El Taller Latino Americano
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Krakraba Lobi with Valerie Naranjo and Barry Olsen

Kakraba Lobi is considered to be the one of the great African musicians of his time. He has gained international acclaim as being the first to take the gyil (a complex and obscure West African marimba) from his village folk tradition to the international classic concert stage as a solo and chamber music medium. Kakraba is from the Lobi nation, known for their musical abilities, and was born into a family of gyil players/makers in Kalba Saru, in Ghana's upper-west. He moved to Accra in his early 20s, where he began his performing career doing broadcasts for "Radio Ghana". From 1962 until 1987, he was a full-time member of the staff at the University of Ghana's Institute of African Studies, and is currently an advising member. Kakraba was one of the musicians in Ghana's first National Dance Company and has since taught at universities and colleges throughout the Americas and Europe, and has performed in many countries, including the Czech Republic, Sweden, Denmark, England, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Malawi, Senegal, Nigeria, South Africa, and Togo. His repertoire and technique have been studied by ethnomusicologists from around the world, and his original music has been performed by leading artists on various instruments worldwide. 

Valerie Dee Naranjo has been the percussionist on the NBC television Show "Saturday Night Live" for over eleven years and is an arranger and performer for Broadway's "The Lion King". Known for her pioneering efforts in West African keyboard percussion, Valerie (with Barry) was honored with a First Place Award at Ghana's Kobine festival in 1996, the only to date non-West Africans to do so. Valerie has also studied with many other master percussionists in 8 African countries, and has performed with such artists as Tori Amos, Airto Moriera, Glen Velez, David Byrne, Zakir Hussein, Milton Cardona, The Philip Glass Ensemble, and The Paul Winter Consort. For the past 23 years she has co-led with Barry Olsen "Mandara" a quintet of instrumentalist-vocalists from diverse ethnic and musical backgrounds. She was named "World Music Percussionist of the Year 2005" by Drum! reader's poll, and has performed on six continents, including nine African countries. She endorses Avedis Zildjian Cymbals, Pearl/Adams (Latin and Concert Percussion), and Vic Firth drumsticks and mallets. 

Barry Olsen is a native New Yorker who began his career in the late 70's playing trombone in that city's Latin dance music scene. Over the years he has performed with almost all the major artists in this field, including Ray Barretto, Eddie Palmieri, Hector Lavoe,Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Marc Anthony, and La India. He recently completed two Rhythm Road Jazz Ambassadors tours of four East African countries, playing piano, trombone and percussion. He has also worked with Paul Simon, David Byrne, The Paul Winter Consort, Charlie Persip and many others. Barry is the regular pianist for the Latin-Jazz group Syotos, led by trombonist Chris Washburne, and is featured on their recordings "Nuyorican Nights.," "The Other Side" and "Paradise in Trouble". On marimba and percussion he is frequently heard in the orchestra of the Broadway hit "The Lion King." Since 1988 he has been performing Lobi and Dagara music, playing the drums known as kuar and gangaa, which accompany the gyil. 

Kakraba Valerie and Barry began performing together in 1997, and have released three CDs combining Kakraba's solo performances with trio works : Song of Legaa (Lyrichord, 2000); Song of Niira (Mandara Music 2001); and Da Yillena - Wood that Sings (Mandara Music 2002). Together they compiled and published the transcription and recorded series "West African Music for the Marimba Soloist" transcriptions of Kakraba's music onto chromatic marimba. 

Their Taller performance initiates their 5th East Coast tour. 

This concert is sponsored in part by Pearl Drums/Adams Musical Instruments and Avedis Zildjian Co.