Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Artist Entrepreneur

photo by Mike Chaves

To my mind to succeed as an artist, one must also be an entrepreneur. It's miserable if one ends up poor and unwell with the talent that Van Gogh possessed. That makes for good tragedy post-humously but not a happy life. Yet, it seems to me as though the dominant patterns in the brain which serves one out into society as an artist, inhibits the calculating business/sales/ administartive/ auditing mind that one needs to be successful. Therefore artists wait to be discovered and managed, which is very good when that happens and one finds really good managers, agents, etc. But many artists have enough skill and talent to be successful not necessarily to become celebrities but to make as good a living as any other profession. In a place like Canada it's great that there are grants and available in the absence of royal patronage. It would be nice to have patronage too:) Here's what I'm thinking: Many artists have figured things out in their community. They may know how to produce themselves and put on a show from concept to advertising and marketing. But they can only do this in their own neck of the woods where they have had to find the entrepreunerial edge. They may have an extensive list of people who have watched them grow who may come to see their work. Why don't such artists who may be wearing down their own audience with this overexposed act (within their own community), connect with others from different parts of the province and host, produce and market them in their home community in exchange for similar favours from the visiting artist. In essence an intercity network of co artists. Recently I watched the East York Choir in performance and they were wonderful in their communtiy. But after all this practice they perform once and that's it unless someone could host them elsewhere and run the business of it where they cannot. In lieu of agents and managers, how could this happen? In Africa we say "hand come, hand go". In Canada we say: "you scratch my back and I scratch yours". Imagine that there were associations formed in this manner, the mid level artist could potentially get really busy and the emerging artsist would know the value of working to establish themselves within their own community. Artist Entrepreneurs need to think this way to connect to a bigger world. We know that in our day Van Gogh would have fared better, wouldn't he?

On this note I hereby create my intercity network of Artist Entrepreneurs. You may register with me so long as you are a performing artist, don't live in Guelph and have succesfully put on shows seating at least 250 people :)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

They put the SOUL in Spring

Hurray for Jenny Crober and the East York Choir for a powerful and soul stirring afternoon of song. Choral music is a force of nature, I find, and we were treated to Canadian composers, Tchaikovsky and a Bulgarian folk song. My personal favorites were Wood River, The Scout and Polegnala e Todora. The switch to Spirituals was powerful with "Ain't got time to die and De blin' man stood on de road and cried.
At the intermission I bid for perennials to plant in my upstart garden and then I kept my fingers crossed. Matlakala/Emily was an up beat joyous song to begin the African section. Indeed I loved all the songs but since I'm choosing favorites, I must say I love the rythm and tempo of Si njay njay njay, I love the gentleness and calm of Hamba Lulu. Vamudara makes me want to dance the "adowa" and O Sifuni Mungu and Siyahamba must be everybody's favorite. Ah, I might as well add on Hombe for its vocal complexity and Thula baba which i first heard in the show Umoja. There I loved them all.

"Onipa da wo ho so," written by my godfather, Dr. Ephraim Amu never ceases to call out my goosebumps one by one. He would have been so proud and so would my Dad who visited Canada only once in his lifetime. The little percussion section grew larger at Larry Graves suggestion. Suddenly not only did he want to drum but he wanted to sing, and involve the audience in the signature double clap of Kpanlogo. He even got me to dance the kpanlogo. How could I refuse? He and Fule had a blast, Larry on the kpanlogo and Fule on the djembe. My story The Magic Tree of the Sahel was well received and the afternoon came to an end.

