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January 26, 2007

Finding Home

Kofi Annan moved back to Ghana this week. He's not alone among those returning to that country. About 1,500 Americans now live in Ghana, and more may follow. The reason: this year marks the 50th anniversary of Ghana's independence, and the West African country is opening its arms to the descendants of slaves who were shipped to the Americas from its ports over the centuries.

Janet Butler and her family moved to Ghana seven years ago. Her friends and family were stunned: she was a successful businesswoman, happily married to an attorney, and a mother of two children. 

So why at the age of 45 would she ever have considered moving to Africa?

The reality is that the only thing I've given up is a little income, and a whole lot of stress. You know, ask my husband why he moved here. The number one thing he always says is we moved here for our children. To us, there was no greater gift we could give our children than to grow up here.
-  Janet Butler

The move isn't for everyone, Janet is quick to point out. Some Ghanaians and West Africans view African-Americans as interlopers, or sources of cash to exploit. Janet herself had to get used to power outages and bucket baths. In fact, during the first two years there, she and her husband would look across the dinner table and wonder out loud if they'd done the right thing.

For Janet and her family, it was the right thing.  She's now the CEO of a telecommunications company in Accra, the capital of Ghana, a place she calls "paradise." 

DRUMMING THE DREAM

Yacub Addy comes from a long line of musicians from Ghana. When Yacub was a young man, his country was under British rule. Even at that time, he understood that his art of traditional drumming was precious, but that it was not practiced, or valued. 

Dick Gordon talked to the master drummer when Yacub Addy was in Washington, DC for a performance. Yacub tells Dick tales from his storied career, including the one about the time he led the first stage performance of traditional Ghanaian music and dance. It was 1957, the year of Ghana's independence.

Yacub Addy has collaborated with Wynton Marsalis on "Congo Square." This new composition pays tribute to the historic site on Rampart Street in New Orleans where African slaves gathered to perform their own music during the 1700s and 1800s. 

 

      UPDATE:

April 24, 2009, "Congo Square" will be performed again in New Orleans, this time at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, three years after the premiere in Congo Square.  A piece from "Congo Square" was also performed 1/19/09 as part of Wynton Marsalis's all-star Inaugural event at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, "Let Freedom Swing: A Celebration of America".

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