D ID SP I SLPALYA W Y ISNPTREI R NG 2 02107 1/81 8 D I S P L AY S P R I N G 2 0 1 8
drummers • music • feminism
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ON THE COVERS: Andrea Álvarez by Catalina Kulczar / Ibeyi by David Barron
THE MISSION Tom Tom Magazine ® is the only magazine in the world dedicated to female and gender non-conforming drummers. We are a quarterly print magazine, website, social media community, IRL community, events, drum academy, custom gear shop and more. Tom Tom seeks to raise awareness about female percussionists from all over the world in hopes to inspire women and girls of all ages to drum. We intend to strengthen and build the fragmented community of female musicians globally and provide the music industry and the media with role models to create an equal opportunity landscape for any musician. We cover drummers of all ages, races, styles, skill levels, abilities, sexualities, creeds, class, sizes and notoriety. Tom Tom Magazine is more than just a magazine; it’s a movement.
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Letter from the Editor
Welcome Spring and welcome to the Spring issue of your favorite music magazine. It means a lot to us that you are here. This issue is a double cover, featuring Cuban-Parisian sisters Ibeyi and Argentine Grammy-nominated drummer Andrea Alvarez. We had a chance to meet and shoot these artists as they passed through NYC (one of the major perks of living in this dynamic city) and love what we got. We hope you love it, too. I am also so excited to announce that we have a brand spanking new podcast out on Tidal this Spring. Similar to Tom Tom the magazine, our podcast will bring you timely conversations with inspiring people whose careers and missions break through expectations and become movements. Search for The Beat + The Pulse podcast on Tidal to get into this first season. You may also notice we have a few less regular advertisers in this issue than in our last issue. That is because some of our longest-standing sponsors and partners do not want to affiliate themselves with the content from our previous issue, themed Sex & Love—which makes us feel like we are doing a better job than ever. I understand that discussing our sexuality and intimate lives can be a powerful and dangerous feeling at times and that a drum magazine hardly feels like the space to have that discussion. But we aren’t and have never been your average drum magazine. For one, we showcase female drummers, which none of the existing magazines for drummers have ever made a priority. And furthermore, our mission is to tell the stories that do not get told. The stories about drummers who don’t have 24-piece drum sets, get to travel with a drum tech, or have ever been invited to the drum set. We tell the stories of the everyday beat maker who got her start wherever, whenever—and these stories are always extraordinary. And if talking about our love lives and how we see ourselves as sexual beings and as musicians is too much for some members of the drum industry, then so be it. We have always known the musician’s narrative as vastly different from the only one that has been told for quite some time. Excited for a future where we are all on the same page.
In telling our stories in our own words,
Mindy Seegal Abovitz Monk
Because sometimes bands need a therapist, too!
9 TO KNOW
Check out these albums, books, and organizations helping women in music.
Moogfest and Tom Tom feature female, nonbinary, and transgender artists.
A DRUMMER'S GUIDE TO LISBON
Kiki Katese is keeping drumming alive in Rwanda.
The story of Prinze George's Isabelle de Leon.
Divide and Dissolve's sound is transformative.
Watch out, Chong the Nomad is here to take over.
Argentinian drummer Andrea Álvarez is a feminist force with which to be reckoned.
I FEEL THE PAIN, BUT I'M ALIVE
Twin sisters Ibeyi make magic with their music
Madame Ghandi interviews Ale Robles who drummed on her last tour.
Andrea Álvarez by Catalina Kulczar
CHONG THE NOMAD Interview on page 34
Photo by Connor Jalbert
The Organelle.â„˘ Make your mood music.
Bands We Like by Jasmine Bourgeois
Photo by Aylin Gungor
WITH A NAME THAT TRANSLATES to “who is that, anyway?” in Turkish, Istanbul dark bass-synth duo Kim Ki O embody a truly DIY ethos. Ekin Sanac and Berna Göl were friends long before they became Kim Ki O. The two started off by renting cheap studio space and playing covers in middle school, but eventually took a hiatus. They reconnected after college with a more intentional approach: They wanted to make an allfemale band, one that made music people weren’t used to hearing and that could help translate their experiences living and growing up in Istanbul. Like most underground projects, Sanac and Göl got their start making music for fun and selling handmade CDs to friends. Now, Kim Ki O plays shows all over Europe. But it hasn’t always been an easy ride.
Since meeting in grade school, Sanac and Göl have drummed to their own beat, writing music that isn’t afraid to be political and explore the woes of the world. Many of their songs are written about grappling with the ever-changing political, economic, and social landscape of Turkey. “We usually sing about things that we do not appreciate in the world and how we deal with them,” says the pair in an email interview.
Kim Ki O
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They are self-described as a bass-synth duo with electronic beats, and the experimental nature of their work has always set them apart from other musicians in their scene. “When we first started playing gigs,
it took a while for some of the audience to accept, or get into, what we do. No guitars? No drummers? No rock? This wasn’t as welcomed back then,” they told Tom Tom. Kim Ki O beam with a unique sort of musicianship—they write about what matters to them, create sounds that feel right, and foster an attitude of lo-fi experimentalism that’s reminiscent of early bedroom rock. They make music in times of uncertainty and near constant threat of collapse, but they don’t seem to get lost in dread. Instead, they write songs that question the norm and find value in the world’s commotion. Their newest album, ZAN, is unabashedly political, directly unpacking the heartache that comes with the threat of violence from a turbulent government.
SACRED PAWS IS MADE-UP OF former Golden Grrrls members Eilidh Rodgers and Rachel Aggs. The duo released their debut LP Strike a Match early in 2017, and it’s full of DIY, jangly pop-rock vibes that make you want to groove and twirl to their eccentric melodies. The two are separated by about 400 miles, with Aggs living in London and Rodgers in Glasgow. That distance equals about seven hours of driving, or a four hour train ride. Still, the pair have made some impressive tunes, even if the distance means less time spent jamming together. Falling somewhere between art-punk and funk, their music exudes fun, offers a dynamic personality and a finetuned, innovative sensibility. It’s reminiscent of long-distance middle-school friendships and all the good, gushy feelings of seeing your best friend after a long time apart. It beams with a sincerity that comes from pals who truly love making music together and are connected through a shared passion for their craft.
Photo courtesy of artist
drummers at her church, she finally convinced her parents to let her take drum lessons at 17. She was a natural, and shortly thereafter immersed herself in music, studying under drum masters Martijn Vink, Marcel Serierse, Lucas Sebastiaan van Merwijk, Gerhard Jeltes, and Michael Carvin at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, one of Europe’s most renowned jazz schools.
Photo by Felipe Pipi
Hong is the type of drummer who has an innate flow in the way she plays. She’s been drumming for about a decade, but you’d think she’d been playing since she was old enough to hold a set of sticks. After years of being enamored with the
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DRUMMER SUNMI HONG SAYS THAT the most memorable moment in her career was “the first day I went to drum academy in Korea. I practiced nonstop for about four hours, feeling somewhat liberated. At the end of my day, my legs wouldn’t stop shaking.”
Hong has a deeply felt softness to her playing. She’s one of the lucky few who seems to have an intuitive knack for rhythm and genuinely feels groove in her bones. She plays with a warmth that feels uniquely hers. She approaches her music in a somewhat meditative fashion, thinking of music as something bigger than any individual player, and something that takes sacrifice. She’s come a long way since her first nerve-wracking day at a drum academy. Now, Hong’s involved in a few different big projects, including the Daahoud Salim Quintet and a project with pianist Young Woo-Lee and bassist Brodie Jarvie—and trust us when we say that SunMi Hong will be a name you’ll see again.
LENNAT MAK IS SOMEONE WHO truly and fully commits her life to music. An engineer student turned musician, Mak got her start in the music industry as a journalist for MTV. Even now, with more than a decade of playing under her belt, Mak remembers when she started drumming with the same fresh enthusiasm. “I first got into drumming when I heard the White Stripes’ ‘Fell in Love with a Girl.’” “How could a two-piece band sound so loud?” she wondered. “I went to see the band live five times across the world, and Jack gave me a really sound education in garage rock. Without the White Stripes, I probably won’t be where I am today musically. I’m still very much in love with two-piece bands like Blood Red Shoes, Royal Blood, Japandroids, and the Black Keys.”
Photo courtesy of artist
Over the course of the last 15 years, she’s played in a handful of bands and has worked as a music journalist, band and label manager, entertainment consultant, music panelist, and guest lecturer. For the
past six years, she’s been playing with Obedient Wives Club, a dreamy indie pop band that writes songs about love, loss, and life. The band’s latest EP, Cinematica, was just released in July. It features an impressive cohort of brilliant minds in its production credits, including Brad Wood (Liz Phair, Smashing Pumpkins), Hans DeKline (Snoop Dogg, Pixies), Patrick Chng (Oddfellows, TypeWriter), and Keith Tan. “Sometimes, I do feel that my life is packed with music 24/7, but in all honesty, I don’t
MAYBE YAEJI DOESN’T REALLY SEEM like a typical DJ, because she didn’t have a typical upbringing. Born the daughter of Korean immigrants who were wary of American music, 24-year-old Kathy Yaeji Lee spent most of her childhood moving between the U.S., South Korea, and Japan. She eventually went to Pittsburgh for college and later settled in Brooklyn. She is familiar with existing in spaces that are in flux, which translates into her sound.
know what else I would do. Knit a sweater? Singapore's too hot and humid for that!” she jokes. Looking toward the future, Mak plans on continuing with her music and is setting her sights on learning bass and piano to expand her musical vocabulary. Obedient Wives Club kicked off 2018 with the Singapore leg of St. Jerome's Laneway Music Festival, and the band is going to dedicate the rest of the year to playing shows and working on their next release.
Brooklyn contemporaries. The atmosphere she fosters at her shows isn’t quite as erratic as a late night techno club. There’s something unhurried and more intentional about the way she works. A finer-tuned attention to detail radiates throughout her sound.
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Yaeji is a regular renaissance woman. She DJs, sings, raps, produces, paints, and makes a mean bowl of curry. She’s gained enormous recognition over the last year, largely for her distinct sound and style. Her music doesn’t quite have the heavy house downbeats familiar in the music of her
Photo courtesy of artist
And as far as her culinary endeavors, Yaeji hooked up with Brooklyn’s Kichin at Baby’s All Right to serve curry at her shows to offer a unique electronic music experience. It’s things like this that make her an artist fostering an intimate, community-oriented scene that deviates from typical club life. With only two EPs and a handful of singles, her discography is just beginning to grow, but if it’s any indication of what’s to come, she’s certainly establishing her roots.
Band Therapy Nelson Can’s Signe Tobiassen is not only a bassist but also a therapist for musicians. by Jasmine Bourgeois Photo by Kia Hartelius The Clash, the Pixies, the Smiths, Sonic Youth, Violent Femmes, Oasis— the list of bands that have had messy or downright ugly breakups is substantial. That’s because being in a band is being in a special kind of relationship. Even the healthiest of relationships need unpacking and patching up sometimes. Think of it, Brian Ritchie and Gordon Gano could’ve used someone to help them deliberate business deals, and Noel and Liam Gallagher really would have benefitted from some talk therapy. Building a healthy and happy group dynamic requires constant communication, negotiation, and renegotiation—skills that need to be taught and practiced. We know we can go to counselors for issues in our personal lives, but how do you keep a whole band afloat amidst the intense workload and day-to-day drama and stress of recording and touring? Signe Tobiassen plays bass in the Danish indie rock trio Nelson Can. She’s also a band therapist—or band coach, as she calls it. Her job involves building connections with people, understanding the nuances of bandmates’ relationships, and helping people work through the complexities of being a working musician. At its simplest, she’s a mediator. She helps people in bands work through any interpersonal issues and develop the skills necessary to be successful in the music industry. In practice, though, her work can take a lot of forms, not all of which fit neatly into the traditional idea of “coaching” or “therapy.”
