Driven by the steady beat of a drum, women of all ages and backgrounds danced, tapped, sang and jammed at the Bus Stop Theatre on Sunday to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Womb Boom, a group of female hip-hop drummers, showed off what they had learned in the past months as they led the jam.
The group is a pilot project of the Music Liberatory School which is “aimed at dramatically increasing the number of female instrumentalists by providing free music education, with emphasis on developing and maintaining the cultural leadership of women of colour,” according to the online Kijiji ad for the drumming group.
Tamar Dina, founder of the school, began the afternoon leading a kitchen table discussion about women and their experiences in music.
Shari Clarke played the violin and flute during Womb Boom’s jam session.
“It’s about the focus on women and creativity,” said Clarke. “It’s a fabulous gathering place for us to meet and share our creativity and celebrate who we are.”
Dina talked about her inspiration for the project and the school, and why women’s presence in music is so important.
“When I was thinking about what could change the world,” said Dina, “I settled on the idea that I want to do the thing now that I wish will still be happening in a transformed society.
“That’s true about music.”
Dina’s experience working in crisis centres dealing with issues of violence against women shaped her vision for the Music Liberatory School.
“A lot of women don’t have a means to deal with violence immediately,” said Dina. “So the way they usually deal with it is self destruction.”
The steady beat of the drum, and the easy, accessible way to be a part of that sound, became the foundation of the pilot project.
They began with percussion and drums “because that’s your fundamentals in music,” said Dina.
“When women are first coming together on the drum, we’re not using words yet,” she said. “We’re just expressing our experiences through rhythm.
“Then, as we get more comfortable and we’re willing to trust each other more … Then those stories can start turning into songs.”
The core group of five to eight people, with more than 20 women loosely connected, meet weekly at the George Dixon Centre.
Childcare provided on-site
Childcare is provided, which enables women, especially single mothers, who would have usually stayed home to come out and drum. This is one thing that separates them from other music programs, along with Womb Boom’s emphasis on a high standard of music.
“With a lot of music programs the emphasis is on progress,” said Dina.
“This is a feminist art project,” she said. “We are constantly trying to improve our music intellectually and musically so that it can be effective.”
The International Women’s Day event at The Bus Stop Theatre showed off that high standard of music, while the simple beat of the drum kept the music accessible to all women in the room.
Alexis Smith is a talented bass player and musician. She brought that fusion of quality and effectiveness with passion and meaning to Womb Boom’s jam.
“For me, it’s all creative for the mind,” said Smith. “And it’s just good for the spirit.”