Ghanaian musician performs for Portsmouth elementary students

Students from Portsmouth Elementary and East Portsmouth Elementary gathered in the PES gymnasium on April 11 to listen to a performance by Ghanaian musician Okaidja Afroso. 

The performance is offered to our community through Arts Midwest’s World Fest program, and coordinated locally by Dr. Stanley Workman, the artistic director of the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts at Shawnee State University, in collaboration with Portsmouth High School Music Teacher Emily Crandall. 

The first artist to visit Portsmouth Elementary through the World Fest program was an Alaskan Inuit musical group called Pamyua, who performed in November. On April 11, Workman brought native Ghanaian musician Okaidja Afroso to perform at the school.

“It’s important for students to learn about different cultures, and the country of Ghana and its culture and things it’s going through actually ties into a lot of the sixth-grade learning standards. This gives them some real experience that they can relate to and be able to talk about more,” said Portsmouth Elementary Principal Beth Born.

Okaidja Afroso weaves together cross-cultural influences to create hypnotic sonic landscapes. His unique artistic vision has led him to combine his native rhythms with unforeseen pairings of musical styles. A multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and dancer, Afroso has performed in diverse venues spanning the globe-from small fishing villages in the Canadian Arctic to the Kennedy Center in New York City. He has also spent countless hours in classrooms across the US, teaching children about Ghanaian culture through his educational outreach programs. Through his distinctive style that combines various percussion instruments, vocals, guitar, and dance, Afroso explores the perseverance of ancestral traditions and creates a new, contemporary African oral tradition.

“We could never afford to do this sort of outreach on our own, so Arts Midwest has generously brought these artists here,” Workman said. “It’s wonderful to see their work with instruments, dance, and singing. I think it’s going to be a wonderful concert.”

While in the community, Workman is taking Okaidja Afroso to perform for other local school districts, hosting workshops for SSU students, and will perform a show for general audiences at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts on Thursday, April 13. Tickets for the show are available at the VRCFA’s McKinley Box Office, and online at 

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