Meet the Team
Meet the hardworking team behind The Gahu Project.
Frederick Kwasi Dunyo was born in the Ewe village of Dagbamete, in the Volta Region of Ghana. He has been playing the drums from the time he could barely reach the top of them. Since then, he has directed, coached, taught, drummed, and danced extensively in a variety of contexts.
Kwasi was the lead drummer for Sankofa Dance Theatre from 1977 to 1981 where, under the tutelage of Godwin Agbeli, he learned much of his repertoire of Ghanaian music. In 1992, Kwasi was the recipient of a Visiting Foreign Artist grant from the Canadian government which provided the basis for his first trip to North America. Kwasi's open and generous teaching style, and his love of the music has earned him many praises.
Kwasi is the member of the faculties of York University, University of Toronto, Royal Conservatory of Music and the Toronto District School Board. He has also performed and given workshops at many Canadian and American universities including the University of Alberta, University of Saskatchewan, Guelph University, University of Waterloo, University of Western Ontario, McMaster University, Brock University, Memorial University, University of Virginia, Tennessee Technological University, and William and Mary University.
Kwasi has taught in public schools in Ontario and Virginia, he took part in a Sound Symposium in St. John's Newfoundland in July 1992, and performed at Toronto's First Night in 1996 and 1997. Kwasi is now a member of the Society of Ethnomusicology of North America.
Fanis Juma-Radstake is a local activist, community organizer and registered social worker. Her community practice is with the African Community Wellness Initiative (ACWI) and focuses on intersecting areas of food justice, racial justice and educational justice. Fanis’ work has involved accessing grants to create a number of empowerment initiatives including the Multicultural Community Gardens Project that claims urban spaces for immigrant families who want to grow their own food, Young City Growers that offers employment and education opportunities to youth in food justice, Ubuntu Kids Club that provides Black-led afterschool supports for Black children in KW and in co-developing CARE, an arts-based gender and identity empowerment program for local Black school-age girls.
Currently, Fanis is involved in co-organizing the Racial Justice Network, a local response movement to systemic racism that holds space for strategic dialogue among Black practitioners, community members and allies and engages in advocacy within major child and youth serving sectors including the Waterloo Region District School Board and Family and Children’s Services Waterloo Region. Fanis is also working as a part time registered social worker with Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, supporting survivors of gendered violence.
Fanis has held research assistant and coordinator positions at Renison School of Social Work, University of Waterloo under the supervision of published race scholar, Dr. Kathy Hogarth and with the University of Regina under the supervision of Dr. Funke Oba, where she is currently contracted as a research coordinator, to facilitate interprovincial research partnership between that explores the experiences of African, Caribbean and Black Youth in the Waterloo Region. Fanis’ academic experience includes a BA in Psychology, a Bachelor’s of Social Work and is currently pursuing a Masters of Social Work. Through her practice with the ACWI, Fanis continues to seek opportunities to create and participate in intersectoral partnerships that will promote wellness for Waterloo Region Black youth and their families.
Brennan Connolly is professional percussionist and Instructor in Percussion and Community Music at Wilfrid Laurier University where he directs the Percussion Ensemble. Brennan holds a Master of Music degree in performance percussion from Oklahoma City University and a Bachelor of Music degree in percussion performance from the University of Western Ontario. Brennan is an active freelance musician and performs regularly with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. He is also an active theatre musician performing in pit orchestras, fanfares and onstage at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and with Drayton Entertainment. Brennan is also a founding member of Duo Percussion, a professional percussion pairing who has performed hundreds of school shows over the last ten years with the mandate of exposing students to percussion instruments they otherwise may never learn about.
After being introduced to Ghanaian drumming by Kathy Armstrong while in university, Brennan never forgot the passion he had discovered to pursue this style of music. Almost eight years after that first workshop with Kathy, he travelled to Dagbamaete, Ghana to study Ghanaian drumming and the trip revolutionized his understanding of the role of music in our society, his philosophy around community arts and his approach to teaching and learning. Since the trip, Brennan has studied Ghanaian drumming intermittently with Kwasi Dunyo in Toronto and aspires to use his music as a vehicle to help others become the best versions of themselves.
Kathy Armstrong combines her training in classical percussion and music education with her twenty-five years of studies in Ghanaian music and dance to offer an integrated and community based approach in her work. She received her BMus. and MMus. from the University of Toronto, studying with Russell Hartenberger and Robin Engelman of Nexus, and focusing on education and world music. She travelled to Ghana in 1990 to begin studies with Kwasi Dunyo, and two years later facilitated his first trip to North America. She is the founding director of Baobab Drum Dance Community and teaches at Carleton University. Kathy recently completed an MA in Music and Culture at Carleton, where she received a Senate Medal for her work researching the links between drumming and health and wellbeing.