Like most musicians, she started off in local DIY scenes. Between intra-community issues, financial struggles, and insecure
She doesn’t just help people work through fights or disagreements. She also offers advice on promoting oneself and strategizing career-boosting plans. One recent example was with Copenhagen pianist Jonas
Tobiassen knows first-hand that being a musician isn’t always fun. But for her, mistakes were just catalysts that made her a better band member, teacher, mediator, listener, and source of support for others. But being successful as a band coach takes a lot of work and a little bit of chance. “I don’t have any secrets, [and I] don’t have a certain [golden] strategy,” she says. “The key to success in the music industry is two types of work: network and hard work combined with passion and talent. Some people even make it without the talent.”
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“Bands can hire me to come and help them out with planning a release, a tour, a special concert. Besides working on the actual project, I also like to work with them on their group dynamics: Does everyone feel happy about the way the workload is shared? Does everyone feel comfortable participating? The most important thing about project management is the process, not the product. And the most important thing about being in a band, if you ask me, is to have a good time,” explains Tobiassen.
venues, it makes sense that learning to navigate a small scene would translate into band coaching. She fell into it by luck, mostly, and a lot of networking. Before Nelson Can made it big, Tobiassen was “making every possible mistake,” she says. As her career progressed, she started teaching classes at the Danish Musician’s Union (DMF) where someone asked her for advice on working in the DIY scene. As someone who likes to help, the rest unfolded naturally. “If I can help people avoid just one of the mistakes I made, then it’s worth it,” she says. “I just help everyone get the best possible tools to make it in the industry. If I have something they can use, it’s up for grabs.”
Colstrup. Struggling to gain recognition as a classical pianist in popular music today, he reached out to Tobiassen to help him develop a strategy to advance his career. Together, they translated his skills and passion into tangible goals to release work and get his name out, and “within two months, he had over 350,000 streams on Spotify alone and placements on some prominent playlists,” she reports. “If he keeps on doing what he does, I am sure he will be very successful.” Imagine music today if Frank Black and Kim Deal had someone like Tobiassen around in the early years? Tobiassen’s role has larger consequences in the grand scheme of things. By helping musicians, she’s shaping what we listen to.
9 to Know This column highlights important stories, music, and more from the global, female-identified and nonbinary communities in music. by Geoff Shelton
KNOW YOUR FUTURE: Releases Worth a Listen These recent releases feature artists that are redefining classic genres, expanding their possibilities, and opening up new roads for us to discover.
1. Xarah Dion—Fugitive This second LP from the Montreal-based singer and composer features new flavors in the synthpop/ dark disco world. Xarah’s voice ranges from an alluring whisper to a silvery soprano over wavey rhythms and tones for days. It’s like finding a neon-lit, ’80s disco in the middle of a French sci-fi film noir flick with no “FIN” in sight.
2. Du Yun—Angel’s Bone This new opera composition from the Shanghai-born, New York–based composer, musician, and performance artist won the Pulitzer Prize for music last year. Recently released in album form, the opera follows a middle-American couple that find a pair of injured angels. After nursing them back to health, they soon begin to exploit them for money. Described
by the Pulitzer jury as a “harrowing allegory for human trafficking in the modern world,” the piece integrates classical, electronic, and experimental noise elements into a sonic journey that blows minds and encourages action.
3. Tygapaw—Love Thyself This debut EP from the Jamaica-born New York promoter, DJ, and general nightlife legend (Fake Accent, Shottas) comes strong with five tracks sure to move your emotions as much as they move your body. Seamlessly combining the sounds and rhythms she blends in her DJ sets (baile funk, New York vogue, dancehall, etc.) into a genre all their own, Love Thyself offers a brief but deep promise of the utopian future of dance music.
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KNOW YOUR ROOTS: Books Worth a Read These three books give voice to many of the under recognized or unrecognized histories of women musicians and their roles in music and activism. 4 4. Swing Shift This wonderful book recounts the forgotten history of all-girl jazz bands in the 1940s. Through extensive research and interviews with living members of these bands, author Sherrie Tucker recounts the ups and downs of their lives while exploring the cultural significance they had on worldviews of women as career musicians. 5. Blues Legacies and Black Feminism Angela Y. Davis takes on the musical careers of “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday, offering a reinterpretation of their work. Through brilliantly deconstructing the lens of white, American, middle-class values through which their work was previously viewed, she explains how these women embody an artistic triumph over the popular music industry of the time and according
to the book’s summary: “a proto-feminist consciousness within working-class, black communities.” 6. Women Make Noise This collection of essays also focuses on the history of bands comprised of all women members, covering acts from country music groups of the ’20s–’40s, rock and pop groups of the ’50s and ’60s, to punk, post-punk, queercore, and riot grrl and ending with an epilogue on Pussy Riot. Included are some of the histories of these musicians paving the way for future women-identified musicians through the establishment of community music schools and Rock Girl camps. These overlooked histories in music and feminist activism are brought to life in these pages.
KNOW YOUR NETWORK: Organizations to Check Out These three organizations work to create opportunities and support for women and nonbinary communities in music. Check them out, and find your people!
7 7. She Said So is a “curated” network for women active in the music industry. The organization hosts regular panels and social events through its local chapters in New York, Los Angeles, London, and other cities.
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8. A virtual collective of women and nongender conforming electronic music fans, Sister strives to support each other and eliminate inequality in music globally. Sister exists in the virtual space through its private Facebook community page where members exchange ideas and information. Throughout the year, Sister hosts various IRL events around the world and releases regular member mixes through its Soundcloud page.
9. Women in Music works to advance the awareness, equality, diversity, heritage, opportunities, and cultural aspects of women in the music arts. Founded in 1985, Women in Music is one of the longest running organizations devoted to uplifting women across all platforms of the music industry. From the composers to the marketers, its membership knows no bounds.
Photo by Ikue Yoshida
WORK WEAR MADE FOR WOMEN BY WOMEN W W W. H A N DY M A A M G O O D S . C O M
by Jasmine Bourgeois
On December 6, 2017, the annual music, art, and technology festival Moogfest unveiled its lineup for its May 2018 event in Durham, North Carolina. The big news was that it would feature female, nonbinary, and transgender artists, an underrepresented group in electronic music. In celebration of this announcement, Moogfest partnered with Tom Tom to produce Always On, a continuous, 50-hour livestream music show featuring female, nonbinary, and transgender artists to showcase the magnitude of their work. Always On helps to shift and redefine the landscape of electronic music production and show that it’s not dominated by men. We wanted to spotlight some of these artists in our Tom Tom print issue, so we spoke with them about their music and why Always On is important to them.
ZenSoFly got her start in music as the DJ for trapstep pioneers Watch the Duck. After realizing how much freedom and flexibility she had working in the world of electronic composition, she decided to start producing her own music and create original sounds that nobody else was making. The Raleigh, North Carolina, native has only been making music for about three years, but she’s quickly making her way to the top of the game. Since 2016, she has dropped two fierce EPs and played alongside artists like Run the Jewels, Solange, Mykki Blanco, Junglepu$$y, Sylvan Esso, and more.
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Tom Tom: How did you get into music? How did that progress into electronic music? Zen: I was one of the shy kids. I spent a lot of time on my own. When I was living in Georgia, I ran into a group called Watch the Duck, and they got me started in DJing. Eventually that lead to production, because I wanted to play stuff that nobody else had. I’ve been making music for about three years now.
What is the appeal of electronic music for you? It’s so exciting. It’s an anythinggoes type of genre. I like that I can do pretty much whatever I want with it. It’s fun. Do you have advice for people starting out? If you have a vision or something that you want to do, just go for it. Nobody’s stopping you. I’m self-taught. I’ve used YouTube to learn everything. If you wanna do something go for it. For you, personally, what’s it like to be a part of Always On? It’s very exciting. This is the first time I’ve done anything like this. I’m a little nervous [laughs], but the excited feeling overrides everything.
Photo by Kennedi Carter
Photo by Tyler Jones
Brooklyn and Ghetto Gothic and stuff like that that I started playing any electronic music at all. Then in college is when I really started. I was bored in the middle of Vermont, so I downloaded Ableton and started playing with it. What is the appeal of electronic music for you? Electronic music now is such a broad genre. You can record instrumentals, piano, guitar, and process it electronically through the software, and suddenly it becomes electronic and has this additional component to it. I really love the flexibility of it and the way it turns something into something else. It’s a portal for making things weirder than they even are. Personally, I find it really liberating to have so much control over my editing process and my arrangement process. It's kind of fun; making music becomes more weird and accidental. And it’s just fun to dance to also [laughs]. It’s cool to dance to techno, and it’s really oriented for that, which is nice.
Tom Tom: How did you get into music? How did that progress into electronic music? Izzy Barreiro: My mom forced me into it. It was kind of typical immigrant-parent stuff where you have to learn an instrument. I started playing piano as a young kid, but then I heard guitar and thought it was so much cooler, so I quit piano and got into guitar. I didn’t do electronic stuff when I was younger. I only got into it at the end of high school when I started going to Ray’s in
How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard you before? My DJing is different from my original music. I’m really interested in creating relationships within and across genres, and there’s so much music that speaks to each other across generations, like the relationship
For you, personally, what’s it like to be a part of Always On? It’s amazing. I was kind of shocked when I heard about it. There are so many things intentional about it—it’s putting people who haven’t been able to be visible front and center, and they’re being given resources to showcase their talent. It’s amazing; it’s so cool. I mean Moog has always been at the forefront of electronic music, and Tom Tom is just badass and has been supporting women from the start. I don’t think representation always changes everything, but it surely makes a difference in how young people visualize themselves in what they can do in any artistic capacity. I feel very happy about it.
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Izzy Barreiro started playing music as a child, trained first in piano and later guitar. But it was after experimenting with digital music production in college that Barreiro started focusing their artistic energy into a combination of house, techno, and dance. The Queens native and multi-instrumentalist now DJs and produces electronic music as stud1nt. They are interested in connections and relationships in music, drawing lines between different genres across time to produce new and “disorienting” beats that beam with a unique sort of warmth and curiosity. Their work has been featured in a number of publications, including Pitchfork, The Fader, and FACT Magazine.
between house and techno and disco. I’m just trying to make connections between stuff and make [it] feel intertextual and put things together you didn’t think had any kind of way to play together. The sound itself—when I’m DJing in a club—I try to keep it fun, but it might be disorienting sometimes. For my own productions, I struggled a lot knowing whether I wanted to make house music or not, and I don’t always think I do. I’m way more interested in harmony and melody, and I’m influenced more by soul and funk and things with a warmth to them, which sometimes dance music can’t provide.
Photo by Rachel Aiello
Suzanne Ciani has an illustrious career in the world of electronic music and sound. As one of the pioneers of electronic music, she founded her own company and record label, has produced sound logos for major corporations like Coca-Cola and General Electric, and composed scores and sound effects for film and TV. She’s a five-time Grammy nominee who has received a number of prestigious awards and honors for her work, including the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences’ Most Valuable Synthesizer Player Award and the 2017 Moog Music Innovation Award. Some of her work—notably, the famous CocaCola pop n’ pour logo—have become subtle staples in American pop culture. Others have helped pave the way for modern experimental electronic music.
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Tom Tom: How did you get into music? How did that progress into electronic music? Suzanne Ciani: I started as a child playing piano in my house. I knew I loved music, I majored in music at college at Wellesley and then got a graduate degree in com-
position at UC Berkeley. At Berkeley I met Don Buchla and met John Chowning and Max Mathews, who did computer music, so I studied with them also at Stanford. I was in the right place at the right time, because the Bay Area then had a lot of possibilities. You were at the forefront of electronic music—what do you think of the way it’s evolved and how it’s being made today? I’m very excited about this period of electronic music. It’s the first time there’s been an educated audience. When I played in the ’60s and ’70s, nobody understood it, so now it’s very exciting cause there’s a shared awareness of what’s going on. It’ also a very big field—it has many different departments, from DJ and dance, techno and house, to live modular, and of course the area I care about the most is the live modular.
