Ben Baddoo

Based now in Bristol, Ben comes originally from Nsakina, a village about 20 miles from Accra, the capital of Ghana. He's been playing West African drums since he was six. "As the Chieftain of our village, my Grandfather ran lots of rituals which were always accompanied by drumming. Everyone was expected to play. At first my brothers would just give me a bottle or a cowbell to bang on but if one of them up for a moment, I'd grab the chance and go for the drums. By the time I was 8, I was a fairly good drummer."

Though Ben harboured ambitions to be a lawyer, at 17, he'd eased up on the study and fallen in love with a girl from a national dance troupe. "To keep in her favour, I'd accompany her to the dancing festivals and join in with the drumming. The head of the troupe realised I was quite a gifted drummer and before long, I was not only leading that troupe but I'd also set up my own group called Sankofa."

In 1984, the troupe was spotted by a UK promoter and invited to England. Ben was 25 at the time and Sankofa's prospects were hot. They were the only African dance group in the UK with a prime slot at the Cambridge Theatre in London's West End. "It was short-lived," recalls Ben ruefully, 'along came Epitombi from South Africa. Their more scantily-clad dancers won over the promoters and though we tried our luck with other theatres, it was very hard to keep such a big group going. Most of my mates returned to Ghana but I decided to stay on."

Luckily for Ben he met up with Peter Blackman, a very canny character when it came to getting funding for community arts projects from the Arts of Council of England. Ben was the man he needed to help him realise it. They set up in partnership as 'Steel and Skin Ltd' and toured the schools, community centres and prisons of the UK, offering workshops in African drumming and dance.

"After years of doing workshops, I decided to consolidate it all with a degree in the Performing Arts from Cheltenham. I wanted to fine-hone my teaching skills so as to get the best from my students." says Ben.

As a Master Drummer, Ben has trained for years under the expertise of many leading Ghanaian Master Drummers, including C.K. Lidzekdo, Professor from the University of Ghana, now living in America. "Lidzekdo is the master," according to Ben, "He comes from a long line of drummers with a vast repertoire of dances yet he can pick up the subtle variations of each tribe's individual sets."

Phone: 01179443198