The Life of Obo Addy

Brett Campbell remembers the African music legend

In keeping with his hybrid musical background, Addy also maintained a double career as a performer, leading, singing and playing percussion in the African jazz octet Kukrudu (“earthquake” in his native Ga language) and the traditional Ghanaian percussion and dance ensemble Okropong (“eagle”). The groups toured universities around the US, appearing at New York’s Lincoln Center and other prestigious venues.
Addy was also a prominent composer,  his best known piece  being "Wawshishijay," which the Kronos Quartet commissioned for their groundbreaking album Pieces of Africa. His music was also performed by Portland’s Third Angle New Music Ensemble and used by choreographers such as Mary Oslund.

Perhaps Addy’s greatest achievement was creating, in 1986 with his wife and manager Susan, the educational institution Homowo African Arts and Cultures, which hosted an annual festival of African music, dance, art, food and more for 15 years.

One of the most important figures in Oregon world music history, Addy received many awards for popularizing African music, including a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Oregon Governors Award for the Arts, a Masters Fellowships from Portland’s Regional Arts and Culture Council and the Oregon Arts Commission, and many others. He’s survived by his wife, Susan, six children, two stepchildren and nine grandchildren.


A Q&A on Obo Addy's 70th birthday. (1/18/2006)

Musical Reunion: Two different musicians and cultures come together for change. (3/11/2009)