The US Embassy’s July 4 Reception set new cultural standards for diplomatic events in Ouagadougou, impressing our elite and high-powered audience with an artistic fusion of Burkinabe and American music, dance, testimony, and song. Over 500 GOBF officials and politicians, disability advocates and social activists, VIP post contacts, and the nation’s business elite gathered at the American Embassy July 4 to celebrate Independence Day. Noteworthy speeches were given, patriotic colors displayed, national flags presented, and birthdays toasted — but according to more than one attendee, it was the talent and creativity of American artists and Burkinabe performers that made the night extra special and memorable. ARS-Paris musicians Shola Adisa-Farrar, Josiah Woodson, Jerry Thompson and Tilo Bertholo welcomed our guests with a dozen superbly performed musical gems, setting just the right tone for the evening’s official ceremony. National anthems were sung live and with spirit — the American by Shola and trumpeter Josiah Woodson, the Burkinabe by a children’s choir from a local orphanage.
A blind teenager spoke movingly of her struggles and fears for the future as a disabled country girl without family or education. Thanks to her enrollment in an NGO training center funded by the American people, she has become a new person, ready and able to move on and live a full rich life. Her eloquent testimony highlighted public elocution as an art form, and surely changed attitudes in the audience concerning the disabled. No fireworks, but the July 4 ceremony ended with an equally impressive blow out: a dynamic and vibrant performance of an American classic — ‘Dancing in the Streets’ — by the Shola Quartet and a trio of professional Burkinabe dancers. Swaying, gyrating, leaping and sliding, the dancers made visual the lyrics of the song.