For you, personally, what’s it like to be a part of Always On? I think it’s really kind of a breakthrough event, because the idea of livestreaming so many performances over 48 hours is just mind-boggling. It’s kind of like a moon launch there, so that’s exciting. I think this event is on the forefront of what’s possible in live shared community. And the fact that it’s all women is just fantastic, because I think we are a force in this field, an important force. And it’s wonderful to have a forum where we can appreciate it.
Philly musician Camae Ayewa makes experimental music as Moor Mother. Part sound art, part protest, her work is a mix of spoken word, industrial rap, and noise. Fans of Death Grips should check her out. Ayewa’s music is disorienting and wholly genuine. Her stories transcend time to piece together a fluid narrative that explores racism and state-sanctioned violence. And she’s gained recognition. Rolling Stone and Pitchfork both named her album Fetish Bones one of the top experimental albums of 2016.
Tom Tom: How did you get into music? How did that progress into electronic music? Camae Ayewa: I have always been in love with music; it was only a matter of time. I started off freestyling and writing songs. As far as electronic music, I am interested in synthesizers and drum machines. I have a few now, and working with them is a privilege, because they are expensive.
Photo by Bob Sweeney
What is the appeal of electronic music for you? I love learning about new and old synthesizers and the different ways people use them. How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard you before? I would say it’s all feeling.
Tom Tom: How did you get into music? How did that progress into electronic music? Sarana: We met when we held a music fest in Samarinda. After that, we are trying to play noise together. We’ve been playing since May 14, 2015. Two years and still counting. What is the appeal of electronic music for you? Electronic music for us is about expressing and appreciating ourselves. We can make something based on what we feel at that time. We create our life with it. Who are some of the artists who have influenced your sound? We have different influencers. Sabrina likes Xiu-Xiu, Prurient, and John Maus. Istanara likes Pharmakon and Pripoy, and Annisa likes Point of Entelechy, Pedestrian Deposit, and Palasick.
Photo courtesy Always On
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Self-described as a “girl noise collective,” Sarana is truly an experimental group that utilizes a full range of sounds and soundmaking to create a unique product. Sarana is Annisa, Istanara, and Sabrina, who hail from Samarinda, Indonesia. The trio uses a chaotic mix of feedback samples, (mostly)
clean speech, distorted riffs, and radioesque fuzz to create something that falls between a noise-art project and revolutionary electronic music. They take bold risks and deliver a totally nonconventional sound that’s reminiscent of the peculiarity and exploraciousness of early electronic music projects.
How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard you before? We always let people have their own thoughts about our sound. Some people think it's nice, some people think it's creepy. We just explain to them that we just experiment with sounds around us.
Photo by Inzajeano Latif
Fari B is a sound and installation artist, performer, and composer. Her work is intricate and exploratory, ambient and mesmerizing in a way that lingers with your throughout the day. She started playing piano as a child and later moved onto playing tenor saxophone in a jazz band. She has always been fascinated with the relationships involved in music-making. She strives to balance work that involves experimentation and improv with her background as one node playing as part of a larger ensemble. Fari B has performed at and had work commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Middlesbrough Museum of Modern Art, South London Gallery, Art Dubai, and Sound and Music UK, among many other museums and galleries.
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Tom Tom: How would you introduce yourself? Fari B: I’m Fari B, I was born in Iran in the ’70s and came to England with my mum in the ’80s. It was racist Britain under Thatcher, NF (National Front) all over the walls. Not a great time. But the Iranian revolution had happened, and so we remained.
How did you get into music and electronic music? Around this time, a beautiful, Black French woman noticed how drawn I was to her converted pianola and gave it to me when she left the country, which transformed my life. I could sit for what seemed like hours in front of it and everything else just slipped away. It was an early form of meditation for me. I remember being aware of that quality the piano had. My mum worked hard to get me piano lessons and eventually I got a scholarship to a school where I could continue and began the tenor sax, too. It was mostly military stuff with the sax; I didn’t want to be in the jazz band. So it was all about marching in time, weaving in an out of one another in formations, and playing from little cards attached to the sax. It was as much about listening as playing, finding your pace in the whole 100 instruments. During the holidays, I'd routinely make detailed mix tapes for friends. I used the radio, the in-built mic, and our hugely eclectic record collection at home, which
included spoken word and Indian music. After studying classical music for a year in India, I studied journalism and learned how to edit audio. Electronic music drew me for its power to edify and manipulate ordinary sounds as much as create out-of-thisworld ones. What are your influences? I began volunteering as an engineer at Resonance 104.4FM, an arts-radio station in London. This was a major influence on me. The charity that was the London Musicians Collective, all the improvisers and the rule-breakers, some very advanced in years, a whole world. I composed with graphic scores for the Resonance Radio Orchestra and performed other people’s works. We played in some cool places. All of it felt like a meditation, still. How does it feel to be part of Always On? To be part of Always On feels like something is beginning. I can’t see clearly yet, but I’m sure it will feel similar to being in that large band: listening and finding your place amongst the many voices.
With her group of female drummers, Odile Gakire “Kiki” Katese keeps drumming alive and feminist in Rwanda. by Loe Guthmann Photos courtesy of artist
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Born in Rwanda but raised in the Congo, Odile Gakire Katese, also known as Kiki, returned to her homeland as a young adult in 1997. She knew little of the local language, Kinyarwanda, and struggled to settle down in the land that was supposed to be her home. But she knew that she belonged in Rwanda, and thus she held on.
Tom Tom: Kiki, when you founded Ingoma Nshya in 2004, female drummers in Rwanda were unheard of. What were you thinking?
It was an exciting time for women in Rwanda. In the aftermath of the genocide, 70 percent of the population was suddenly female. For Kiki, it was the opportunity to try out something radically new. So in 2004, she founded the first female drummer group in Rwanda: Ingoma Nshya, or A New Drum.
Kiki Katese: At the time, I was working at the University Center for Arts and Drama at the University of Rwanda. I noticed that women were quite absent in the cultural landscape of Rwanda. Yes, you could find them in dancing, but you didn’t really find them in other traditional fields, including the most common form of entertainment in Rwanda: drumming. As a woman, I wanted to take ownership of the drum in a new, different, feminine way.
Though Rwanda has been celebrated for its efforts in promoting gender equality, drumming women were, and still are, frowned upon by parts of the population. It is no surprise then that Ingoma Nshya doesn’t have it easy. Tom Tom spoke with Kiki to find out more about daily challenges as a supervisor, the importance of empowerment, and the art of drumming in Rwanda, a long-held tradition in the East African country.
What were your biggest challenges at the beginning?
Without any musical background, how do you develop new rhythms?
First, finding volunteers. Female drummers were an absolute taboo in Rwandan society. Put yourself in their position: These women were risking isolation from their communities, so they expected something in return. But I was not in a situation to make promises. I told them, “Let’s do this, just for the sake of being the first ever.” And I think this kind of mindset was difficult for the group. Second, we didn’t have any financial means. Luckily, we already had drums at the university. We only made two investments: one financial investment for the drumsticks and, more important, the investment of time, power, and energy. In the end, the raw “material” were 15 women. That is how it started.
We are not skilled musicians. Which makes it difficult to create new rhythms. As artists, we want to evolve. Therefore, we brought experts from France, Senegal, Brazil, Burundi. They taught us different techniques. And now, musically, we are becoming more aware of what we are doing.
So what did you do next? We rehearsed for four years. Once we received some funding, we could bring in some structure. But before that, our hands were tied. Finally, in early 2008, we received some funding, and traveled to Senegal, sent by the president who had received an award for gender promotion. When we came back, there were 127 women waiting for us, expecting to learn how to play the drums. Because suddenly they realized what drumming could provide for them; suddenly, it wasn’t a joke anymore. No, drumming was an opportunity. How did you handle the increase in interest? For a year, we trained these 127 women. We only had 20 drums, so we were creating rhythms with our hands, drumming on our thighs and hips. At the end of the year, in December 2008, we borrowed 100 drums, and created our festival. It was the start of the Rwanda Drum Festival—a magical moment for us. Since nobody was inviting us, we simply established our own festival. Sounds like a great success. Yes, but, at the same time, it was exhausting financially, because you feel guilty. These women sacrifice their time and end up going home empty-handed. So I decided to reduce the size to the best 20 drummers. We have been working with these women ever since.
It was tough. Most of the women were good dancers; they had a sense of rhythm. However, some of the women never mastered drumming. It doesn’t work naturally. Sometimes the body just refuses. And then there are others who, simply put, fly. They take the sticks, and it just clicks.
Some conservatives argue that you are disrespecting traditions. The tradition of drumming in Rwanda is dying. It is not practiced anymore. If anything, female drummers are keeping tradition alive. The only drummers remaining in this country—it’s us! In Rwanda, traditionally, drumming has a sexual connotation; the drumsticks being the male genital organ, the drums being the female genital organ. Thus, naturally, we cannot play the drums, these people claim. Yet culture is dynamic. I find it remarkable that we even need to have this discussion. Don’t just close that door of opportunity for us, but shift your perception. We can’t transform ourselves into men. All we want to do is to play the drums. We bemoan that our heritage is forgotten; at the same time, we build obstacles for those who make contributions in culture. In a nutshell, drumming made me a feminist. This is where we are now. Other drumming groups don’t need to worry about legitimacy; we, in contrast, need to negotiate ours. How do people react to your struggle for women empowerment? Sometimes they ask me why I am so exclusive. And I answer, “It’s because we have such few opportunities.” The few opportunities that exist should benefit women, as they really need them. What is your next goal? Making Ingoma Nshya sustainable. Drumming should be a job that pays bills. Our members are vulnerable women. They didn’t go to school. They have never left Rwanda, let alone their village. Achieving this goal is difficult, though, if you don’t get support from society. We need to secure our future and our rightful place in Rwandan policy now. Otherwise, looking back, we will just have been an experiment in history. What experience made you happy and sad all at once? We once got $10,000 USD from a donor. When I was telling my colleagues at university about it, they were shocked: “People
IN A NUTSHELL, DRUMMING MADE ME A FEMINIST. How many drums does your group use? Ingoma Nshya is restoring the umutagara, the full drumming ensemble. We use five different drums. The bass, the leading drum called ishakwe—it’s the smallest one, has a very high tone, and is supposed to be on the outer edge; inyahura, which has a medium tone; and igihumurizo and impuma, the drums with the deepest tone. What was your most bizarre moment with Ingoma Nshya? Tradition says that you cannot pass through a circle of drums. To get somewhere, the women would go all the way around the drums. I said to them, “We are already breaking taboos, why not break another one?” [laughs]. And to finish, when is your next gig? In March, there is a drumming festival in Goma, the Congo, to celebrate International Women’s Day. If we get the means, we will be there, drumming.
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How did you narrow it down to 20 drummers?
give you money so that you can drum? You must have a sweet tongue. If I were you, I would take the money and build some proper business for the women. Don’t waste the money and their time.” People don’t see the bigger picture, that it’s about empowerment. They say, “You’re drumming, so what?”
by Shelley Barradas (SB), Ana d'Armada Moreira (AM), Diana Combo (DC), and Helena Fagundes (HF) Illustrations by Jenny Tang They say that spring and fall are the best seasons to visit Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon. Who’s they, you ask? Why, the locals, of course! Truly though, any time is a good time to visit this walkable, coastal city packed with culture, history, and music. While there is plenty online that shows the city’s highlights, Tom Tom linked up with Lisbon drummers to compile a guide tailored just to the needs of musicians. Here’s how to rock out with your sticks out in Lisboa!
