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O D A D A A !   M E M B E R S

Odadaa!
Yacub Addy
Okoe Nunoo
Otey Thompson
Obuamah Laud Addy
Imani Gonzalez
Ani Apang
Ayaa Tagoe
Tawiah Nunoo
Koshi Lamptey
George Nunoo
Fosino Nelson

(top) Yacub Addy

The irrepressible Yacub Addy is senior among the renowned Addy family of drummers from the village of Avenor near Accra, Ghana. He’s a hip elder drummer, singer, composer and choreographer, a master of traditional classics of the Ga ethnic group, a creator of new works rooted in tradition, and a unique educator. Founder of the acclaimed performance ensemble Yacub Addy’s Odadaa! - described by the New York Times as an “irresistible, hypnotically charged, earthy and stately treasure” - Addy’s pioneering work has both preserved and added significantly to the vibrant musical and movement heritage of Ghana.

Addy is the son of Okonfo Akoto, a powerful wontse (won-che) or medicine man, and Akua Hagan, lead singer in her husband’s medicine music. His maternal grandmother Okonfo Ablabah was also a medicine woman. Many members of his extended family excelled in traditional medicine and social drumming, song and dance of the Ga people, and the family provided excellent training in a powerful cultural environment. Addy credits his elder brother Tetteh Coblah Addy as his primary drumming teacher.

Raised in the British colony of the Gold Coast and determined, despite the pressures to westernize, to keep his culture alive, Addy organized and led the first staged performance of genuinely traditional Ghanaian music and dance in 1957, the year of Ghana’s independence. He later formed the historic groups Ashiedu Ketrekre, which set a performance standard for traditional Ghanaian artists to follow during the 1960s, and the famous Oboade, which became the first professional traditional Ghanaian group to tour in the West, recording its classic Kpanlogo Party in London in 1973. Addy’s art took him from Ghana to Europe and America, where in 1982 he created Odadaa!, composed predominantly of artists of his own Ga ethnic group. Odadaa! is the classic Ga ensemble in America, performing traditional Ghanaian music and dance arranged and choreographed by Addy, and currently focusing on it’s music, both traditional and root-based composition.

Over the years Yacub incorporated additional instruments in Odadaa!’s ensemble of Ghanaian drums, vocals, bamboo flutes, guitar, and balaphon. He presented the results of collaborations with kora master Foday Musa Suso, and concerts of new works with guest jazz saxist T.K. Blue, and with guest jazz phenom Stefon Harris on marimba. The latter, Kolo, speaks to his life long struggle for human rights.

Yacub Addy’s most significant collaboration is with Wynton Marsalis. The BET Jazz Channel broadcast three episodes of their series Journey with Jazz at Lincoln Center (2003-4 and 2004-5 seasons) featuring Addy’s first project with Marsalis entitled Africa Jazz, performed by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and Odadaa! with Yacub Addy at Columbia University in New York.

Marsalis and Addy came together again with the same configuration of musicians to write Congo Square, a 2-hour co-composition that celebrates the historic site of the same name in New Orleans and it’s contribution to American music. Congo Square was the only place in America that enslaved Africans were allowed to perform their own music, to drum and dance and have a market place every Sunday afternoon from the early 1700s to mid 1800s. Marsalis and Addy's ground-breaking composition was premiered in Congo Square in Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans in April 2006, nine months after Katrina, toured America in 06 and 07, and was doeumented in two releases, the Congo Square 2-CD set and the Congo Square DVD recorded at the 2007 Montreal Jazz Festival. The collaboration has been featured in broadcasts of Iconoclasts on the Sundance Channel Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke on HBO, and in the Congo Square documentary on Bravo Television and ARTV in Canada.

Yacub Addy has taught and influenced many artists in Ghana, Europe and the United States to perform traditional Ghanaian music and dance and to create music based in it. His numerous musical arrangements and choreographic treatments of traditional pieces are classics. His compositions - from creative pieces that appear to the novice to be traditional, to cross-cultural combinations of African music and jazz forms - are all born in tradition. He calls his new music Tsimo, which means "heavy", indicating that it retains deep spirituality.

