Obo Addy Battles Liver Cancer
Ghanaian master drummer works to the end to complete his legacy
Obo Addy, master drummer, award-winning composer, brilliant musician, and skilled teacher — is in the final stages of his second bout with liver cancer, a disease he’s been battling since 2007. Now under the care of hospice, he’s been given a prognosis of only a few weeks to live.
His family has requested privacy at this difficult time, and is directing his fans and friends to < 2000 a href="http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/oboaddy" target="_blank">CaringBridge for health updates and to leave messages, photos and memories, which will be shared with Addy.
The family has also set up a site, www.indiegogo.com/oboaddy, to help raise funds for his medical expenses and other costs related to his illness.
Addy is working as long as his body will allow, realizing that continuing to play and listen to his music is cathartic as he moves through this final step of this illness. His most recent performance was August 19 with Portland Taiko at the Mt. Scott Community Center. He is still hoping to record one last song he wrote at Falcon Studios.
A vigorous supporter of world music, Addy has been extremely active in bringing that style of music to Portland and Oregon, where he has lived with his wife Susan since 1978. Through numerous in-school residencies, performances and workshops, Addy has affected hundreds of thousands of lives in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. It’s difficult to find a child who grew up in the Northwest in the 80s and 90s that doesn’t hold fond memories of Addy and his drumming.
Addy’s charismatic spirit, rapid-fire hands, and powerful voice have led him to receive the National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts under President Bill Clinton, the Governors Award for the Arts in Oregon, The Masters Fellowship from the Regional Arts and Culture Council and the Masters Fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission.
He remains on the faculty at Lewis & Clark College, and is the artistic director of the Obo Addy Legacy Project, formerly known as the Homowo African Arts and Cultures, a not-for-profit organization founded by the Addys in 1986 as a virtual cultural center with offerings in schools, parks, community centers and performance venues all over the country. The organization put on an annual Homowo Festival in Portland for nearly 15 years with music and dance, food, vendors and art demonstrations from various countries within the continent of Africa and the African Diaspora.
Born in 1936 in Accra, the capital of Ghana, Addy is the son of a Wonche medicine man, and by the age of six was designated as a master drummer. Addy’s family was part of the Ga ethnic group, and he was raised playing in the musical traditions of the Ga people.
Addy got his professional start in Ghana by playing with the Joe Kelly Band, the Ghana Broadcasting Band, and the Farmer’s Council Band, which played popular American and European music. In 1969, he was hired by the Arts Council of Ghana as a Ga master, and he received his first international exposure at the Munich Summer Olympics in 1972. Addy lived in London and spent six years touring internationally until 1978, when he moved to Portland. There he met and married his wife Susan, who began managing his musical career.
Addy has maintained two different ensembles: Okropong, which means “eagle” in the Ga language, and Kukrudu, which is Ga for “earthquake.“ Okropong relies on traditional instrumentation, using hand and stick drums, bells, and shakers to create a layered rhythmic effect. Dance is also an important part of the performance, along with singing. Kukrudu is an eight-piece African jazz group that relies on a mix of European and African instruments.
For more information, visit www.oboaddylegacyproject.org.