Best Gear Shops HF: Trovador Instrumentos Musicais (facebook.com/otrovadorinstrumentosmusicais) SB: This is also my pick if you already have in mind what you want to get. The stuff is always super friendly, and they advise you always in the best way possible. They manage to get you anything in a timely fashion. AM: Lismúsica (lismusica.pt) located in Arroios, it’s a very accessible shop to buy gear. DC: I’d pick this one, too. It’s very central and not that far from the Scratch Built studio, where I practice. AM: Music Factory (musicfactory.pt) is located in Alfragide. Very big showroom with a large percussion section (all sections are big though!). Personally, this one goes on my favorites, because they always have a full length Steinway & Sons piano that you can go and play. SB: I also go to this store when I need to try amps or drum kits and material, because they have a huge display for you not only to see but to try. The staff is always really helpful as well and manages to quickly get you material that is not on display.
Best Restaurants AM: Santa Clara dos Cogumelos (santaclaradoscogumelos.com) have mushroom-based dishes, all awesome. They even have a mushroom-based dessert. HF: Jardim das Cerejas ( jardimdascerejas.com) for a vegetarian and vegan buffet with great food and great prices. HF: Damas (viralagenda.com/pt/p/DAMASLISBOA). Every night, they have a meat option, a fish, and a vegetarian one, and it is always unpredictable and amazing. AM: Sea Me (peixariamoderna.com) specializes in fish and will serve you anything from traditional Portuguese fish dishes to sushi. DC: Food Temple (facebook.com/FoodTemple) is a vegan restaurant in a sweet corner of Mouraria. It’s lovely to enjoy a meal outside, and they also celebrate Santo António with vegan options. Santo António is the saint that is celebrated by a lot of people here. Lisbon goes crazy in June for the saint’s festival! SB: Zapata (os4pontos.com) is a typical Portuguese restaurant where you can try all the typical dishes with the original touch and taste! When I crave seafood or any typical Portuguese dish, this is my number one choice! You have to go ahead of time and be warned, the waiters are super grumpy but the food–so worth it!
SB: O Cantinho do Aziz (cantinhodoaziz.com) has typical Mozambique cuisine with a Portuguese touch, if you’re in the mood to have something more spicy and authentic from a former Portuguese colony in Africa. SB: Tasca Zé dos Cornos (facebook.com/ZeCornos). If you are looking for a typical Lisbon atmosphere and a steak for dinner in a typical Lisbon neighborhood, this is the place to be!
Best 24-Hour Eats SB: If you have the munchies when you go out, the best is to look out for the vegetarian-burger man in Bairro Alto, or look around for a food van that might be around. If you want to sit down and chill, you can go to A Merendeira for a soup and typical chorizo bread! It’s open until 6 a.m. (amerendeira.com). We used to have a 24-hour place to eat called Galeto (os4pontos.com), but because of our food policy in this country, it can not remain open 24 hours. Best place ever!
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Best Places to Practice HF: Scratch Built (facebook.com/ ScratchBuiltRecordingStudio) is super friendly, ambient, with three big rooms to practice or record, near to the Intendente subway station. DC: That’s my pick, too. I’ve been practicing there for two years now, and it is a place full of enthusiastic people that have supported me since the beginning. Couldn’t ask for a better place to work and enjoy! AM: Haus (haushaus.pt) is a very central rehearsal space and recording studio, near Santa Apolónia. Lovely staff! Nirvana Studios (nirvanastudios.pt) is a bit further out of town, near Queijas. It’s an enormous space with tons of band boxes available for monthly rent. They also have a performance space, some bars, and huge warehouses you can rent by the day. Also, GF Guitars (a portuguese guitar and bass maker) is based there. He is awesome, built my guitar! AM: Estúdio Crossover (crossover.pt) is a recording and rehearsal studio in Linda-a-Velha. It has two rooms that you can rent by the hour to rehearse and/or record. They can also provide rehearsal recordings, which is awesome to make demos. There’s a pool table and a lovely view outside for breaks! SB: Espaço Interpress is a small warehouse in the center of Lisbon that used to be an old printing press and has been transformed into an exhibition, music, and art space. Here you can find a couple of rehearsal and recording studios managed by a couple of bands and labels, such as Cafetra Records (cafetrarecords.bandcamp.com) and Xita Records (xitarecords.bandcamp.com).
Festivals NOS Alive Vodafone Mexefest Festival Silêncio MUVI Rama em Flor (Portuguese version of Ladyfest) Super Bock Super Rock DC: OUT.FEST is just an amazing festival in Barreiro, an industrial city located in the other side of the river. SB: If you want to run away from the mainstream festivals, you should definitely go to Rama em Flor, OUT.FEST, and Festival Rescaldo. They always have a very diverse and interesting agenda, not only focused in music but music oriented.
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Best Venues to Play a Show HF: Galeria Zé dos Bois (zedosbois.org) is referred to as ZDB. It’s at a big antique house with a lot of different spaces used for art exhibitions, performances, concerts, and parties. The programming is an interesting mix of well known artists and brand new ones. Musicbox (musicboxlisboa.com) is a good room with a good stage, good sound equipment, and it’s well located. Damas has good ambient sound, a good staff, good stage and sound, a good audience. AM: Popular Alvalade (facebook.com/PopularAlvalade) is a venue located more uptown in Lisbon, in Alvalade. It’s well known for being a central venue for rock bands for decades. DC: Galeria Zé dos Bois and Damas are also of my choice. And I’ll add Lounge (loungelisboa.com.pt/blog) in Cais do Sodré, and Teatro Maria Matos (teatromariamatos.pt), in Avenida de Roma. SB: Besides all the mentioned above, you also have small and more intimate spaces like Zaratan (zaratan.ac), Bar Irreal (facebook.com/irreal.irreal.irreal), and Galeria do Banco (galeriadobanco). You also have Disgraça that is a DIY space where you can organize gigs. It also has always a very interesting agenda (disgracadiycenter).
Best Venues to See a Show HF: Galeria Zé dos Bois (zedosbois.org). Musicbox, the famous venue in Lisbon, with rich programming, at Cais do Sodré. Sabotage Club (sabotage.pt), where you can see bands performing live from Wednesday to Sunday. It’s not big, it’s not small, it’s the right size for a venue for rock, indie, punk, postpunk concerts at Cais do Sodré. AM: Lux Frágil (luxfragil.com), one of the biggest clubs in Lisbon, also has live shows regularly. The venue itself is super pretty. The balconies have an amazing view of the river, the sound is good, and it’s always a fun night! DC: ZDB, Damas, Teatro Maria Matos (teatromariamatos. pt), and Culturgest (culturgest.pt).
Best Record Shops HF: Louie Louie has a lot of LPs, mostly rock ’n’ roll, but with a little bit of everything. It is charming, and you can have a coffee there. Vinyl Experience has a peculiar owner that happens to be a vinyl collector. His shop has a little bit of any kind of music you’re looking for, new and secondhand. Peekaboo Records is great for finding rarities from around the world, from Africa to the Middle East. SB: Louie Louie and Vinyl Experience are my favorite places to order and buy vinyl editions, both always have a very good selection. HF: Groovie Records is the small shop of the label of garage rock, garage punk, sixties, and other rarities, all in vinyl. Discoleção is a record shop that has great contemporary and vintage music in many styles, in vinyl or CDs. It has some rarities as well and a peculiar touch. There is a wall full of famous musicians’ autographs. Flur Discos (flur.pt) is a very good shop specializing in electronic music. DC: I miss Matéria Prima that still exists in Porto and was in Bairro Alto in Lisbon for five years. I was collaborating with them and worked there sometimes.
Best Bars HF: Damas is a bar, restaurant, club, concert venue led by two women with the foundation of bringing everyone to the front, politically and artistically. It is a place where you should spend the whole night, have a good dinner, and then enjoy the cool programming. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday. AM: Botequim (botequim.net) is a small bar and restaurant in Graça, usually open until 1 or 2 a.m., which makes it ideal for a casual drink, a dinner, or even for some sweet pastries. Má Língua (facebook.com/malinguanagraca) is a bar and restaurant in Graça. Good food and frequent live music. HF: Musa (cervejamusa.com)—Musa is a brand of craft beer that recently opened a bar inside of their small factory. It is a nice place to sit with your friends in the afternoon or night and taste all kinds of beer, listening to some DJs and sometimes a concert. Casa Independente (asaindependente.com) is at an old, big house, totally revitalized with parties, alternative concerts, and an open space where you can eat tapas along with your drink. The kitsch decoration is a cool touch. AM: Tejo Bar (facebook.com/TejoBar). In the true style of Lisbon, and specifically Alfama, this is a tiny bar. It has very cool live music! Normally, musicians (trad, jazz, fado) from other venues go there when they finish work and just jam; it’s all very relaxed and nice.
Tasca Bela (facebook.com/bela.vinhosepetiscos) is also in Alfama. It’s a small and cozy bar and restaurant with live music. DC: Café Tati (facebook.com/cafetatilisboa) is a bar in Cais do Sodré where I like to go for a good glass of wine and some tapas. They organize concerts, too, but I prefer to go when I can appreciate a long talk with a friend. SB: Dois Corvos (doiscorvos.pt) is my favorite locally brewed beer. The space is amazing, and the nibbles to have with your beer tasting are awesome and very well thought-out.
Cerveteca (cervetecalisboa.com). This space is a so-called beer library where you can find and taste, not only local craft beer, but also beers from all over the world. It’s close to a beautiful square where you can find a few good restaurants, and it is a perfect to start to your evening or weekend. Tasca dos Canarios (tascasdoscanarios.com) is just in the heart of Bairro Alto. Perfect to nibble on some local cheese and ham plus it has the best draft beer in town. Just around the corner of one of my favorite places to see a concert, ZDB, and also a few blocks away from my rehearsal space in Interpress. Just perfect!
Must See Spots HF: Cinemateca Portuguesa (cinemateca.pt) is a beautiful film library with movie theaters showing classical and rare movies with rich programming, outside exhibitions during the summer, cheap tickets, and there is also a cool cafe/bar and a good book shop with arts, music, and cinema material. Feira da Ladra is the most popular portuguese flea market. What you can find is unpredictable, and it happens on Saturdays and Tuesdays near the Santa Apolónia subway station. Panteão Nacional. In the middle of Feira da Ladra, there is the National Pantheon, a pompous building with historical figures inside of it. If you go up the stairs, you can enjoy a great view. The first Sunday of each month, this is free. LX Factory (lxfactory.com/pt) used to be and industrial area and was transformed into a hotspot for arts, music, design, food, with a lot of different events going on. AM: Walk downtown through Baixa and Chiado and go to the Brasileira coffee shop to take the typical photo with the statue of Fernando Pessoa (very famous and awesome Portuguese poet).
Pavilhão do Conhecimento (pavconhecimento.pt). The name of this place is translated to The Pavilion of Knowledge. It’s an interactive science museum. I’m a bit of a nerd (or a big one, actually), but it was my top favorite place to go when I was growing up (and still is!). They have exhibitions on physics, biology, chemistry, and always a temporary one that changes periodically. Go to the beach! Lisbon has amazing weather and a ton of beaches nearby. You can go to Cascais, just take the train from Cais do Sodré and get out at any station starting in Carcavelos. All the beaches are good there. Or go to the South Bank where you have a lot of choices, as well!
How Prinze George’s Isabelle De Leon found her voice on the drums.
by Kyle Kelly-Yahner Photo by Kristine De Leon “First of all, what were we doing at a bar?” asked 13-year-old Isabelle De Leon. She was playing a bar gig with her sisters. The youngest on guitar was 11 years old, and the oldest was on bass—still many years shy of the legal drinking age. Accompanying the band of sisters was De Leon’s dad, the sisters’ mentor, manager, and legally required chaperone. “I just started rocking out,” De Leon recalls. She was sitting behind a fiery red Tama Starclassic in a smoky Maryland bar, flanked by her sisters. She had suddenly started digging into the tunes and experimenting with her stage presence. Over a decade later, the drummer has graduated from bar gigs. She tours with pop group Prinze George, sheds with drum demigod Aaron Spears, and teaches aspiring drummers at Washington, D.C., school and rehearsal space 7DrumCity.
