Obo Addy is a prominent member of the first generation of African musicians to bring their traditional and popular music to Europe and America.
This versatile magician of the drums embodies the past, present and future of Ghana's musical culture.
An original and respected composer whose music reaches far beyond the boundaries of his land of birth, Addy has over twenty years of presence on the international performing arts scene and has become known for his ability to celebrate past traditions while expanding to embrace new ideas and foreign influences.
Internationally, Obo Addy's contribution can be measured by the fact that he is one of the key originators of the seminal musical movement now known as "Worldbeat."
It is not by accident that Obo Addy is a musical bridge between old and new, between Ghanaian and foreign. His musical background is 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. Now living in the United States, he has created two colorful performing ensembles, each expressing one of the two closely-related sides of his musical personalitytraditional and popular.
Okropong, meaning "eagle" in Obo Addy's native Ga language, performs traditional Ghanaian music using a variety of hand and stick drums, talking drums, bells and shakers. While the musicians build layers of driving rhythms and singing, the dancers, clad in colorful West African garments, engage in an energetic physical "conversation" with the drummers and the audience. Occasionally, Obo Addy will complement the drummers by playing the Dzili or Giri (a marimba-type instrument) in a manner which demonstrates the strong connection between traditional African music and jazz improvisation.
Bringing the jazz connection into the fore is Obo Addy's second ensemble Kukrudu (Ga for earthquake'). This eight piece ensemble of African and American musicians performs a rich synthesis of musical styles on Ghanaian percussion and Western instruments including saxophone, trombone, guitar, electric bass and drum kit.
Not only is he a percussionist of consummate skill, but Obo Addy is 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, are frequently preceded by stirring polyphonic vocal introductions which display these characteristics.
In addition to his performing activities, Obo Addy gives instrumental and dance residencies at academic institutions and is the founder and artistic director of the annual Homowo Festival of African Arts in Portland, Oregon. This festival shows American audiences how the music and dance performed by Okropong fits into its broader cultural context. Obo has created a strong residency program entitled "Rhythm Explosion" which is aimed at high school age students and not only shows the evolution of traditional to contemporary music but builds in several lecture-demonstrations for music students.
Since his international debut at the 1972 Munich Olympic games, Obo Addy has 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 rebels, the Kronos Quartet, to compose "Wawshishijay" for their chart-topping album Pieces of Africa. Addy has been pursuing other opportunities for commissions.
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 is the first African born artist to ever receive the award.
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