Obo Addy (January 15, 1936-September 13, 2012), Ghanaian Drumming, Portland (Multnomah), 2012
Obo Addy was a dynamic musician, generous teacher, and gifted composer. The son of a Ga wonche (medicine man), Addy was designated a master drummer at the age of six in Accra, Ghana. His life’s work was to share his culture through music, dance, and drum.
During childhood, he recalled, “I was constantly surrounded by … drumming, dancing, and singing …. My siblings and I listened, observed, and helped as needed when my father performed various spiritual ceremonies and rites. From these proceedings I learned about the power of music, drumming, and rhythms. In rituals, I first learned to play bell. Later, I was allowed to play drums. In between these events and lessons with my father, I played on my own and with other musicians at social gatherings in town. As a small boy, I knew that I wanted to be musician.”
In 1969, the Arts Council of Ghana employed Addy as a Ga master of the national music. He and his brothers performed at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and toured internationally until Addy moved to Portland, Oregon. Addy was one of the first native African musicians to bring worldbeat (a fusion of traditional folk music and Western pop music) to the west. In 1978, he and his wife, Susan Addy, created Homowo African Arts and Cultures to promote Ghanaian music. Addy, who taught at Lewis and Clark College, created programs and curriculum to demonstrate the connections between African and African American music and dance, which he taught and performed around the United States.
In 1996, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Obo Addy a National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor a traditional artist can receive in the United States. His numerous recordings include Wonche Bi (2002) and Afieye Okropong (2003), released on the Alula label. In 2011, Homowo became the Obo Addy Legacy Project to further honor his contributions.
To learn more about the Obo Addy Legacy Project, check out their website: http://oboaddylegacyproject.org/