29 October 2007

Monday's mp3: Obo Addy

In world music circles, Ghana often gets overshadowed by the powerhouses of West African music, particularly Senegal and Mali. Make this mistake and you'll miss out on some unique artists and music, among them Palm wine guitarist Koo Nimo; gyill (xylophone) master Bernard Woma; the African Show Boyz, Nyanyo Addo, E. T. Mensah, Afro Moses, and today's focus artist, Obo Addy.

Addy became a professional musician when still in his teens, and he's still going strong today at age 71. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and teaches at Lewis and Clark College. He leads the traditional group Okropong, and the Afro-jazz group Kukrudu, which plays Addy's own compositions.

In last week's Spin The Globe interview, Addy explained that one key difference between the Ghanian rhythms and those elsewhere in West Africa is that Ghanians tend to fill up all the spaces...you rarely hear a pause in the rhythm. Today's song bears this out, with dense drumming, bells, gyill (the marimba-like sound), and some marvelous harmonized vocals.

"Womlimba" means "we are going to call the names of His groups" and is transcribed from the introduction to a fetish song. The song includes the greeting "seefee," used when people return home after a journey or after living in another city.

[mp3] Obo Addy & Okropong: Womlimba
from the album Afieye Okropong

Addy doesn't have many shows listed on his website's calendar, but his recent show in Olympia WA proved that he's still a powerful drummer and performer. He even danced a little, and while he may be slowing down a little, his teaching means that younger musicians and dancers will be carrying on and spreading the culture. Dancers John Ekor and Richard Mensah Sokpor were stellar throughout the show. Perhaps the most riveting movements, however, were the hands of Alex Addy. Obo's son played a support role in the performance, but I've never seen faster hands on a drum.

Artist website: www.oboaddy.com
also check out Addy's nonprofit arts organization: www.homowo.org

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