Going for It
De Leon’s strong musical foundation is not uncommon, but her work to unpack that foundation, take inventory of it, and build it up is. She took drum lessons from age seven on, while gigging regularly with her sisters. This regimen helped her gut-check what she’d worked on in lessons, narrowing the gap between practice and performance.
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While de Leon worked to develop her skills, she searched for her voice on drums. Her tastes in drumming circled around an aggressive, dynamic playing style. Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham was one of the first drummers she imitated. His influence planted the seed that led her to drummer Cindy Blackman, who toured with Lenny Kravitz. Before popping in a DVD of Kravitz live in concert, the young drummer had never
Sight-Reading Blinders seen a female drum live. Watching Blackman command Lenny Kravitz’s grooves with power and confidence was a watershed moment for her. The fact that Blackman was doing it all in a bikini added to the allure. “When I learned that Cindy was basically a Tony Williams protégé of sorts, it all clicked, and I realized why I loved Tony and this kind of aggressive style of playing,” she says, referring to the jazz-fusion drummer known for playing with Miles Davis. De Leon pursued that style, honing her voice in primarily a rock setting. Jazz was and is an entirely different beast. She learned that lesson the hard way during her freshman year of college.
At University of Maryland’s jazz program, the gap between ability, which de Leon had in spades, and experience was immediately apparent. “I felt like I wanted to quit the first week,” she says. “They were like, ‘Alright, trade fours.’ And I had no idea what to do.” When she told her father she wanted out of the program, he convinced her otherwise. “That’s when I really started becoming my own teacher,” she remembers.
I MADE IT A MISSION THAT WHEN I STARTED TEACHING, I’D FIRST FIND OUT WHAT MY STUDENTS’ GOALS ARE AND BASED ON THAT, DESIGN A CURRICULUM FOR THEM TO GET THERE.
Teaching Yourself to Teach, Well, Yourself De Leon’s musical foundation got her to the UMD jazz program, but it wouldn’t keep her there without some work. She was accustomed to developing her music skills through performance on a near-subconscious level, learning skills like “pocket” by playing in the pocket with a band, as opposed to practicing solo.
She kept a transcription-heavy diet, analyzing the grooves of greats like Gene Krupa, Papa Jo Jones, Art Blakey, Philly Jo Jones, and Max Roach. During her senior year, she poured over Roy Haynes and Elvin
The Right Practice Today, de Leon is a far cry away from grinding away in a dimly lit college practice space, but the lesson from freshman year still keeps her, and her students, focused. “Because of that first year of being uncomfortable and feeling kind of stuck, I made it a mission that when I started teaching, I’d first find out what my students’ goals are
and based on that, design a curriculum for them to get there,” she says. That means doing what she calls the “unsexy” work. Yes, she is explicitly referring to hours of rudiments and drills accompanied by a metronome. There will always be unsexy work to do to improve your game. The challenge isn’t doing the work as much as it is recognizing the right work to do. That’s a skill she’s constantly working on.
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To catch up, she had to audit herself and take stock of what needed work. She was not only conscious of what skills she had to improve upon but also the required pace of improvement.
Jones. “It was a big learning curve for me. It was a little rough in the beginning, but I put in a lot of work and finally caught up. By the next year, I was already in the top jazz ensemble, in the top combo, and feeling a lot more confident.”
Divide and Dissolve can transform any room with their heavy music.
by Amelia Jackie Photo courtesy of artist
On the night of the 2016 presidential election, musician Takiaya Reed remembers her close friend saying, “Punk is gonna get really good again.” Reed grew up an outsider in Texas and was politicized as a teenager by a radical community. “Punk music saved my life,” she says. A month after the election, she woke up from a dream in a cold sweat with an urgent feeling, thinking, “We gotta do this. It’s not a time to be complacent. It’s a time to turn up.” 32 TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE
Reed spent most of the past decade as a traveling musician, playing bass and sax with several punk and experimental bands. She’s a classically trained soprano saxophone player but hadn’t really dug into a music project until playing with Divide and Dissolve. Takiaya met drummer Sylvie Nehill at a show in Melbourne, Australia, and they started playing music three days later. They connected over their “love of low end.”
The incredibly low and heavy sound and a lack of time signature in the music relate to the lived experiences of Black and Indigenous people. “People of Color, especially First Nations people, experience space and time differently,” Reed explains. “Life expectancy is way lower, and our bodies are expected to take up less space than white people.” The duo is on a mission, it seems, to answer the question: “What does decolonization look like?” They explore what happens when a band tries to undermine the stereotypes of who is supposed to make this kind of music, how it’s supposed to sound, and for whom they’re making it for.
Divide and Dissolve’s sophomore release, Abomination, is a journey leading us through hell to hope. “It’s about hope as a practice,” Reed says. “It is so important for Black and Indigenous people to not have to only focus on trauma.” The record evolves with each track, and the song titles walk us through a kind of story beginning with abomination, assimilation, cultural extermination, and then turning to reversal, resistance, re-appropriation, reparations, ending with indigenous sovereignty. “It’s about honoring our ancestors. They are with us when we’re playing,” Nehill explains. And reed says, “Everything that’s written is written with love.”
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Nehill tunes her kit as low as it can possibly go. She uses only floor toms that she runs through a bass pedal and into a bass amp. “So I can really drone,” she says. They have two bass stacks, a subwoofer, and Reed uses several guitar pedals with the soprano sax. The experience is full-body immersion, a warm blanket of sound. And that’s the point. “The things that Black and Indigenous people are forced to think about every day are heavy,” says Reed. The weight
of that cultural experience is in their music: it’s in the bass, and it’s in the drums. “It’s like, of course you’re making heavy music, because your life is heavy,” she continues.
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Chong the Nomad is a young multi-instrumentalist and a talented producer shaping the future of dance music.
by SassyBlack Photos by Aniyoke Seattle-based, 22-year-old Alda Agustiano goes by the ambiguous title Chong the Nomad. She’s a talented up-and-coming electronic-dance or self-proclaimed “bedroom groove” producer who has produced since the age of 14. So, she has a tight grasp on her sound. She has released a few singles in the past, as well as her first EP, Love Memo, available on all streaming services. I caught up with her to discuss her influences, her tools, and secret to staying in the game.
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Tom Tom: Where did you get your name from? It’s exciting and different and enticing. Chong the Nomad: Yeah, it’s a pretty nerdy story. I grew up loving the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, and the music from that series actually inspired me to write music. There was a very minor character, who was this sort of musician, and his name was Chong. He was nomadic, a hippy. I used Chong the Nomad as a form name for a while, and then I just rolled with it. I kinda like how gender-neutral it is. You’ve been doing this for a long time. I also read that you went to my alma mater, Cornish College of the Arts, for chamber music. How did you get into music? Was it something that you always wanted to do? I picked up producing at a fairly early age, around 14 I think. I think the accessibility of it was the best part. I had a lot of ideas for music but songwriting wasn’t really my thing. All my friends were playing around with Fruity Loops Studio, and I picked it up pretty quickly. Since then, I was just learning and teaching myself things, finding a passion for producing. I found a sound library one day that was just built with pretty good strings noises, so I started making my own cheesy trailer type tracks. My parents heard them, and I decided to study chamber music for a while. From late high school on to Cornish, it was just balancing these two mediums that I loved a lot. You were speaking about accessibility as the reason why you were able to produce, because you were able to use Fruity Loops Studio. How do you feel technology has allowed you to progress as a producer?
It’s probably one of the biggest factors as to why me and thousands of others can pick this up so quickly. The coolest thing about it is that you can have the most expensive products, or have complete mastery of the digital audio workstation of your choice—or not—but in the end, you’re making music. You’re developing your own sound, and I feel like that’s something really important to not to get out of touch with. You can write all of these techniques, know all of these super techy things about the aspects of producing music, but in the end, as an artist, I feel like it’s really important that the musicality always shines through.
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And you have been doing for some time now; you are like eight years in the game! [Laughs] I wouldn’t say eight years in the game, more like seven years of just banging my head on the desk and screaming, and then finally one year of, “Oh, I could probably actually do this for a living.”
I think that is a big part of it, though. I think a lot of the legends and artists that a lot of folks look up to spend a lot of time banging their heads on the wall, and that’s a large part of the industry that’s rarely discussed. So I feel like you are definitely on the right track. It’s both a good thing and a bad thing. I think one of the biggest struggles I have always had is comparing myself to others, but the second I let that go, I just grow so much more as I artist. Like you just grow so much more individually as an artist, and you can really finesse your sound if you just stop comparing yourself to everyone. Who are some of your biggest influences? Whether it’s production, or chamber music, or composition on film scorers? I think my two biggest inspirations right now are Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams. All of them have such mastery of combining organic instrumentals and knowing how to introduce those acoustic flavors but bringing it into a more electronic context—and have those two mesh together so well and naturally. Especially Pharrell, his production is always . . . not poppy, but I feel like I’m using the word accessible too much [laughs]. But a lot people listen to his music. He has such a sound, and it’s so distinct. Those are two of the more well known artists, but I have a lot of Soundcloud producers I look up to right now. Also J Dilla is a huge inspiration for me, as well, in terms of just everything—with sampling and how to really listen to what you’re making and how you can develop your own sound using different textures and things that people have never heard before.
If you didn’t have access to Soundcloud or other similar platforms to share your music, how would you go about promoting your music? I think social media plays such a huge part nowadays, but I feel like if you were to take that aspect away from me, I would be making connections, doing shows, participating in competitions. Participating in a beatmatching competition actually helped me get my start. Sharing music with people out there no matter what stage you’re at. It’s not as powerful as social media, but that’s the just the social media without the media. Just be social. If you have the right music, the right people will hear it. If you couldn’t use a DAW or a controller to make beats, how would you create? I’ve been really into sampling lately. I record in a way where I just record over a lot of stuff that I do in my workstation as much as possible. And I think that a lot of what I do is possible without it. I feel like the shortcuts available on a computer aren’t that hard to do in real life. It might be costlier, but where there’s a will there’s a way. I’m a multi-instrumentalist, too. I play piano, guitar, ukulele, harmonica, and trombone. So, if I have to play drums, I will play drums! If I have to get a crew with me to record in a studio, by any means necessary. If I wanna like make weird sounds, then I’ll do more field recordings. I just feel like there are always different ways you can make music. You don’t necessarily need technology. It’ll sound different, and I think that’s a good thing.
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Latin rock owes a lot to veteran feminist, Argentinian drummer Andrea Álvarez. Interview and translation by Shaina Joy Machlus Photos by Catalina Kulczar
Drummer, percussionist, singer, guitarist, composer, and producer Andrea Álvarez is, in a word, legendary. For 40 years, she has blessed fans with an array of rock music and paved the way for other musicians and creators to push their musical boundaries. Despite growing up during a military dictatorship in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that violently repressed women who were expressing themselves, the now 55-year-old remained dedicated to showing the world who she is on the drums.
Currently playing in Natalia Oreiro and Draco Rosa, with a total of six solo albums under her belt and a documentary, The Girls Are Good, on the way, it is clear that Álvarez is nowhere close to stopping. Tom Tom had the extreme fortune to sit down and talk candidly with this human tornado.
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As the drummer for Argentina’s first all-women’s rock group, Rouge, Álvarez didn’t hesitate to carve out her space in the world of rock music. As a result, her very presence changed the course of women’s history in music.