The choir and Jenny received a standing ovation which I consider well deserved. At the end, we met so many people and received an abundance of compliments. I remember particularly, Brainerd Blyden-Taylor who directs the great Nathaniel Dett Chorale , Constantin and Mima who hail from Bulgaria. Mima is a member of the Trio Orpheus and Mariatou comes from Sierra Leone. I thought it would be a wonderful event and so it was. The Nathaniel Dett Chorale will be singing in Guelph in the fall. I wonder: what about the East York Choir? Maybe Guelph should have a taste of them too.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Spring Soul- Toronto, Eastminster United Church

Tonight we practised with the East York Choir which will present Spring Soul tomorrow , Sunday May 27th at 3pm. They sound heavenly and when the bass and tenors sing Dr. Amu's Onipa, I get goosebumps all over me. I'll tell you about my favorite songs tomorrow when I have the program before me and can spell everything just right. Fule and Larry are playing percussion, mainly the Djembe and Kpanlogo drums, and the rhythms rock with the wonderful tunes and the amazing harmonies of the East York Choir. Jenny Crober directs them in a spirited manner and over the last few weeks of rehearsal we have seen them stretch and reach for perfection. Tomorrow I will perform a solo dance and a story at the concert. Toronto is waking up to Africa!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival

Jiwani is preparing for the GCDF Site Specific Series. To be honest that particular series is the best dance event of the entire festival because it takes place in the picturesque Exhibition park under a blue sky, with the tall trees and green grass as as our back drop and the audience as part of our act. This year four dances will be performed at different sections of the park and hopefully the sun will prevail.

We will be premiering a dance, Spirit Alive choreographed for the event and performed to original recorded music by Kwame Badoe and the live drumming of the Jiwani drummers. Spirit Alive is a prayer which symbolizes and celebrates robust life for Africa after the current tragedy of the HIV epidemic which seems to speak death and decimation for the continent of Africa. Yet we shall live, and robustly so! I have fashioned the dance after the Lamban dance of Guinea, the dance of the griots. Something about the jeliw speaks directley to me because deep down I resonate to the call of the griots . I am called to tell the stories of Africa.

On June 2nd and 3rd, watch out for Jiwani on the green grass of Exhibition park.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Women of Distinction 2007

On May 10th I dressed in red and joined the other 2007 Women of Distinction nominees at the River Run Centre. The air was filled with expectation, excitement and some nervous tension as the gems of Guelph community arrived and settled in at the Co-operators Hall. We greeted each other, complimented each other and did a mini tour of the stage and back stage, committing to memory the order of the events as they were expected to unfold. Then Bob Housser took the group photos, hundreds of them, making jokes while we blinked and blinked, our smiles pressed firmly on our faces.

Afterward we had dinner, exquisite offerings of vegetables in upended forks, growing in trays of grass. There was mango chutney, (correct me if I don't know what I'm talking about) sweet peppers, cauliflower and diverse vegetable dipping sauces. I sat with Elizabeth Cunningham, the very gracious Kathleen Schmalz and Judith Rosenberg. I sipped on sparkling Sprite, too excited to think of drinking wine.

At last we were called up to the parade of nominees. My category was first and my name by virtue of supreme alphabetical order, first. I heard my name, loud and strong and the next thing I knew I was stepping (gracefully, I hope) on my new pointy high heeled shoes - and I never wear thin stiletto heels. I made it and stood smiling at the darkened auditorium after I had coillected my nominee's plaque. This event is more gracious than the Oscars in this regard. Then when we had all gathered to thunderous applause we walked off stage and found our seats.

Then our category was announced and video clips of our interviews screened for all to see. Magic 106.1 and CJOY 1460 were the sponsors of the category Arts and Culture...."and the recipient is.... Adwoa Badoe!" I was delighted, thankful and in full respect of my fellow nominees. I shook their hands, hugged those close to me and went up to collect my award. Two minutes later I had given thanks to all of Guelph, the YWCA, my supporters, friends, family and God, the giver of talent and favour. Then I had photograph taken with my sponsor. Back in the auditorium, my excitement brimming over, I found myself sitting next to my friend Michelle Mohr. YES! It felt nice to win. The rest of the ceremony passed as the recipients were named for each category. Afterwards over dessert and coffee, I celebrated with good friends. Fule was there with my kids Wynne, Matthew and Stephanie. Anne Dance came with Binty and Kadi. Dorothy Odartey Wellington was there with Stephen Hennighan, Stephanie Nutting, Atsu Amegashie and Lucy Mutharia. Somehow I missed seeing Lila Engberg. The other women in my category were definitely most deserving and very gracious. I applaud, Catrina von Radecki, Janet Johnson, Kathleen Schmalz, Jessica Steinhauser and Patricia Patrick who won a lifetime achievement award. Jessica and I were wearing similar shoes. I'm yet to send her a photograph of our feet!

