Women and Drumming
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In many cultures around the world, a drum represents the heartbeat of mother earth. It is the essence of the female and a way to connect with the divine mother in a rhythmic fashion. Drums are feminine, their beats replicating the inner rhythms of the earth and the cycles that change our seasons, our tides and our lives. Female drummers, whether they choose a djembe, a drum kit or a doumbek, are part of this connection, and as more and more opportunities for professional and hobby drumming open up, women are reinventing their own beats and taking drumming forward, while still respecting the history and reverence of drumming as a cultural, spiritual and entertaining expression of the self.
The number of women drummers may be smaller in comparison to that of men, especially in modern, performance-based music, but there are plenty of women drummers who can not only keep up with the boys, but who also are leading the way for young girls to express themselves through the magic of drumming and percussion. From Ruth Underwood who accompanied Frank Zappa's musical madness to Samantha Maloney, drummer for both Hole and Motley Crüe, modern, female drummers are no longer the exception to the rule in the world of professional drumming. While the numbers of female drummers are still low, these modern women drummers and their forerunners like Karen Carpenter of The Carpenters or Moe Tucker of Velvet Underground are making their own way and inspiring others to pick up the beat.
Besides rock or other professional stage and studio drummers, drum circle leaders like Marisa Cuneo-Linsly, who manages a non-profit organization called The Women's Drum Center in St. Paul, Minnesota are also continuing to open up the world of women drummers. According to different Native cultural legends, while the drum may have been an innately female instrument, women handed it over to the men in their tribes as a way to help the men connect with earth, much in the same way the women felt connected. With the influence of outside cultures, it became easier for these tribes to adopt the same practices of male dominance, even in drumming, and today, many Native cultures still keep drumming as a male-only spiritual and celebratory practice. However, with the popularity of drumming on the rise, the number of women who are participating in drumming or drum circles outside of cultural boundaries is also rising, recreating this important connection between drums, spirituality and femininity and bringing an equal perception to the role of women as drummers.
Drumming is about community, either in a circle or as a part of a band, and drumming is a way to express creativity and style. Women are just as involved in the community of drumming, and women are just as loud and creative as men. By picking up a djembe, doumbek or hitting a snare, women are taking up drumming, and breaking free from the stereotypes of centuries past. Through this reconnection with drumming, women are giving back to the earth, to themselves and to the community around them, both male and female, in the form of rhythms and beats that can inspire generations to come.