Ghanaian musician keeps drums alive in Hood River

When Kpani Addy sits down to play his drums, he goes to a different place. It’s a place that resembles his beloved home country of Ghana, West Africa. Depending on which drums he’s playing, he gets into the rhythm with a far-away look. Or a half-smile that verges on laughter. Or he closes his eyes altogether.

“Drumming is the number one of my life,” he says. After spending time in Portland and around the Northwest since first coming to the U.S. in the 1980s, Addy has decided to make Hood River his home. He plans to continue teaching drumming and dance to children and youth, as he’s done in the Portland area and around Oregon since 1991 through Arts-in-Education, Head Start and other youth programs.

“As a teacher I have a great confidence and patience for my students and in the learning process,” says Addy, whose first name is prounounced “pawny,” the “k” being silent.

“I am able to give my students a feeling for the dance, the music and the traditional African culture as well as teach them the technical aspect of drumming and dancing.”

Addy was born into a “medicine house” or “house of drumming” in Ghana. His grandfather was a priest of the Ga people of coastal Ghana, and Addy grew up surrounded by the music and dance that accompanied his grandfather’s ritual ceremonies.

But in Ghana, music and dance were also intertwined with daily activities and chores.

“Everything we do, we put into our music,” he says. “Such as pounding fufui (potato), washing our clothes, farming, fishing or building. The movements and rhythm of our daily activities are used to create both the drum rhythms and the dances.”

Addy started dancing and playing the drum when he was a small child. He made his first drum when he was 11.

“In Ghana, the drum is not just wood and a stand,” he says. “The skin is not just skin. It’s alive. The wood is alive.” His elders taught him to “respect” the drum and “understand the nature of it” before beginning to play it.

Making his first drum made him “so happy,” Addy recalls.

“That’s something that made my life different,” he says. “That’s some kind of power. A drum can talk, it can call people names, it can say a lot.”

During a visit to Ghana last year, Addy organized a performance company called “Children of Ghana,” comprised of about 30 children and teens from ghettos who train and practice with skilled musicians and dancers. He continues to work with the troupe on extended visits home and hopes to raise money through a nonprofit organization to help the troupe and one day bring the young dancers to the U.S. to perform and teach.

Addy also has worked to develop similar youth troupes in Portland by teaching drumming and dance to at-risk youth.

“Drumming, music,” Addy says. “They keep you alive.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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