Native rhythms

Guinean women drummers break long-held tradition to preserve cultural beats

West Africa's Les Percussions de Guinee, recognized as one of the most extraordinary drumming ensembles in the world, has always been, by custom, male.

In fact, women throughout West Africa were forbidden from playing the djembe drum, which occupies a central position in African society.


Special to the Journal-World

Amazones: The Women Master Drummer of Guinea will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Lied Center, 940 N.H.

But in Amazones, an original program by Les Percussions de Guinee, women take center stage with the men in a spirited display of African music, song and dance that attempts to demystify the masculine myth of the djembe drum.

The combined ensemble will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Lied Center.

Past Event

Amazones: The Women Master Drummers of Guinea

  • Friday, October 22, 2004, 7:30 p.m.
  • Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive, KU campus, Lawrence
  • All ages / $11.50 - $28


The legend of Amazones: The Women Master Drummers of Guinea began in 1995 with the death of master djembe player Noumody Keita. He was one of the most revered "djembefolas" and founder of the Ensemble National de Percussions de Guinee. One night he appeared to his wife, Bintou Kourama, in a dream and told her that he was sad that his life's mission -- giving joy and maintaining hope by playing the djembe -- was in danger of disappearing.

He asked her to gather other strong, young women together to play the djembe. In her dream-state, she saw black girls, dressed in the beautiful costumes of great African heroines, playing djembes. They drummed powerfully and well, with a mastery and passion equal only to true Amazones -- intrepid warrior-women of the ancient kingdom of Dahomey (now Benin).

Amazones represents a new adventure for West African women -- a sociocultural and economic departure from tradition, fired by a fervent determination to attain the level of the great "djembefolas."


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