As an educator, Addy began teaching westerners in Ghana in the 1960s at Lincoln High School in Accra, organizing his Five Hand Drumming Techniques to communicate with students unfamiliar with Ghanaian drumming. The system has been copied by many instructors. He has taught widely, notably in the Washington State Cultural Enrichment Program, the Seattle Public Schools, Evergreen College in Olympia, WA, Howard University in Washington, DC, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. He currently teaches on the faculty of the Music Department at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, where he has been a popular instructor since 1995.

In 2010 Yacub Addy was awarded America's highest honor for traditional and folk artists, a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Addy has also received numerous grants, awards and commissions for his work, including kind support and recognition from the Folk Arts and Dance Programs of the National Endowment for the Arts, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Rockefeller Foundation, The World Music Institute, Meet The Composer, The Ford Foundation, the Africa Exchange program of 651: An Art Center, Arts International, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, The National Performance Network, Dance Place in Washington, DC, Miami-Dade Community College, the New York Commission for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, Skidmore College, Aaron Davis Hall, the New York State Theater at The Egg, the Albany-Schenectady League of the Arts, the Gadangme Association of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Folklore, the Virginia Arts Commission and the Seattle Arts Commission.


Yacub Addy's media releases include:

Kpanlogo Party, by Oboade, 1972, Tangent Records, London; licensed to Lyrichord, NYC

Yacub Addy, Master Drummer of Ghana: Blema Bii - Children of the Ancients, 1982, Makossa Records, NYC.

Dance Like A River: Odadaa! Drumming & Dancing in the U.S., 1985, 45-min. documentary film, Indiana University.

Giving Life: Culture of the Ga of Ghana, 1998, 16 min. video documentary, Yacub & Amina Addy, yacubaddy.com.

Yacub Addy – Ghanadrum, educational website, 1998-2007, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY.

http://www.yacubaddy.com

Yacub Addy’s ODADAA! - Children of the Ancients, 1999, Aku Music, Troy, NY.

Journey with Jazz at Lincoln Center, BET Jazz, 2003-05, 3 episodes on Yacub Addy’s collaboration with Wynton Marsalis titled Africa Jazz, 4/03, Columbia University, NYC.

Congo Square 2-CD set, 2007, Jazz at Lincoln Center, NYC, written by Wynton Marsalis &Yacub Addy, performed by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis & Yacub Addy & Odadaa!, produced by Delfeayo Marsalis.

Iconoclasts: Wynton Marsalis & John Besh, premiere 11/07, Sundance Channel, featuring Congo Square project and Montreal Jazz Festival performance.

Congo Square, 02/08, Bravo Canada, 48 min. television documentary of performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival 2007.

Congo Square DVD, 2008, Shanachie Entertainment, Newton, NJ, concert at the Montreal Jazz Festival 2007, performed by Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis & Yacub Addy & Odadaa!.


Reviews:

“irresistible, hypnotically charged, earthy and stately ... Odadaa! is a treasure.”
- The New York Times

"Odadaa! is a treasure house of Ghanaian culture that not only performs traditional music and dance, but continually invents new forms rooted in tradition. This group of artists, led by master drummer Yacub Addy, has been living in our midst for more than 25 years, constantly enriching the cultural life of the U.S."
- Robert H. Browning, Executive and Artistic Director, World Music Institute, NYC

(Congo Square:)

"From start to finish, an amazingly beautiful musical experience."
- New Orleans Times-Picayune

"Jubilant, swinging... a festival unto itself"
- Washington Post

"It was simply beautiful...one of the most dynamic pieces of music I've ever heard."
- Rochester City News

"a bristling, brilliant dialogue between two epochs of black musical culture. The effect was stunning."
- Howard Reich, Chicago Tribune, 6/22/07

"Amazing. Incredible. Awesome. I've run out of adjectives."
- Grand Rapids Press

"charismatic performance, brilliant, precise and beautiful, its presentation was visually striking"
- Times Argus, Montreal

