Monday, February 22, 2010

Joseph Kwame Degbor (1953-2010)

I am saddened to pass on information from John Gabriel, Executive Director for the Center for World Music, that the talented Ghanaian performer/educator Joseph Kwame Degbor passed away in Accra, Ghana on Monday, February 22, following a sudden two-week illness. 

Joseph Kwame Degbor was born on November 11, 1953 in the village Botoku in the Kpando District of the Volta Region of Ghana, West Africa. His father, Paul Kwame Degbor, was a village chief. As a large collection of drums existed in his father's palace, Kwame grew up surrounded by drums and quickly demonstrated a prodigious ability for drumming. By six years of age he began competing with elderly drummers on the talking drums, Borborbor, Zigi, Agbadza, Asafo, and Adowa. In middle school Kwame became the leader of the school's Cultural Troupe, and at the Training College, he emerged as a talented dancer and singer. After training as a teacher, he focused more on dance and created a dance group in Agate village, where the Arts Council of Ghana was impressed with his abilities and appointed him as a representative for the Hohoe and Kpando Districts in 1982. Kwame also became an integral part of the Centre for National Culture beginning in 1982. In 1999 he graduated from the University of Ghana, Legon with a major in Theatre Arts (Dance). After completing his degree, Kwame returned to the Centre for National Culture in Ho and continued training various traditional performance groups in the region. At the Centre for National Culture, Kwame was put in charge of Performing Arts, becoming Director of Programme, Artistic Director of the Centre's Folkloric Company, and Acting Deputy Director for the Centre. Respected for his vast knowledge of folk performing arts, Kwame traveled outside the Volta Region to teach and evaluate dances in other parts of the country.

Between 1992 and 2005 he assisted with the San Diego State University Summer Workshops in Ghana. In 2004 he was invited to San Diego by the Center for World Music to be an Artist-Teacher in Residence. He served as a lecturer at San Diego State University and University of California, San Diego, and as an artist-teacher he taught and performed at California State University, San Marcos and at numerous junior colleges and public schools. He also acted as Artistic Director of San Diego-based drum and dance troupe Ho-Asogli, and as a drummer, storyteller, and especially as a phenomenally graceful dancer, introduced thousands of San Diegans to the beauty of West African Arts. Kwame was preparing to travel to San Diego when he became ill. Kwame is survived by two wives, four sons, and two daughters.

The Center for World Music will organize a memorial service for Kwame in San Diego; information will be forthcoming when available.

See also this newer post with link to an interview with Kwame.

* This post was updated to correct the number of children Kwame had.


G.L. said...

Love you Kwame. Im sad you left without saying good bye but I guess thats how these things work. Thank you for coming into our world and sharing with us the beauty of your world. I am forever great-full to have had the chance to play music and dance next to you.

As you said, "Plenty of time to rest after death".
Sleep well, you earned it.

delores said...

Gifts of true beauty and grace such as yours are rarities in today's garish global consumer/consumption culture.

The day you invited me into a musical space of healing peace transformed my life.

Rest, sonic warrior, rest.