Performing in the 2014 Green Show Friday, June 6 and Sunday, September 7.
This is his fourth season in the OSF Green Show.
A spicy fusion of spirited Ghanaian music with diverse cross-cultural influences.
Okaidja was born into a family of singers and songwriters. His crippled uncle was the town’s notorious composer who spared no one with the songs he wrote about life in the township of Kokrobitey, a small fishing village on the west coast of Ghana. Okaidja’s mother was a colorful lead singer in her spiritual church. Her powerful songs of praise earned her the name “the spiritual singer.” As a young boy Okaidja sang while he worked on fishing boats. The fishermen would sing a cappella songs as they worked, and Okaidja passed the long days learning the songs of the great sea.
At the age of 19, Okaidja was accepted as a professional dancer for the prestigious Ghana Dance Ensemble at the University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies. He became well known for his energetic stage presence and excelled in his performances of the Ga fetish dances. The Ghana Dance Ensemble gave Okaidja the opportunity to study with the best teachers in the country.
In 1997 Okaidja toured the Unites States with the Ensemble. Later on that year he traveled solo throughout Germany teaching Ghanaian music and dance before moving to the U.S to join Okropong, a traditional Ghanaian music and dance group directed by Obo Addy.
Okaidja’s first album, The Traditionalist, is his raw and emotional interpretation of the folkloric songs he grew up singing. His second album, Obutu Apla, ventures away from the strictly traditional and it was heavily influenced by Okaidja’s inquiry into the African Diaspora.
Okaidja’s career shifted as he began to do extensive research into the connections between Ghanaian music and the music of the African Diaspora. Out of this passionate inquiry, his band Okaidja & Shokoto was formed. Through Shokoto, Okaidja creates music that draws from multiple cultural influences from the past and the present. The result is a dynamic fusion of traditional and contemporary African rhythms with the diverse music of the African Diaspora. After dancing and playing percussion for so many years, Okaidja followed his soul’s calling and taught himself how to play the guitar.
He spent countless hours trying to give voice to all of the melodies in his head through this new medium. By learning completely on his own, through his relentless desire to play his unique style of music, he inadvertently created a guitar style that is so distinct that many accomplished guitarists tell him to stay away from taking lessons so that he does not lose his pure, inimitable sound.
The guitar brought out a different sound and inspired Okaidja to write songs unlike anything he had created before. His album, Messenger, reflects the journey that he has been on as a messenger, carrying communication between the traditional world of his native homeland and the contemporary landscape of this modern-day. Okaidja’s songs tell the stories of his people and follow their journeys through the disparate lands where they were scattered. It is an album that speaks to the soul.
His latest collaboration with Canadian harmonica virtuoso, Mike Stevens, exemplifies how Okaidja continues to break new ground as he combines musical genres to conjure up songs that are truly unique. The album, Where’s the One? Here you will encounter the essence of Ghana’s Gold Coast intertwined with the deep roots of Folk and Blues music of North America.
Okaidja & Shokoto on Commumnity: Portland