Joseph Ashong: Master Drummer, Ghana

Joseph AshongJoseph Ashong is a Master Drummer from Accra, Ghana, West Africa. He is a dancer, composer, and recording artist. He is of both Ga and Krobo tribal heritage. He was introduced to drumming and traditional Ghanaian music by his grandfather when he was 6 years old. Throughout his childhood, he performed in his local community, doing solo numbers and collaborations with friends. After completing secondary school, he continued his studies at the Legon School of Performing Arts from the University of Ghana.

From there, he became an apprentice with the National Dance Ensemble of Ghana. He was a professional member of that Ensemble for Six years as drummer and dancer. Ashong also studied West African dance with the Guinea Ballet as part of a cultural exchange and studies with Master drummers in Senegal. He was granted a two-year sabbatical to study at the Emelia Dance Theatre in Zurich, Switzerland.

Mr. Ashong came to Canada in 1991 and lived in Toronto for several years. There he performed with the groups High Life Stars and Afro-Nubians. He was the artistic director and feature performer of Enije Ensemble and Flaming Dono. He also worked with Tabu (a cross-cultural quartet comprised of musicians from Japan, Korea, and Canada). He has accompanied Toronto dance groups including the Ballet Creole Dance Company, and the Afro-Caribbean Dance Group. In 1997, Ashong was presented with Music Africa’s “Best Male Performer” award, and his group Flaming Dono for ”Best African Group-Traditional” in 1994.

In 1997, Joseph moved to Regina immersing himself in Regina’s arts and music scene. He led the Cathedral Village Drum Circle for regular Friday night jams for 3 years. He has performed and recorded with Jack Semple and Joel Fafard, as well as with the Blues band Crossfire, and at the Mid-Winter Blues Festival, and the Regina Dragon Boat Festival. He has also appeared as the Feature Performer at Mosaic’s African Pavilion and as Resource Workshop for the Saskatchewan Recording Industry Association
All-Indie Weekend. He has worked with the Globe Theatre and Youth Ballet Company of Saskatchewan, performed with New Dance Horizons and several cultural community events.

Also in 1997, Ashong became a member of Manding Jata, a West African music and dance group based out of Vancouver, traveling to numerous countries and venues across North America, Asia, and the Caribbean.

Ashong has recorded and performed with Peter Gabriel, Angelique Kidjoe, Papa Wimba, Farafina, Annax Bickie, Alpha YaYa Diallo, Four the Moment, Prophet Organs and Juno Award winner Bill Usher.

He is often called upon to share his knowledge of traditional Ghanaian culture, music and dance in educational settings. He taught West African percussion and dance at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music for three years and has conducted classes and workshop with the National Ballet, “Creating Dance in the Schools” program. The Toronto Symphony’s ‘Adopt a Musician; program and the Art Gallery of Ontario’s “Spring into Art” programs as well as many, many classroom workshops and presentations.
Ashong now resides in Saskatoon, where he continues his involvement in the music and art scene. In the summers of 2005 and 2007 he taught at the University of Saskatchewan during summer Session. He continues to teach and give school presentations at all levels.

He joined with two long time Saskatchewan friends from Boomtown Drums as “The Ghanadians”, playing sets at Festivals and special events such as Engineers without borders. His teaching and performances continue at a variety of events and venues. He is currently the lead percussionist with Oral Fuentes Reggae Band and has performed with this group for more than 20 years