital Accra. The Addy family was known for their impressive ritual drummers and so Mustapha learned to play the drum from early childhood. He first performed outside of Ghana in 1964, when he toured several eastern European countries. Since then he has been a frequent traveler to Western Europe, specially to Germany. He also toured in the UK and the United States with various groups (e.g. Ehimomo) and led many workshops, especially at Die Werkstatt in Dusseldorf.

In 1982 Addy started to collect and arrange the Obonu drum music which has its main roots in the Ashanti region. He became a student of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana and also traveled through all regions of Ghana where he researched the music and the language of the different tribes. In 1986 Addy started a new group called The Drummers which later became the Obonu Drummers.

In 1988 Mustapha Tettey Addy opened a cultural center in Kokrobitey near Accra. At the same time he founded the Academy of African Music and Arts LTD (AAMAL). This center tries to retain traditional forms of music, arts, dance and craftsmanship. The AAMAL is a school for artists, musicians and teachers, but it also promotes young talents and supports the Pan-African cultural exchange.

Discography:

Master Drummer From Ghana (Lyrichord Discs, 1972)
Les Percussions Du Ghana (Arion, 1980)
African Ritual Music ‎(Insel Hombroich, 1984)
Solo Drumming ‎(Insel Hombroich, 1984)
Come & Drum ‎(WeltWunder, 1994)
Secret Rhythms ‎(WeltWunder, 1997)
Come and Dance ‎(Weltwunder, 2003)
Smart Boys, with Obonu Drummers ‎(Weltwunder, 2005)

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