"Congo Square is a truly significant work," says AMFS (Aspen Music Festival and School) president and CEO Alan Fletcher. Combining the quintessentially American sound of jazz and the masterful drumwork of West Africa, it is a profound blend of cultures and traditions; it shows how different art forms can complement and enrich each other. Wynton and Yacub's uniquely powerful composition shows how jazz, classical and world music can seamlessly combine in a contemporary creation that points to the future."
- Aspen Post

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Okoe Nunoo, the Assistant Leader of Odadaa! and a senior member with the group since 1998, is a traditional Ga drummer specializing on the gome drum and a basist. Raised in the immediate neighborhood of famed highlife composer King Bruce, he learned from the many creative musicians there, and was also influenced by the traditional rhythms of his maternal grandmother’s medicine practice. He appeared with a number of traditional drumming and dance groups and bands in Ghana, recording with many, and toured Ghana with the British marimba group Ensemble Bash and Italy with the traditional ensemble Ebaahi Gbeko. Notably he was a member of the Pan African Orchestra from 1990, holding the position of Leader (second to the Director), touring Ghana, the U.S., Canada, France and the U.K., and recording Opus 1. Okoe returned to the United States as a member of Odadaa!, participated in Odadaa!’s Tsimo, Kolo, Africa Jazz, and Congo Square projects, and in the group’s recordings, Children of the Ancients and the Congo Square CD and DVD.

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Otey Thompson, a Ga drummer, singer and balaphonist, and the youngest son of Yacub Addy’s mother, was playing master drums at 15 in Yacub’s traditional children’s ensemble which appeared weekly on GBC television, and was a member of Yacub’s ground-breaking adult ensemble Ashiedu Ketrekre. He also performed in African Personality, affiliated with the Arts Council of Ghana, and from 1967-70 played congas and vocals in the highlife dance band Channels. He came to the U.S. as a member of Odadaa!, and performed with the group from 1985-93, co-writing songs with Yacub that became group classics, and again from 2003 to the present. In 2006 Otey co-composed Tsotsobii, a piece included in Congo Square, with Wynton Marsalis and Yacub Addy, and appeared in the Congo Square CD and DVD. He also performs with their brother Obo Addy’s groups.

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Obuamah Laud Addy is the son of Tettey Kojo Addy (deceased), a senior drummer of the Addy family, grandson of the renowned medicine person Okonfo Akoto (deceased), and nephew of Yacub Addy. Also known as O.B. and Laud Addy, he trained in traditional music from childhood like many in his extended family. From the early 1970s to 83, he was a lead singer in a series of contemporary Ghanaian bands, including the Ghana Police Band, the Salty Seven, the Lord Bob Cole Band, the Black Beats lead by King Bruce, Rebone (his group), the Sweet Talks led by Jewel Akah, and the Sweet Beans, performing throughout Ghana and for extended periods in Lome, Togo and Lagos, Nigeria, where he had the opportunity to appear with the late Fela Ransom Kuti. He came to the U.S. as a member of his uncle Yacub Addy’s ensemble Odadaa!, performing lead vocals and supporting percussion from 1983-86 and from 2003 to the present. He appeared in the Congo Square CD and DVD, and can be heard on Alokoto (his own release) and Okeeyiloo by Shirazi. O.B. also teaches workshops in Ghanaian percussion and song.

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Imani is an exceptional jazz/world vocalist and arts educator. Her voice was featured in the musical sound track of the Emmy nominated film, The Jane Goodall Biography, and in the sound tracks of many episodes of National Geographic Television’s Explorer series. She presents workshops nationally on the traditional music of Asia, West and South Africa, South America and the Caribbean, holding the position of Workshop Presenter and Teaching Artist with the Kennedy Center Partners-In-Education National Touring Program. From 1989 to the present she has been the only American performing and touring with Yacub Addy and Odadaa!, participating in the Tsimo project, the Kolo project (with Stefon Harris) and in the Jazz Africa and Congo Square projects with Wynton Marsalis, performing a solo song Marsalis composed in each project. She appeared in Odadaa!’s recordings Children of the Ancients and the Congo Square CD and DVD. Imani performs with her own world beat/jazz ensemble with which she has released Collage, Between Here and There, and Calling You, and has also recorded with Wycliffe Gordan, Hilton Ruiz, and Djimo Kouyate.

