Tag Archives: Okaidja Afroso

Portland musician Okaidja Afroso releases his third album, ‘Messenger’

By Sue Zalokar, Contributing Writer

Ghana is a long way from Portland, but to local musician, Okaidja Afroso, the gap is almost imperceptible.

Afroso grew up in Kokrobite, a small fishing village west of Ghana’s capital, Accra. Though he came from a family well known for their singing, Afroso was a dancer first. He worked and traveled with the Ghana Dance Ensemble at the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies, touring the U.S. and Germany and teaching about Ghanaian culture.

It was after a rehearsal one day that Obo Addy, a Portland-based musician who is also from Ghana, invited Afroso to be a part of his musical group, Okropong, in Portland. Afroso was in his early 20s when he packed his bags to make the move to the United States.

Today, Afroso is a vibrant and passionate performer and educator who combines the traditional music of his roots with where he is in the present. He teaches workshops and in schools across Oregon about Ghanaian music, stories, history, geography and language, sharing his culture, in the Ghanaian way, through music and oral tradition.

The idea behind his band Shokoto, he says, is to “find unique sounds.” The band plays music with roots in Ghana, and blends ideas from parts of South and Central America — true to a consummate student of the African diaspora. The sounds incorporate the Ga music from the Southern part of Ghana and the Dagomba music from the Northern part of Ghana.

In his native language Ga, Shokoto means a place of no hardship — a paradise, “a place where we would all like to be,” Afroso says, describing it as existing only in the heart.

Shokoto will perform at the Alberta Rose Theatre on Saturday, Aug. 25 for the release of his third album, “Messenger.”

Sue Zalokar: Tell us about the African diaspora and its impact on music.

Okaidja Afroso: The African diaspora brought so much music to the Americas.  One might ask how they (slaves) were able to preserve that music for the longest time. It is through their drum language. Even though they were not able to play it, they could sing it. We practice the oral tradition.  So many things that we know, many things that I know about my culture, I didn’t read in books. It was actually told to me, it was taught to me. It is my duty to teach it to someone else by speaking it to them, by singing it to them, by playing it to them.   Continue reading