Oregon Folklife Network

Obo Addy

2012-2013 TAAP AWARDEE

Traditional skill/art/craft: Ghanaian Drumming

Ethnic Background: Ga

Apprentice: Alexander Addy

Contact Information

Contact: Susan Addy

Phone: 503-810-0496 (day) 503-249-0428 (evening)

E-mail: susanjaddy@yahoo.com

Website: www.oboaddy.com

Artist Biography

Birthplace: Ghana

Birth Date: 1/15/36

Passed Away: 9/12/13

Obo Addy was a musician and composer who performed and taught throughout the country. The son of a Wonche medicine man in Accra, Ghana, he was designated a “master drummer” at the age of six. Surrounded by his enormous family (his father had fifty-five children by ten wives) and immersed in the core musical traditions of his people, Addy absorbed the skills and deep values of Ga music as few would.

During his teenage years, he was influenced by international pop music but later gravitated to Highlife, a 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, and 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 until 1978 when he moved to the United States and settled in Portland. With his wife, Susan, he created Homowo African Arts and Cultures, an organization which has introduced thousands of people to the music of Ghana.

Addy taught music at Lewis and Clark College and traveled throughout the country teaching and performing both solo and with his two ensembles. Okropong is dedicated to the tribal music and dance of Ghana and Kukrudu performs Addy’s original music, which blends African rhythms with classical instrumentation. His numerous recordings include two recent works, Wonche Bi and Afieye Okropong released on the Alula label. In 1996 Addy was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship Award by the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor a traditional artist can receive in this country.

Describe your traditional skill/craft/art, when and why it is done, and your history with it.

Ga drumming, both social and traditional. Have been playing all my life. Named a master drummer at 6 years old. Originally accompanied spiritual ceremonies.

How and from whom was the tradition learned?

I learned this tradition as I was growing up. It was taught to me by my parents and older brothers. My family life has always revolved around the ritual and tradition of the Ga people of Ghana, West Africa. As my father was a Wonche priest and medicine man, I was constantly surrounded by the drumming, dancing, and singing that accompanied his work. My siblings and I listened, observed, and helped as needed when my father performed various spiritual ceremonies and rites. From these proceedings I learned about the power of music, drumming, and rhythms. In rituals, I first learned to play bell. Later, I was allowed to play drums. In between these events and lessons with my father, I played on my own and with other musicians at social gatherings in town. As a small boy, I knew that I wanted to be musician. Fortunately, I learned at the art from my family.

Why is this cultural tradition important to your community?

This artistic tradition is useful since it comes from the oral tradition and is used to teach important values.

How, when, why did you come to Oregon?

I came to Oregon in 1979. Had based in Seattle and decided to come to a smaller city.


1993: Governor’s award for the Arts

1993: Master’s Fellowship (Oregon Arts Commission)

1996: National Heritage Fellowship (National Endowment for the Arts)

1999: Masters Fellowship (Regional Arts and Culture Council)

2007: Oregon Musicians Hall of Fame


Composer, singer, and musician specializing in Ghanaian hand drums (obrenten, brekete, pretia, etc.), Donno (“talking drum”), and Giri (African xylophone).


Afieye Okropong (Alula-Allegro 2004)

Wonche Bi (Alula-Allegro 2001)

The Rhythm of Which a Chief Walks Gracefully (EarthBeat!/Warner, 1994)

Let Me Play My Drums (Burnside, 1993)

Okrapong (EarthBeat!/Warner 1992)

Born in the Tradition (Santrofi, 1986)

African American (Flying Heart, 1986)

Obo Addy/Kukrudu (Avocet, 1984)

Obo (Avocet, 1983)

Kpanlogo Party (Tangent, 1973)


In addition to the music I compose, which is described as African-Jazz, I have been writing pieces for String Quartet since begin commissioned by Kronos Quartet to write “Wawshishijay” which I recorded with them on group and recently for the Chintimini Chamber Music Festival and Saxoforte- a saxophone quartet in Germany. My pieces have been performed by 3rd Angle, The Charleston Orchestra String Quartet, The Quad City String Quartet, the Baltimore Symphony String Quartet and The Long Island Philharmonic Quartet.

Teaching Experience

Adjunct faculty at Lewis and Clark College since 1988

Williams College since 1993 on a regular residency basis

Residency at Colby College in 2004

Study Abroad program in Ghana for Lewis and Clark College 2006, 2007, 2010

Teaching in public schools through Young Audiences and the Right Brain Initiative


Percussion Arts Society International Convention: 11/11 Indianapolis, IN

Related Past Engagements

World Food Prize Award, Des Moines, IA for the former President of Ghana Hon. John Kufuor

New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, NJ

World Music Institute, New York City

Williams Center for the Performing Arts, Easton, PA