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Ani Apang is a Ga drummer, guitarist, balaphonist, keyboardist and bamboo flute player. Raised in the family house of King Bruce, and a son of Kwajiri (deceased), a master drummer of the Tume rhythm, he started at eight playing atumpan drums and quickly learned other traditional drums, traps, guitar, bamboo flute and keyboard. Ani was a member of a number of traditional groups and bands in Ghana; notably he was a founding member of the Pan African Orchestra, and a member of the famed dance bands, the Black Beats and Ramblers International. He also toured Italy with the traditional ensemble Ebaahi Gbeko, and appeared as a guitarist and keyboardist with Ghanaian groups in Germany and the U.K. before coming to the U.S. as a member of Odadaa!. With Odadaa! Ani participated in the Kolo, Africa Jazz and Congo Square projects, and in the recording of the Congo Square CD and DVD.

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Nii Ayaa Tagoe, a Ga bamboo flutist, drummer and dancer, started performing as a child on annual visits to his grand parents village of Kwashi-Kumaman where traditional music was played by the community nightly. He was also influenced by the many creative musicians in the neighborhood where he was raised in Accra, also the residence of famed high life composer King Bruce. In Ghana, he performed and recorded with the Bukom Ensemble and was a founding member of the Pan African Orchestra. He toured abroad with three traditional ensembles: Italy with Ebaahi Gbeko, Libya with Feehi, and Germany with Khalifi, with which he also recorded, and performed in Cameroon with the creative Ghanaian ensemble African Sound Project and the German group Tri Color, prior to becoming a member of Odadaa!. With Odadaa!, Nii Ayaa participated in the Kolo, Africa Jazz and Congo Square projects, and in the recording of the Congo Square CD and DVD. He also teaches Ghanaian drumming and dance workshops in New York State.

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Tawiah Nunoo (also known as Pa T.) is a traditional Ga drummer who started at nine, specializes in Ewe and Northern rhythms, and plays trap drums. He was raised in the immediate area of famed highlife composer King Bruce, learning from the many creative musicians there, and was also influenced by the traditional rhythms of his maternal grandmother’s medicine practice. He performed in a number of traditional groups in Ghana, and was notably a member of the Pan African Orchestra from 1992 - 2000, touring Ghana, the U.S., Canada, France and the U.K. and recording Opus 1. He also toured Italy with the traditional ensemble Ebaahi Gbeko, and toured Ghana with the British marimba group Ensemble Bash. Pa T. returned to the U.S. as a member of Odadaa! and has participated in the Kolo, Africa Jazz and Congo Square projects, and in the recording of the Congo Square CD and DVD.

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Koshi Lamptey is a leading traditional Ga dancer who began dancing at nine. She was initially trained by Otsiri Shinto, and appeared for many years in the traditional drumming and dance group Shidah in Accra. She was also a member of the acrobatic dance group R.A.P. at the National Theater, appeared with the Bukom Ensemble in Ghana, and toured Australia with the Kusun Ensemble. In 2000 she came to the US as a member of Odadaa!, receiving further training from Yacub Addy.

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George Boye Nunoo is a leading traditional Ga dancer whose grandfather, mother, uncle, two aunts and sister are dancers. He followed his elder sister, the retired Odadaa! dancer, Akweley Aryeetey, to the stage at seven, appearing with Nii Lei Loi, Shidah, and Folkloric Salanta in Accra. He came to the US as a member of Odadaa! in 1997, and was further trained in traditional dance and bell playing by Yacub Addy. George also assisted Yacub in teaching African dance at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs.

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Fosino Nelson is a young Ga dancer and vocalist who performed in Adafi Tswalori and the Kusun Ensemble, two traditional and creative music and dance groups in Ghana, before coming to the US, as well as with the Bromo Dance Ensemble.