Since May 10th I have received flowers from well wishers and as a post script, Liz Sandals, MPP has sent a certificate of congratulations! I just received the statements my nominators and supporters wrote on my behalf and I am blown away.

Still blown away,

Monday, May 21, 2007

To Ghana and Back

Since my last blog, I have been to GHANA where my daughter and I spent a wonderful two weeks meeting family and seeing the sights in Accra and Cape Coast. My best times were meeting my old school mates from SMS, UST and finding them all well and doing awesomely. Notably I enjoyed the company of Slim, Alex, Ray, Charles, Josie and Davina and then there was my ex-room mate Darius. I saw the next thing at Alliance Francaise with Pete. Her name is Dobet Gnahore and she moves like a cat. She is a singer-songwriter, multi instrumentalist and dancer with a mean band and a meaner show. Her CD is Na Afriki and I own one. Move over Angelique!

Ghana at 50, there wasn't much left over to see, but Panyin outdoored her baby and on AL's behalf Snof claimed God-mother status for us all. It was so good to see the AL group, Akos and Tibs, Zid and Arnold, Zipporah, Elliot and Naana; Tawiah, Kosei, Naa Abena and the old girls of Wey Gey Hey. There was Kate and Bea and Rosemond whom I hadn't seen for all of twenty years! And then there was Robert! Wow! In two weeks I had seen all these and others including old Achimotans and Aliki.

At La Palm the kids swam while Ako and I sat under an umbrella which did nothing to curb the heat of the sun. Pete came and then Miki and Tawiah and their kids. We ate Banku and Tilapia, plantains and jolof. The malt was not cool enough but it was good to sit and relax.

Bojo beach was a new place to me and the sand was white and clean. The waves washed against our feet, singing praises to the sky. The sky was so wide, so vast, so full of freedom and I sang hymns and waded as far as my knees. I soaked my capris as far as my thighs. We played old school rhythm and rhyme hand-games while Stephanie and Essie pretended to swim. K. quarrelled with London boy and my nephew, Papa Fule brought his girlf friend to say hi. All too soon the afternoon was over with frantic calls from home, warning us of a tropical storm. We rode the canoe back to the main land and kesewa and I went adventuring at Kokrobite. We didn't find Nii Tettey Tetteh's Kusun, but we found the compound of Nii Tettey Addy. We didn't meet the great drummer though. Lost opportunity!

Cape Coast was quite the trip and I learned many life lessons in a day. We did the Cape Coast Castle tour and saw the museum exhibits. Then at Hans Botel we ate, while crocodiles swam lazily by and lizards skittered on concrete floors. I saw a hornbill, in bright primary plumage and songbirds flitting from tree to tree.

Ghana was the same and Ghana had changed. The Akosombo dam has declined in might and load shedding means hydro power outages on a regulated schedule. Everyone speaks of the declining rains but hardly anyone remembers that nearer the source of the Volta River, the Burkinabes have dammed the same river leaving only a trickle arriving in Ghana. Inspite of this inconvenience, life continues and people live as fully as they can. Generators come alive when the hydro-power goes off, giving expensive and enivironmentally unsavoury power to those who can afford it. All others contend with early nights in hot steamy Accra, pulsing with the hopes of millions of people in three piece designer suits and ties, riding four by fours or wearing second-hand oburoni w'awu tee shirts, with faded letters telling of another world- Molson Canadian... what animal is that?