Tom Tom: What are five words that describe you? Andrea Álvarez: Woman, artist, mother, musician, drummer. Do you remember the first time you played a percussion instrument? How did it feel? I played clarinet since I was a girl. But I remember like it was yesterday, the first time I sat down at a drumset and someone explained to me how to play. I felt like I was an expert even though I only knew how to play basic rhythms. Still, I went back to my house believing that I knew everything. I felt happy that I had found my place in music. Who were your greatest musical influences when you were growing up? From a very young age, my parents encouraged me to listen to lots of music and go to concerts of all genres, from jazz, opera, to classical, folk, etc. When I was seven years old, they gave me Revolver by the Beatles. I think that was a turning point in my life. Someone fundamental to me was Sheila E. When I learned about her existence in her early days with George Duke, it was a great example to follow. I only got to see her perform during her time with Prince, although I hadn’t heard the music before. At that time in Argentina, we didn’t have access to everything. How did growing up in Argentina influence your drumming and the way you create music? Growing up in Argentina and being a teenager during the military dictatorship surely marked a lot of who I am on all levels. It wasn’t easy being a woman at that time and knowing from such a young age that what I wanted was to play drums and be onstage. Neither was growing up in opposition to everything political that was happening. Music was the place where I felt alive, and satiated my permanent curiosity. Can you tell us about growing up under a military dictatorship?
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When the dictatorship began, I was 12 years old; it was March 24, 1976. Of course this formed the sociocultural style of my adolescence. The TV told us there were “good” people and “bad” people. People were kidnapped only because they did not agree; they were named terrorists. There were no laws. It was horrible. They took you prisoner for dressing differently, or, for example, they would not let me enter into the school if I had on certain “strange” clothes. Most of the people agreed with these measures, even though at a distance it seems crazy. Otherwise, it would never have been possible to carry out such a situation. How did the dictatorship interfere with being a woman? I don’t know if it interfered with being a woman because everyone was repressed. Although today we know that women were raped, and they took away their children if they were pregnant. And in those times, there was almost no talk of feminism. My mom was very independent, and I lived in a home where both my father and my mother were equal in everything.
How did you survive as a human and as a musician during the dictatorship? My parents saw that I had a lot of energy, curiosity, and the need to express myself. They pushed me towards music. Rock, to be more exact, was a place of freedom, of flight, where I put all my imagination. That is how I decided to be an artist. I think that allowed me to survive that era. How did this change once the dictatorship ended? At the end of the dictatorship, at the time of the Malvinas War, music in English was banned. Sounds ridiculous today, no? [Laughs] and that made a resurgence of rock in Spanish possible. I turned to rock bands, because music is where I am from. It is my place. Can you tell us a little bit about the creation of Rouge? I was not the creator of Rouge. Actually, it was a band made up of women doing covers of songs in English. There was a moment when the group broke up and only the pianist and bassist were left. In that moment, they decided to recreate the band and make their own songs in Spanish. Mari Sanchez was the drummer who decided to travel to Spain, so I was the only drummer left! I was 18 at the time, and I knew Claudia Sinesi, the bass player. So they called me, and the second stage of Rouge, the one we know today, was born. Rouge was the first all-female rock group in Argentina.
“My strength comes from my great need to say things, to question. It does not come from my size. I’m very small! But in drumming, I’ve found a place from [which] to ‘make noise.’ The force comes from deep inside!”
How was that experience? What were the best parts?
What is your secret to longevity in the music industry? I think what keeps me always active and excited is to feel that I am only just beginning. I can develop my records as I like and still be nominated by the Latin Grammys. I laugh in the face of adversity and have a lot of love for what I do.
Do you think you have received the recognition you deserve? Why or why not? What recognition would you like for yourself? For example, the Latin Grammys, what do you think of them? When I was nominated for my last album for a Latin Grammy, I was very happy. It’s not that I’m interested in the awards, but my album was 100 percent independent, without any record label other than my own, and that seemed like a huge achievement. I did not win it. I think it’s very evident that the big labels have a lot of power and that business is always what “triumphs” in the end. And the truth is that it didn’t change me at all on any level. I took a side and declared myself feminist decades ago. My music talks about that. Yet, when it is the famous Women’s Day [in Argentina, March 8], I am never called to perform at any important events. It’s not that I am unknown as an artist. No. I even work on a television program, and I have played
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Rouge was the first band of women musicians, and I remember it as one of the happiest times of my life. To have musician friends and share everything with them was a dream come true. At that time, being a woman and musician was in no way common, and meeting “peers” was beautiful. We didn’t realize that there were difficult parts at the time, because it coincided with a very good moment in the Argentinean rock scene. Without publicity, we could play show after show to full venues.
with the most important artists of Spanish-speaking rock. I know the entire artistic world. What I would like is, for example, at this stage of my life, to be in a more comfortable situation economically, and, above all else, play live more often with my own band. Humility, important or not? Today’s concept of humility is strange. When someone is an artist, before anything else they have to believe in what they do, be proud of it, and want show it off and share it. That requires a certain ego and self-esteem. We all think that our album is the best in the world—it’s the reason we made it—that’s why I don’t believe much in people who pretend to be humble. What advice do you give to women who are just beginning their career in percussion? My advice—if I played it humble, I would say, “I’m not the one to advise anyone.” [Laughs] It’s the same for everyone: First of all, respect yourself. Don’t have high expectations, or believe in magic formulas, because they do not exist. In particular for women, as we’re still in times of inequality, even if it seems we’re not, I would tell them listen to your desires, don’t be afraid to mark your territory, and do whatever is necessary to take the place you deserve. I see that you write in Spanish using the “x” (ex. todxs) in order to write in a gender-neutral way. What do you think the future of the Spanish language is, in terms of gender neutrality? In Argentina, we use the “e,” or the “x.” The “x” is the one that I use and is the most comfortable for me. It is about not using gender. I do it out of respect. After many years of speaking in the masculine, sometimes I forget to do it, but if I think a little I do it out of respect. The structure of Spanish masculinizes everything. I do not know what the future is, but I think that generally what is masculine has to change. What made you decide to start producing your own music? For many years, my goal as a musician was to play an instrument well. After being a mother, naturally, I began to need to listen to music that talked about the topics that mattered to me. Family violence, toxic relationships, abortion, and everything related to my being a woman in this world. I realized that I could not expect that of male artists, and no women were doing it in my country, so I started writing my lyrics. The first was “40 minutes,” which is about a militant anarchist squatter who commits suicide. My own need generated my solo career. Do you feel it is important to sing in Spanish versus English? Why or why not?
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I am Argentinian, and I think in Spanish. Anyway, I think one’s “voice” comes from many places. From a sound, a style, an attitude, taking a position. For example, I do not know what Fiona Apple or PJ Harvey, are talking about when I listen to them without reading the lyrics, but I hear an identity; I hear a fury; I hear that they invite me to be different from the establishment. That is what makes their music universal. I do not like Argentinians who sing in English, because it’s not believable. Spanish is much more difficult to fit into rock, so doing it in English is, for me, cowardice. If I find what I hear natural and attractive, I don’t care. In general, it doesn’t sound natural, and that is why it does not appeal to me.
What recommendations do you have for other people who want to start producing their own music? The most important thing for me is to know what you want to communicate. Even if you don’t have resources, or technical skills, a good idea or a good song can save everything. Listen to a lot of music and old records and analyze all kinds of details about them: the interpretation, arrangements. Realizing what we like about something we hear is important. It’s not the model of symbols, or guitar, or a team, or a pedal, but the way it is played, the notes. It is always something deeper that money can’t buy that is important. What has been the most useful advice someone has given you? My teacher Horacio Gianello (the founding drummer of Argentinian rock) always told me to know who to surround myself with and whom to give my attention and energy to. Of course, I did not listen to him [laughs], and I made a lot of mistakes. Tell us about your future dreams and plans. Besides being a teacher and teaching in my studio, I’m a drummer for the bands Natalia Oreiro and Draco Rosa. I also participate on the jury of a TV show featuring a rock band competition. This year, there is a project that is going to occupy a lot of my attention that is the making of a documentary about my life as a musician as a way to tell the story of women in Argentinian rock. Not the same story that is always told, promoted by men, but that of many musicians who are less known and have no visibility in the rock scene. It will be called The Girls Are Good and has a part dedicated to female drummers. What is your practice routine? I practice a technique of Sebastian Hoyos that gives me strength, resistance, better sound and precision in my hands and feet. I try to find a few moments to sit down and play drums from a musical standpoint, not just a technical one, and I practice singing and guitar. Little by little, because one of the things that happens over the years is that worries increase in life, so one appreciates every free moment that much more. Is rock still a man’s world? There are many women who like rock, play it, participate in it, listen to it. We are not the majority. From that perspective, yes, it’s a place where men dominate, but I do not think it’s a man's world. The business of music is a man’s. The rules are derived from that, from the guidelines of a patriarchal culture. You are such a powerful musician. Where does this force come from? My strength comes from my great need to say things, to question. It does not come from my size. I’m very small! But in drumming, I’ve found a place from [which] to “make noise.” The force comes from deep inside!
See Andrea's drum transcriptions on page 63 Painted drumsticks by artist Itta Abovitz
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Ibeyi twins Lisa KaindĂŠ and Naomi Diaz are moving their familyâ€™s musical tradition ever forward.
by Geoff Shelton Photos by David Barron
If you can’t imagine an Elysian future where future where diverse cultures and ideas, as well as human and celestial energies have found harmony, then take some time to listen to the music of Ibeyi. Born and raised in Paris, with stints in Cuba, Ibeyi is 23-year-old fraternal twins Lisa Kaindé and Naomi Diaz. In Santeria, the Afro-Cuban, Yoruban religion they practice, Ibeyi are divine twins who bring joy to their followers. The word comes from the Lacumí pidgin dialect of the West African Yoruba language that arrived in Cuba with the slave trade starting in the 16th century. It is a name reflective of not only their literal reality, but also the importance of tradition, spiritual belief, and family that runs deep through their musical history.
The sisters weave musical traditions of Europe, West Africa, Latin America, and the US into a sacred blanket of sounds that is at once spiritual and danceable. We spoke with the twins through email about their goals for their sound: “We want our music to be 100 percent us,” they emphasized. “When we’re making and recording our songs, we live in between two cultures and four languages. We have family all over the world, and we both listen to different things. So, Ibeyi is a mix of all our influences. It’s about finding the balance between electronic sounds and organic sounds. The old Yoruban chants and the music we love today. Between Europe and the Caribbean. Between both our desires and inspirations.” The drums are to thank for this musical pair. At age 18, their mother,
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Maya Dagnino, a French-Venezuelan singer and composer began to study conga and learn the batá chants of Yoruban music prevalent in Cuba. This musical path led Dagnino from France to that island nation and thus to the man who would become the father of her children. He was the late Miguel “Angá” Diaz, a world-renowned, Grammy-winning, Cuban percussionist who gained huge recognition as part of the Buena Vista Social Club. “Our earliest memories of the drums are of the batás and congas that our father had at home,” they reminisce. “There are pictures of us around those drums throughout our early years. Everybody thinks the drumming and the love for Yoruba chants were only inherited from our father, but it was actually because of [our parents] that we got in touch with that part of our Afro-Cuban culture.” Both sisters began studying music at the conservatory at age seven. “Lisa was studying classical piano, and I was studying classical percussion, marimba, and snare drums,” says Naomi. “My sister, mother, and grandmother told me that the day after my father died, at some point, I sat on one of his cajones [at age 11], and for the first time of my life, I started playing it. They told me that nobody moved
and [they just] stared at me for a while. They felt it seemed as if our dad had been there with me. But sadly, I don’t remember anything.” Meanwhile at age 14, Lisa’s first song came to her through the advice of their mother. “I felt miserable, because Naomi was at a party, and I was not invited,” Lisa explains. “I did many things I would usually do, like finishing my homework, reading, making rings and necklaces with beads. Luckily, I had no computer at the time, because after doing all that, I still went to see my mom to tell her I was really bored and frustrated. She answered that I should write a song. I discovered then that finding melodies and eventually putting words on top of these melodies made me very happy. It became my way to create some beauty out of anything that I felt, witnessed, or thought. It became my way to feel alive and useful. Nothing compares to the joy of making a song.” With the encouragement of their mother, Lisa would continue to write songs throughout her teenage years. At 17, the twins started talking about making a band. “I met my teacher, the great Peruvian cajon master, Miguel Ballumbrosio,” says Naomi. “I started to love the cajon as my own instrument. When Lisa was asked to do an EP, I told her she couldn’t possibly do it without me.” When a YouTube video of the duo performing their song “Mama Says” came to the attention of Richard Russell, head of label XL Recordings, he quickly sought them out and brought them to London to record. Around this same time, Ibeyi faced another tragedy when their older sister Yanira passed away due to a brain aneurysm. The culmination of this artistic success mixed with personal loss resulted in the career-launching sounds and lyrics that made up their eponymous debut LP. Upon their arrival at SXSW 2015, they were one of the most buzzed about groups of the festival where they not only lived up to but surpassed all of the hype surrounding them.
