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Obo Addy

Obo Addy, one of the key originators of the seminal musical movement now known as "Worldbeat," is a prominent member of the first generation of African musicians to bring their traditional and popular music to Europe and America.

An original and respected composer whose music reaches far beyond the boundaries of his land of birth, Addy has a twenty-year 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. Obo Addy, the son of a Wonche medicine man in Ghana West Africa, was designated a "master drummer" at the age of six. Surrounded by his enormous family (his father had 55 children by 10 wives) and thoroughly immersed in the core musical traditions of his people, Addy embodied the skills and deep values of Ga music as few could.

During his teenage years and after World War II, he absorbed the international pop music which had seeped into his home town of Accra. Addy played in Joe Kelly's Band, The Ghana Broadcasting Band, and the Farmers Council Band for many years mostly playing European and American music. He later gravitated to Highlife, the new blend of African and European instrumentation. In 1969, he was employed by the Arts Council of Ghana as a Ga master of the national music.
In 1972, he and his brothers performed at the Olympic Games in Munich and embarked on an international tour. They lived in London and toured extensively until 1978 when he moved to the United States and settled in Portland, Oregon. With his wife, Susan, he created Homowo African Arts and Cultures, a not-for-profit organization which hold an annual festival which has introduced thousands of people to the music of Ghana. He's a richly skilled teacher who conducts numerous in-school residencies and workshops. Obo's currently writing music which blends African rhythms with classical instrumentation.

Obo Addy currently teaches music at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He travels throughout the country conducting teaching residencies and performing both solo and with his performing groups. He leads two ensembles which tour nationally- Okropong, dedicated to traditional tribal music and dance of Ghana, and Kukrudu, which performs original music written by Addy. His numerous recordings include two recent works entitled "Let me Play My Drums" and

"Okropong." Obo's newest recordings, Wonche Bi and Afieye Okropong, were released on the Alula label.

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 this country. Obo is the first African born artist to ever receive the award. This picture shows Obo Addy receiving the award from Jane Alexander, NEA director.

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