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One beat

Ghana native Obo Addy to perform at Colorado College

Obo Addy, one of the creators of world beat music, will - perform on Saturday, Feb. 26.
  • Obo Addy, one of the creators of world beat music, will perform on Saturday, Feb. 26.

Obo Addy is an experienced musical veteran of four decades whose long career has taken him from his native Ghana to Europe, the Middle East, and the United States where he currently lives in the Pacific Northwest. Addy and his ensemble will appear Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Colorado College, bringing a show of traditional Ghanaian instruments and arrangements and also more modern musical styles complemented with dancers in native West African garb.

Post-colonial Africa has produced and exported numerous adroit musicians -- such as Addy -- to Europe and America, adding such styles as Afro and world beat to the lexicon of modern music. Addy is widely credited as one of the creators of world beat, which is not necessarily indicative of a specific style of music but rather a global musical sensibility combining disparate styles into new genres.

Paul Simon's work with Ladysmith Black Mambazo brought world beat to the United States in the 1980s -- a collaboration praised by both critics and consumers. By that time, however, Addy had already penetrated the American cultural scene, teaching, studying and performing across the country.

Addy's evolution is one from local tradition to global influence. As a member of the Ga tribe, the young Addy was heavily immersed in the cultural traditions of tribal West Africa. At the age of 6 he became a "master drummer," an important designation placing him at the center of many tribal rituals. Furthermore, his father was a sort of priest/medicine man, again placing Addy in the middle of the tribe's cultural life. As a teen he soaked in American and European pop influences in his hometown of Accra, but soon gravitated to Highlife, a blend of African and European sounds. He began touring outside of Africa with several different bands, becoming progressively more popular and influential.

Despite musical experimentation, Addy never shunned his Ga musical heritage. In 1969, his band Anasi Krumian Soundz used exclusively traditional Ghanaian instruments such as the whi (whistle) and giri (xylophone). Simultaneously, Addy continued his exploration of non-Ga tribal traditions such as those of the Ewe and Fanti peoples.

In the early '70s, Addy began performing and teaching regularly in the United States and relocated to Portland, Ore., in 1978. Since then, he has become the first African-born artist to be awarded the National Heritage Fellowship Award by the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor for a traditional artist.

Addy currently divides his time between two groups: Kukrudu, a worldbeat band, and Okropong, a traditional quartet. Both bands are marked by Addy's smooth and piercing vocals.

Being that it is Black History Month, it seems relevant to emphasize an often-overlooked piece of Americana. Arguably (but not really), America's greatest, and only, relevant contribution to global culture is a musical tradition that budded in African-American communities in the Deep South and the Delta region. Over time, percussion-heavy African musical forms spawned blues, jazz, rock and most recently hip-hop and rap. Blues and jazz are passionately consumed throughout cultural meccas throughout Europe, and rock spawned a cultural revolution that Mao could only envy.

Like many other African musicians, Obo Addy immigrated to a more stable social and economic climate to practice his art. In coming to the United States voluntarily and teaching, playing and disseminating the diverse African musical tradition, Addy brings full circle the dominant African contribution to American music.

-- Aaron Menza


Master Drummer Obo Addy in concert

Armstrong Hall at the Colorado College (northeast corner of Cascade and Cache La Poudre)

Saturday, Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $12; Call 531-6333 ext. 1234 for tickets, ext. 1221 for information

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