Both our parents brought us up with the assurance that nothing was impossible to achieve as women. Being a woman was not an issue, we thought we could do anything we set our minds to do just as any man would.
Shortly thereafter, the twins found themselves on giant billboards for Apple Music, making cameos in Beyonce’s Lemonade film, and touring the world for two years. “We learned a lot!” exclaims Lisa. “We experienced all kinds of audiences, venues, and festivals—over 167 live dates. All that experience made us realize what we wanted for our next album.” In the winter of 2017, Ibeyi returned to the studio in London with Russell to create their second LP and work on some of the lessons and experiences they took from the road into the new music. “We wanted a bigger sound, and yet we also wanted the songs to not lose the organic feeling we had on the first album with its mix of electronic and live percussion and voices,” they explain. “We wanted to be able to play festivals like Coachella and make people move, but [we] also [wanted be able to] play a more intimate venue—to be free to play the songs anywhere.”
Ash was released this past fall to further rave reviews for Ibeyi. The duo’s updated sonic palette and empowering lyrics struck a chord immediately as the first sparks of the #MeToo movement were ignited. That paired with xenophobic rhetoric from the US White House made the album timely. On the track “Deathless,” Lisa sings about an encounter she had with a racist policeman when she was 16. While “No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms” features the sisters singing the title repeatedly in harmony while samples from Michelle Obama’s speech during the campaign for Hillary Clinton repeat: “The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls.”
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About that balance, Lisa notes, “We always experiment in the studio with Richard. When we go to London, we already have certain rhythmic ideas on certain songs, but they don’t always work in the end. Everything is open. Some songs stay the way we wrote them at home like ‘Vale.’ Some change a lot in their melodies, lyrics, like ‘Transmission,’ and some are completely born in the studio, like ‘I
Carried This for Years.’ ‘Me Voy’ is our first song in Spanish, and we invited the great La Mala Rodriguez to rap on it, so it was obvious we needed a Latin rhythm. We made an Ibeyi reggaeton song. Feminine, soft, and we hope, sexy.” Naomi adds, “For me, it’s absolutely amazing to work with Richard Russell, because he is a percussionist, too! During the recording, he and I often jammed in the studio for pleasure. Sometimes, we got good stuff that we can use comes out of those jams. On one jam, Richard played the Roland 808, which matches greatly with the batá cajon sounds and the cajon. We try things. There is no pressure. We have fun.”
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“We’ve been raised by strong and independent women,” they note. “Our mother and our grandmother always worked and supported themselves on their own. Our father and grandfather in Cuba were the cooks of the house. Women in Cuba are very strong. So both our parents brought us up with the assurance that nothing was impossible to achieve as women. Being a woman was not an issue; we thought we could do anything we set our minds to do just as any man would. Growing up, we then discovered that women are still living under men’s laws all over the world, and that some women are still treated as objects that men can use as if they belonged to them. ‘Grab them by the pussy’ is still a sentence that some men dare to say publicly thinking they’re funny. That’s a real shame. There’s been lots of progress around women’s rights, but we are still far from equality.”
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Throughout Ibeyi’s short and successful career, it is clear that their family continues to be a driving and grounding force in their lives. Their mother now works as their manager and co-writes some of their songs. “She has been a solid support all the way from the beginning of this adventure. It’s a blessing to have someone you trust next to you, because you often need an external eye on what you are doing. Doubting is a part of the journey,” they say. “She knows us so well that we can have real honest conversations about artistic choices.” The words of their late father continue to resonate with them through the phrase “pa’lante,” a slang phrasing of the Spanish words “para adelante” meaning, “go ahead” or “go forward.” “Pa’lante for us means whatever happens, life must go on. We lost our father very young, then our sister at 18 one day before leaving on our first tour. We didn’t cancel the tour and [instead] sang all the shows with her in our minds and hearts,” the twins share. “Then we wrote the song ‘Yanira’ for her. That’s what ‘pa’lante’ means in our daily lives. Like we wrote in our song ‘Away Away,’ ‘I don’t give up, I feel the pain, but I’m alive.’”
Madame Gandhi in Conversation with Drummer Ale Robles by Kiran Gandhi Photos by JP Marcus
Above photo by Mariya Stangl
I got my start playing drums for M.I.A. and Thievery Corporation, but over the past few years, I have been writing and producing my own music as Madame Gandhi. I am excited to share an interview I did recently with Ale Robles, a drummer who toured in my band last fall when we went on the road opening for Ani DiFranco’s West Coast Rise Up Tour. I first saw Ale play at SXSW 2017, where she was drumming for Le Butcherettes. First, it was lead singer Teri Gender Bender who caught my eye. She pulled us into her world, screaming and crying and freaking out onstage, while she moved between keys, guitar, and lead vox. It was the punk rock project of my dreams, and their drummer was insane. I moved closer to the stage to fully experience them live, and realized the drummer was a girl. My night was made.
Ale was so fierce behind the drums as the backbone of the project, fully present in the moment, giving the instrument her entire love, focus, and energy. It was so inspiring. In my own project as Madame Gandhi, I had started the year off initially touring solo, where I would move between lead vocals, triggering sounds/electronics, and playing live drum sets. But as my project expanded, and I wanted to take a band on the road, I knew my personal dream was to recruit Ale to play live drum parts, while I was doing vocals. She was down. The whole dynamic of the show changed completely. I would start the first two songs drumming, but by the third song, Ale came on as a surprise and the rest of the show we would each switch on stage live and move between who plays the percussion rig up front and who plays the full kit. It was epic. I hope you enjoy my interview with her. Kirin Gandhi: What do you think about when you are drumming? While practicing, while playing live? Ale Robles: For the most part, I do the thinking beforehand then I get behind the drums and do it. I think about a lot of things, like if there's something different in my setup, how comfortable I was playing during soundcheck, how good I could hear during soundcheck, etc. I just try to make mental adjustments before shows, so when I’m onstage, I can just be present, and enjoy it.
What’s your dream for your drumming?
TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE
This is a complicated question for me. I moved to Los Angeles five years ago with the ultimate dream of playing for Brody Dalle (the Distillers). But my dreams have shifted a bit: From playing with so many creative musicians, I’ve found that it has pushed me to want to write my own album, which it would have been crazy to think of five years ago. I want to collaborate with powerful women that move me and inspire me to find my authentic creative self. I’ve been touring with Le Butcherettes for a year, and we are about to release a new album, and I love every minute of it. I love the community, the fans, the environment, and most importantly, my bandmates.
What is your favorite gear? Brands? Size of drums? Tuning? Any electronics? I play a DW drum kit at home, but I tour with a Ludwig drum kit. Those are my two favorite brands of drums. I use Istanbul cymbals (15”, 19”, 20”, 21”) Haram drum sticks (5A), and Aquarian drum heads. How did you get so proficient at the drums? What was your practice ritual? I was self-taught for so long until I moved to L.A. and went to MI, the Musician’s Institute. When I got there, I realized I was not as good as any of my classmates, mostly because a lot of them had been playing since they were kids. I actually started playing when I was 16, because that’s when I first had access to a drum kit. So the fact that I was falling behind in almost every assignment combined with the fact that I was one of four female drummers in the whole school drove me to develop a routine where I was practicing six to eight hours a day, apart from being a fulltime drum student. How do you balance your time between practicing and gigging? Do you ever practice just to practice with no end goal, song, or show dates in mind? Although I should, I rarely practice just to practice. I mostly jam with other people, or record music. That’s my favorite way to practice, because I can get feedback, and also, I get to hear back what I play and judge for myself. Do you feel you are good? Do you identify as a pro? If yes, what did that journey to get there look like? If no, why not? I really don’t know. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t, but I honestly don’t think it matters that much. What matters is that I enjoy drumming so much, and there are people who appreciate my creativity and find some value in what I do. My journey has been a roller coaster. I’ve gone to feeling like I’m good to feeling like I’m not good enough, so I just stopped investing energy into that thought.
Do you have any insecurities with regards to your playing? If so, how do they affect your playing? How do you deal with them, not deal with them, or get rid of them? Being exposed to so many amazing players, of course I have insecurities about my playing, but I rarely let them wear me down. I know the areas where I need to improve, and I work towards it. And that’s all I can do. Before I started touring with Le Butcherettes, I had major stage fright that even the thought of being onstage made me nauseous. I knew it was something that I needed to work on. After around my 15th show in a row with Le Butcherettes, I was over it. I consider it to be one of my greatest life accomplishments. Can you speak about the intersection between drumming and spirituality?
Your own project versus others’? Which do you prefer? I love playing with other people. I love feeding off of each others’ energy and feeling the chemistry that makes a performance so intense. I also love writing alone. I enjoy the solitude and the focus it requires.
Teri [Gender Bender] is a force of nature. I remember seeing Le Butcherettes for the first time when one of my previous bands, the Menstruators, played a festival in 2015, and I was blown away. I became an instant fan. I was so moved and inspired by her performance. And the more I got to know her, the more drawn I was to her humbleness and creativity. I love playing music with people I admire and respect. So to be in a band with three people who I not only love but feel immensely inspired by is a true gift. What was your favorite part of being on our tour opening for Ani DiFranco? I think the message is extremely important, and it makes me feel very lucky to be part of a collective that empowers women and young girls. I really admire your talent and commitment to your cause, because not only does it inspire, it becomes a learning experience for all of us. Spending time and being onstage with four powerful women who excel at their craft gave me a lot of hope. The tour, from my experience, was filled with laughs, wisdom, and optimism, and that’s what I took home with me.
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To me, drumming is a healing experience in which one transcends the self-shifting between the conscious and the unconscious mind. Drumming to me is my form of meditation. It also is a good way to connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain. When I’m alone playing for hours trying to develop a groove from a rhythm, that’s where I find my comfort. So yeah, drumming is cool, I guess.
What is your favorite part of being a member of Le Butcherettes?
TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE
I S S UE 33: S P R I NG
To be in a band with three people who I not only love but feel immensely inspired by is a true gift.
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Gabriel Wallace of Gorillaz plays DW because he wouldn’t dream of playing anything else.
by JJ Jones Photo courtesy of artist
Helly is an extreme metal drummer from Venice, Italy, who won the 2017 Hit Like a Girl contest in the 18+ category for her creative and intense double-bass playing to a drum remix of the God of War II video game soundtrack. While she may look as hardcore as they come in the video, in person she is one of the friendliest and most good-natured people you can imagine. Our tech editor, JJ Jones, asked Helly how she achieves her extreme bass drum speeds.
