Classical pianist thrills Ottawa audience
Saturday 24 March
The Ottawa Piano and Keyboard on Bank Street was the scene of a concert like no other, as seen in the national capital. Ghana-born and Ottawa-educated classical pianist, John Kofi Dapaah, held a concert featuring selections from his first album:”Reflections”, which was released earlier in February. The fifty odd members of the audience were treated to an eclectic display from a maestro who seemed to caress the piano with the deft gentleness of a lover in the arms of his sweetheart. Over the course of two hours, John cleverly walked his enraptured audience from Franz Schubert through Robert Schumann, Chopin and Bach, before taking them to a rousing conclusion with “Hymn for Freedom”, in tribute to the late Black jazz supremo Oscar Peterson. He even found time at the end of the show to engage his audience in a surprise “Happy birthday’ song for his beautiful wife, Christina. An evening to savour!
Black Ottawa Scene had a chat with John before the show.
How are you today?
I am doing great, thank you
Can you tell us a little bit about your album and how it came about?
The pieces on the album I’ve been working on for a few years, a few of them I worked on while I was doing my Master’s, and some of them I’ve been playing for a while and so I just felt comfortable enough to put something out there with my name on it.
What is the name of the album?
It’s called “Reflections” and I called it that to reflect on how far I’ve come in my career so far.
Is this your first album?
This is my first album.
Can you tell us about your background in terms of your training in music and your career?
I started playing piano while I was in Japan, while my father was doing his graduate work in Chemistry and I played piano there for five years. Then we moved to Ottawa and then I started at the Carleton music program in the Bachelor program. I continued my Master’s at McGill University. In the past couple of years, I’ve been teaching professionally and concertizing around Canada.
Are you doing music full time or this something you do on the side?
This is full time
What type of places do play in, do you play in nightclubs and similar venues? What kind of audience do you look for?
I play in concert series, concert halls, piano stores, at churches, that’s my main thing, but I do play at other events as well on special occasions.
You’re a little bit unusual because most Black artists seem to focus on rhythm and blues, jazz, maybe hip hop and so on . Why did you choose to go into classical music?
Classical music drew me and I’ve been in love with the music in this style my whole life, but I do play other types of music like jazz and gospel, but my main thing is classical.
Is the audience that you attract sort of generic, crossing all races?
Yes, absolutely, it’s quite generic especially in people in the African community. When they see somebody who looks like them playing classical music, it attracts them to come see it. I’ve been finding that my audiences have been growing and becoming more multicultural.
Have you played in other cities and countries?
I have played in Japan, and Austria where I studied for a year, but I’ve played around Canada, in Ottawa, Montreal, Hudson, and a few other places.
If someone wants to find out more about you, where can they find the information?
I do have a website www. johndapaah.com. They can also find me on Facebook, search : John Kofi Dapaah.
With the release of your album today it looks like I’m the only person from the media. How did you promote this event? I just saw it on BlackOttawa411.
I’ve been promoting it on the Ottawa Citizen and a few other media outlets around the city and it’s helped to bring the audience out.
Ottawa is a fairly small, rather conservative city. How do you find the audiences in this city compared with those in other cities and other countries ?
It’s about the same actually, but I do find the audiences in Ottawa a lot more warmer, because I’m from here and it’s always a treat to play in your home town.
Your family is from Ghana. Have you ever played there?
I haven’t. I left Ghana when I was six years old, but I do plan to go back sometime soon and hopefully play a concert there.
Do you have any message for readers of Black Ottawa Scene? They would be interested to know who you and what you are about.
I would just like to tell them that I am a Black classical pianist and classical music is not something for the elite; it’s for anyone who wants to enjoy it. So don’t be shy to jump in and explore what it can mean for you.