Baobab Tree Drum Dance Community
Founded by Kathy Armstrong in 1995, Baobab Tree Drum Dance Community is a non-profit arts education and presentation organization located in Ottawa. The community is dedicated to music education through Ghanaian music and dance in performance and class settings. Named for the unusual and resilient African tree, Baobab provides a collaborative and inclusive environment in which people of all ages learn and perform West African singing, drumming and dance. The organization envisions a future in which people are actively engaged and enriched through world music, dance and culture, thus enabling them to become creative and confident global citizens. A catalyst for creating intercultural learning opportunities, Baobab has been a leader in Community Music, using multi-age groupings to foster healthy relationships and connections among children, adolescents, adults and seniors in the Ottawa area. Through participatory music-making, Baobab provides powerful opportunities that engage people of all ages at the local and international levels.
Josh Hill is the Head of Music at Cameron Heights Collegiate. He has the privilege of leading a thriving and vibrant community of students, staff, parents, and community partners. Josh is passionate about using music as a vehicle to create inclusive communities, and to work towards social change. He has presented multiple times at the Ontario Music Education Conference. In September of 2017 he was a speaker at the TEDxKitchener conference. Josh is a member of the board for Laurier Center For Music in the Community, Chairperson for The Center For Sound Music Education, and the Manager for the Kaleid Choral festival. Josh is currently working on his Masters Degree in Community Music through Wilfrid Laurier University.
Dr. Deanna Yerichuk
Dr. Deanna Yerichuk has dedicated her academic and musical career to community-engaged social change. As an academic, her research focuses on equity and inclusion in and through music. Her award-winning doctoral research (University of Toronto) examined the emergence of Canada’s first community music schools in Toronto’s immigrant neighbourhoods in the early 1900s. Since graduating in 2015, her research has focused on impacts of colonization in Alberta’s Indigenous communities, including policy development for the Government of Alberta and research support for a project on Indigenous gospel music in Alberta.
Deanna joined the Faculty of Music at Wilfrid Laurier University in 2017 as Assistant Professor, where she now serves as coordinator of the Bachelor of Music: Community Music program. She teaches undergraduate courses in singing, facilitation and leadership, music cultures, and foundations in community music. At the graduate level, Deanna teaches interdisciplinary arts and arts-informed research methods.
As a performer, Deanna’s singing career has run the gamut of musicals, classical repertoire, folk music, vocal improv and world music. As a community musician, she led the voice and choral department at Dixon Hall Music School (Toronto) for five years, and was a frequent guest conductor for Echo Women’s Choir (Toronto), and worked with Sing for Life (Edmonton) to pilot music classes for mothers in conflict with the law so that they can learn action songs, games, and lullabies to sing with their children.
Deanna is thrilled to be leading the research component of The Gahu Project. The research uses arts-based participatory action research to centre the voices of African, Caribbean, and Black identifying students in examining how The Gahu Project affects high school climates from a racial justice lens. The research component of The Gahu Project is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
Dr. Olufunke Oba
Dr. Olufunke (Funke) Oba, assistant professor, Ryerson University and Carnegie Foundation fellow has a PhD in social work from Wilfrid Laurier University. Dr. Oba, a visiting scholar to the University of Lagos, is a two-time Ontario Graduate Scholar and recipient of Wilfrid Laurier University’s award for teaching excellence award in 2017. Also, the Afrocentric methodological approach she designed for her Doctoral research on school experiences of Black youth, earned her the outstanding graduate work award. Dr. Oba’s research interests include race, colonialism, Afrocentrism, equity and equipping social workers for a diverse social milieu. Dr. Oba created the Community Academic Reciprocal Engagement (CARE) for Black girls’ project in 2016 to promote intercultural dialogue between social workers and Black youth, using an arts-based approach, it was funded by Women’s College Hospital. The Gahu project built on the CARE project arts-based model by utilizing drumming to facilitate racial justice dialogue circles in Waterloo region high schools. Dr. Oba infused the Gahu project with a critical lens to enable structural analysis of systemic racism. Specifically, her contribution to conceptualizing the Gahu project included questioning the whiteness of Music education in Canada and exclusion of Black musicians in the Ivory towers with a view to promoting self-reflectivity leading to policy/practice changes in Canadian music education.
Dr. Oba’s current projects funded by Social Sciences Humanities and Research Council (SSHRC) include an Investigation of the Schooling Experiences of Black Youth in Saskatoon, a pan Canadian study on access to post secondary education among Black youth with refugee background and a third study on the experiences of racialized students in professional helping disciplines. These studies are framed by decolonizing, Afrocentric and critical race theories and Dr. Oba bridges theory, practice, the academy. She is the immediate past president of the African Canadian Association of Waterloo region, founding member of the Bridging Resources project, and the Multiculturalism: Making it Work Roundtable. She represented the African community on the Waterloo Region District School Board ‘s Equity and Inclusion Advisory Group, is a former director of KW Counselling Services and member of the Record community editorial board. Family and Children Services, John Howard Society, KW Community Foundation, KW Counselling Services, International Women Services of Saskatchewan, and the Saskatchewan Association of Immigration, Settlement and Integration Agencies (SAISIA) have benefitted from Dr. Oba’s anti-racist trainings. Dr. Oba regularly presents at local and international academic conference, writes for the Conversation and has delivered numerous community presentations, workshops, seminars, keynote and plenary sessions.