Passages: Remembering Obo Addy
September 14, 2012
Obo Addy died on September 13, 2012. He was 76 years old. Addy was a master drummer, award-winning composer, brilliant musician, and skilled teacher. A vigorous supporter of world music, Addy was extremely active in bringing that style of music to Portland, where he had lived since 1978.
Addy’s charismatic spirit, rapid-fire hands, and powerful voice 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 had been on the music faculty at Lewis & Clark College for many years, and was the artistic director of the Obo Addy Legacy Project, formerly known as the Homowo African Arts and Cultures. 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. Addy also maintained two different ensembles: Okropong, which means “eagle” in the Ga language, and Kukrudu, which is Ga for “earthquake.“
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.
Plans for a public memorial service are pending at this point. The family has set up a page at http://www.indiegogo.com/oboaddy in order to help raise funds to cover the costs associated with his illness and funeral expenses.