Born in Ghana, the son of a traditional healer, Obo Addy grew up around the drumming and vocal music of Ghana’s Ga people. Along with his brothers, Yacoub and Mustapha, Obo formed a dynamic group, which quickly rose to the top of Ghana’s booming music scene in the mid-1960’s. After touring Africa, Europe, Australia, and Asia with Oboade, the Addy brothers eventually toured the United States to critical acclaim in the 1970’s.
After the ensemble dispersed, Obo Addy formed the nucleus of a drumming network in Portland that spread throughout the Pacific Northwest. Splitting his energies between a traditional project called Okoropong and an Afro-jazz group called Kudrudu, Obo kept busy over the years training musicians for his band and teaching students.
Obo brought to the Northwest a steady stream of Ghanian drummers and dancers to support his efforts, and they have enriched the cultural landscape immeasurably as they spread out through the region. Obo has recorded numerous albums and in 1996 was honored with a National Heritage Fellowship award by the National Endowment for the Arts. He also collaborated with noted jazz musician Julian Priester to create and premiere “Confluence” a new composition commissioned by Jack Straw. He was one of the African immigrant artists whose music was featured in Safarini, a music album developed and produced by Jack Straw and Rakumi Arts International to promote the work of African immigrant artists. Two of Obo Addy’s songs are included on Safarini – Amedzro and Oshi. “Oshi” means “pound your foot to the beat” and is a pop arrangement of traditional Ga music. This song is an excellent example of how Obo adapts drum rhythms into guitar, bass and horn lines. The Safarini compact disc was released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in 2000.
Obo Addy’s greatest contribution was perhaps his teaching of Ghanian music. He has adapted traditional Ghanian instruction techniques to the restlessness of American children and the structures of the school year. He has also adapted traditional patterns to new instruments and encourages young musicians to create their own music.
After a long battle with liver cancer, Addy died on September 13, 2012.
Artist Support Program 2001
Composer in Residence 1999 : Composed original work “Confluence” together with trombonist Julian Priester, combining complex African polyrhythmic patterns with contemporary melodic and harmonic concepts derived from jazz.