Interviewed at his home in Cincinnati by Sandra Grady
8 October 2011

Baoku Moses was born in Lagos, Nigeria to parents from Ilessa in Osun State. He grew up between Ilessa and Ibadan, which makes him think of both towns as home. At the age of 21, he moved to Lagos, Nigeria’s capital, to pursue a career in performing arts. He chose the stage name Baoku in 1994, from the idea that where there is life, there is hope. Early in his career, he worked primarily as a performer of traditional Yoruba theater forms. In Lagos, he began by working as an actor; in 1996, he joined the Ivory Ambassadors, which is a troupe dedicated to the promotion and preservation of African culture. He began with the troupe as a dancer, but choreographers often struggled with his height as they found him too tall for traditional dance performance. By 1997, he had started performing as a drummer, which encouraged his desire to preserve and perform African arts, which he notes is being overcome by the cultural influences of Western media and performance forms.

In 2002, he came to the US with a band called Alejo (meaning visitor), which travelled around Florida and New York performing at festivals. After two months in New York City, Baoku moved to Cincinnati, where he worked with Bi-Okoto Drum & Dance Theater as a drummer initially, and later as a dancer and teacher. While there, he also began to pursue performance opportunities outside Bi-Okoto. Those efforts resulted in the formation of Baoku and the Image Afro-Beat Band in 2005. The group performs fusion music, heavily inspired by African percussions. What began initially with 16 instruments has since been consolidated into a 10 piece band, and includes musicians from the Cincinnati area. The band performs around the state and in festivals. Baoku acts as the lead singer and percussionist, and composes the music.

In addition to his band, Baoku is the founder of Positive Image Arts, LLC. After leaving Bi-Okoto, Baoku wanted to create a company to bridge cultural division through music. His relocation to the US has inspired him to think beyond his initial concern for African tradition and more globally about what unifies human beings. He notes that people have all the same problems and rich cultural histories to draw from to cope with these problems. This cultural heritage represents the positive image of the human experience, which is how he chose the name of the organization. His goal for this company is to showcase expressive culture in its diversity and use it to bring people together through many different projects. As part of Positive Image Arts, he has organized Unity Jam, a now semi-annual music event to bring diverse musical performers together without separation by culture or genre. His goal is to foster an appreciation of diversity, and he organizes visits to schools to share diverse artistic styles with younger students. Although his own performances come from his expertise in West African performance, Positive Image Arts is envisioned to blend cultures.

Although Baoku returns to Nigeria about once a year, he considers Cincinnati to be home. He also offers classes at five schools and two adult community arts centers in the Greater Cincinnati area. He has recorded a solo CD, Okodorooro, which means realistic reality, in 2004. He plans to release a new CD in 2012.

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