In the News

The Brandeis Reporter (February 2007)

by Marsha MacEachern

The insistent beats of the djembe drum immediately demand your attention. Then the dancers, flamboyant in African costumes and headdresses, draw you in further. The artists of "Amazones: The Women Master Drummers of Guinea" tell stories surrounding their lives, survival and culture through a thrilling performance.

An evening of dynamic African drumming, song and dance is expected when Amazones take the stage in the Spingold Theater Center at Brandeis on March 3. This concert, the only Northeast stop on the group's 2007 USA tour, is part of Brandeis' MusicUnitesUS: World Music Concert Series. This popular series invites audiences from the Boston area and beyond to experience world cultures through the universal narrative of music.

"Amazones will add yet another voice to the many musical narratives that have visited the campus," said Judith Eissenberg, MusicUnitesUS director. "The women of Amazones bring not only the 'talking drum' tradition of Africa, but also a story of courage and strength as they take their place on the international stage."

Created in 2000 by Mamoudou Conde, Amazones is the first women's drum ensemble to emerge from West Africa. According to Laura Rich, the group's administrator and music educator, these artists are reclaiming their musical culture through playing the djembe - the traditional drum historically forbidden to women. Only within recent years have women been allowed to play the instrument. With the ability to make music, Rich says, the women are also achieving economic liberation.

"One of the missions of the company is to empower women in Africa to take charge of their lives and become self-supporting," Rich said. "Traditionally when money is in the hands of women, children eat, get medical treatment and are clothed and educated. All the Amazones women came from struggling situations, but now have the means to take care of themselves and their families. "

Amazones will offer a performance that's been hailed "a heavenly outpouring of throbbing jubilation, forceful uplifting beats and pounding enthusiasm" by Maximum Ink Music Magazine. The concert will begin at 8:00 p.m. and will be preceded by a free 7:00 p.m. talk at The Rose Art Museum. Noted Africanist historian and political scientist Lansine Kaba will deliver the pre-concert talk (free with concert admission). Kaba is professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is visiting Brandeis as the Madeline Haas Russell distinguished professor of African Studies.

In association with the residency, Brandeis will sponsor films, open classes, and symposia on West African culture, literature and music. Discussions will surround the group's origins, the cultural rebuilding of Guinea, and the role of music in community and spiritual life. For a complete schedule:

MusicUnitesUS is a three-tiered program of Brandeis University that encompasses an Intercultural Residency Series, a Public School Education Program, and a World Music Series.