You started playing drums at age six and began studying with Sergio Pescara at age 14. When did you start playing double bass, and how did you develop your unique style? I started to learn double pedal at age 15 after I saw Metallica’s video for “St. Anger”! But I didn’t start really being able to play it until I was 17 years old and in the black death metal band Livyatan, my first original band. What allowed me to develop my skills has been the constant and continued will to overcome my limits. That is how I increase my endurance and speed. As far as my style, I take inspiration from many kinds of music. Some of my ideas don’t even come from metal or rock but from electronic music. I love watching videos of drummers with completely different styles! Some of my favorites are Inferno, Terry Bozzio, Ginger Fish, and Dave Weckl. I like to have a range from one extreme to another!
In your HLAG video of the God of War II soundtrack, you’re playing 16ths at 200 bpm on the double bass. How did you get so fast?
TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE
There are no shortcuts to speed and stamina, only a lot of practice. Everyone can do it like I did—just find your big daily dose of motivation. It took me a long time (years!) to get to a good level. So my advice is to never give up, and pick up your drum sticks right now! When I first started to use double pedal, I focused on basic exercises and the quality of the sound, since the most fundamental
principle is making the volume of the right and left foot exactly the same. Only then can you think about increasing your speed or changing the exercise! I first started to train on a classic metal double-bass groove: alternating 16th notes between the right and left feet, snare on the 2 and 4, while keeping quarter notes on a cymbal. Then I focused on accents, which are so important for expressiveness. While keeping the same basic pattern on the double pedal and snare, I played one bar of 8th notes on a cymbal with accents on the up note, then in the next bar, accents on the down note. The next step was to again keep the kick and snare the same, but to play 16th notes on a cymbal, moving the accent to the next 16th note in each bar: ONE-eand-a, TWO-e-and-a, THREE-e-and-a, FOUR-eand-a; then one-E-anda, two-E-and-a, three-Eand-a, four-E-and-a, and so on. That was just the beginning. Next, I restarted the whole process but changed the pattern of the double pedal. For example, instead of playing a full bar of 16th notes, I doubled the speed on the first and third quar-
ter notes (played 32nd notes). So, the new double bass pattern was 32nd notes on the ONE, 16th notes on the TWO, 32nd notes on the THREE, and 16ths on the FOUR. I spent a long time doing this process of changing just one part of the double bass pattern. Overall, my advice when learning double bass is: before going faster, make sure the sound and volume is equal between your right and left foot, and especially if you are playing metal or rock, be sure that you can play loud!!
TIP: "THE SAVER"
This warm-up exercise builds endurance and speed, trains you to achieve and maintain a high volume and is a great quick warm-up to play extremely fast: play 16th notes with your right foot very loud and in unison with your right hand for one bar, then do the same on the left for the next bar, alternating back and forth. I use the heel-up technique and keep my heel very high off the pedal. My hands are completely closed: I don't use fingers, which means I don’t use the rebound of the stick at all—it’s just a wrist movement. The sticks start at 90 degrees from the snare or pad with every stroke. I start the whole exercise at 160 bpm and progressively try go faster until 180 bpm, and I do this for 5 or 8 minutes until I feel warm enough. By 30 seconds in, your heart and breathing rate should increase, and if you start to feel warmer, that means you’re doing it right! A good warm-up before an intense drumming session is really important, and this exercise helps increase your speed and stamina too.
TIP: PRECISION Helly not only has incredible speed—her drumming is extremely precise. She follows these steps when she
Can you talk about the bass drum pedal techniques you use and why? The techniques I use are to ensure I get an even sound when I play fast. Just like for the hands, where your speed increases by using smaller and smaller muscle groups (arms, wrists, then fingers), the same principle applies to the bass drum: the faster you want to go, the smaller the movements of the leg, foot and ankle, and the smaller the muscle groups must be to carry out the action. Below are my kick-pedal techniques, based on specific tempos. All use heel-up on the pedal: Full-Leg Motion (up to 140 bpm) In this first phase, the whole leg is used. The thigh and quadriceps have plenty of time to rise and impart a strong impulse to the pedal with the foot. This is a great technique for rock! Medium-Leg Motion (140 to 210 bpm)
Swivel (210 bpm and up) Around 210 bpm and above, I use the Swivel technique, which is what the body does organically as a movement of the ankle and the toe in order to achieve this kind of speed. For each bass drum stroke, the leg itself hardly moves, but the foot
practices: 1. Use a metronome! 2. Mic the bass drum, use in-ear monitors or headphones, and set the EQ with a lot of high frequencies in order to clearly hear the attack. 3. Watch video of performances to check body motion and listen to the recording. The philosophy behind Helly’s system is to be extremely self-critical: never settle, notice every imperfection,
correct it, and only then increase speed and/or go on to To sum it up: while increasing the next exercise. execution speed, the body’s approach to the pedal changes progressively. The muscular It’s rare to see a female playing metal and focus gradually shifts downward from the large muscles in the leg to industrial music, especially at your techthe small muscles in the ankle, which then nical level. What drew you to this type of music? Have you experienced prejudice supports the stress of the entire execution. from other musicians for being female in Double bass requires a lot of core strength. such a male-dominated genre? Have you used strength training to work on your abdominal muscles, or did they I’ve always been passionate about underground music, like deathcore and indusjust develop from playing drums? trial (bands that are not played on Italian No, I don’t do any strength training. I spend radio), and have always felt attracted to my time directly on the double bass! I was dark, violent, aggressive, chaotic, extreme, lucky, because when I was a child, I already and visceral sound. Some of my favorite had strong abs from playing sports, but it’s bands are Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, been years since I’ve done athletics. I don’t Behemoth, Rammstein, Slipknot, Slayer. believe that working out at a gym is nec- And, yes, I’ve experienced prejudice by guys essary to be a faster drummer. I’ve seen many times—often at metal concerts, bemuscled guys who cannot play as fast and cause it’s so rare to find women who enintense as other skinny or overweight guys. gage in extreme metal drumming! While Endurance and speed are abilities that a this hasn’t discouraged me, it has become drummer develops mainly just by sitting on another good reason to do my best. It also the drum throne and sweating every day! means at the end of my performances, I’ve Of course playing sports and working out is contradicted their preconceived ideas and always a good thing, but it’s not necessary. broken the stereotype that a woman cannot play metal. I love playing metal!
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Up to 210 bpm, I still use the full leg but with smaller movements, and the toe of the foot may raise up from the pedal for a skipping motion. How far the toe raises depends on different factors: the incline and length of the pedal footboard, the length of the foot, etc.
moves just slightly sideways from the ankle. One stroke is a slight movement to the right, the next stroke is a slight movement to the left—the back and forth creates the swivel. The toe never leaves the footboard because at this speed there’s no time to raise it!
by Lindsay Artkop It’s all about technique and control. The most important aspect of developing speed within your hands and feet comes down to basic technique. Even the best exercises will be useless if they are practiced without a solid foundation. Work on your skills and control, and speed will come as a nice side effect in time.
RELAX! Relaxation is important, because it allows you to let the sticks do the work and get the most out of each stroke. If you’re storing tension, you can end up wasting time and energy. It can also cause injury like tendonitis, or carpal, tunnel when you put unnecessary stress on your muscles. Relaxing is a habit, so be patient with the time it takes to develop and master. In the beginning, it will take some effort to consistently mentally check in to make sure you’re relaxed. The more you’re mindful about it and correct it, the more natural it will become to always be on point. Remember that the faster the tempo, the more relaxed you need to be.
MAKE USE OF NATURAL REBOUND
60 TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE
There is an organic bounce and feel between a surface and sticks that, if manipulated correctly, can allow you to play at seriously fast tempos. Physics states that it’s possible to have the stick bounce back at the same force in which it hit the surface. If that’s not happening, you’re unconsciously preventing it. Rebound is mastered best once you’ve located the fulcrum of your grip for your hands and the “sweet spot” on the pedal board for your feet. Take the time to discover these points and constantly revert to them when you’re practicing, so that it eventually becomes a natural starting position whenever you play.
START SLOW No matter what you’re trying to speed up, it’s important to start slow and increase speed over time. This is crucial, because if you can’t execute an idea properly at a slow tempo, it’ll be even more of a mess when played fast. Slowing down your executions is like you’re zooming in on your playing. When you’re in slow motion you can magnify all the little intricacies of your strokes. It’s the best time to spot, correct, and internalize your best technique. Set it up great now, so that when you do increase tempo, you’ll have a great foundation to do so. If you focus on your control and correct technique, speeding up your ideas will naturally be the next step and come more smoothly and naturally. Don’t put the cart before the horse, or you’ll waste time and have to go back to fix bad habits.
STAY ORGANIZED AND KEEP TRACK OF YOUR PROGRESS Make sure you keep track of your progress, because improvements will be slight but can really add up overtime. The learning curve of drumming is unique, because the better you get, the more work you’ll have to put in to keep improving in smaller increments. This can cause plateaus in progress, because it’s difficult to keep seeing your smaller incremental improvements without a way to keep track. Simply write in your phone, or a journal, which exercises you’re practicing, the bpms, developments, and any other notes and comments that can help you log your long-term improvements. Staying organized can also keep you mo-
tivated to stick to a handful of exercises that can be built upon, instead of jumping around in search for the “right one” that you might think can fix everything. Be in it for the long game, it’s all about getting the most mileage from minimal ideas, taking them as far as they can go.
USE A METRONOME A metronome will help you keep measurable track of your progress and also help your timing simultaneously. Aim to use a metronome at least 90 percent of your practice routine, and you will see a large improvement on your timing. This directly relates back to speed. If you can play something well at a slow tempo, you can eventually play it fast very accurately as well, so spend the majority of your time perfecting it slowly, and use the metronome to incrementally increase the tempo over time.
by Morgan Doctor
Speed is one of the main skills we try to acquire on the drums. There are lots of factors that affect our speed on the kit, like endurance, how fast our minds can work, and how quickly can we move around. There are a ton of practice tricks out there that really help with speed, like using heavier sticks when you practice rudiments, or playing on soft surfaces. Since there are so many methods to building speed, I'm going to narrow it down to two helpful tips:
1. You can only go as fast as your weakest link. 2. Speed isnâ€™t that useful unless you can move it around the kit.
Most people have a stronger, dominant hand: it leads most of the time, and is always faster and more coordinated than our non-dominant hand. But, it is our weaker, non-dominant hand that slows us down. Thus, a crucial approach to playing faster is to develop and strengthen that weaker hand by playing exercises requiring you to lead with it. Focusing on agility is equally important when working on speed. If you were a runner and only practiced running in place, when you got to a track it would feel very different and be very challenging. Similarly, if you only practice getting faster on one drum (e.g. a practice pad), you won't have a lot of options when you sit down behind a kit and try to translate your speed to multiple drums. We need to not only get our hands fast, but also be able to move our speed around the drumsetâ€”which can be challenging.
WEAK HAND STRENGTHENING EXERCISE Start at a comfortable tempo where you can play each stroke with precision. Keep pushing the tempo to your limits, but only to where you can maintain your time-accuracy (each stroke falls exactly where it should in time). You can add accents on each quarternote beat. Do A, B, and C, ten times each.
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CONT. AGILITY WITH SPEED Here is a great lick I learned from Mike Johnston that I find really helps with moving speed around the drumset and integrating the kick with the hands. Once you feel comfortable, try reversing it! We often end up moving in the same direction on the kit. Reversing helps us get used to moving in different directions. You can get this lick cooking at some serious up-tempos!
Forward=first hit is on the floor tom, move to snare, rack tom, then back to floor tom with kick. Reverse=first hit is on the floor tom, move to rack tom, then snare, back to floor tom with kick.
DRUM NOTATION WRITTEN BY ANDREA ÁLVAREZ FOR TWO OF HER ORIGINAL SONGS Intro and translation by Shaina Joy Machlus
It is not often one gets to peak inside the mind of a musical hero. A drummer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist, there are more than a few synapses firing in the mind of Andrea Álvarez. Álvarez is a radical music maker whose songs serve as insight into her unapologetic way of expression. Her music is deeply personal, referencing her history, the political history of her home country, Argentina, and the people who surround her. Tom Tom was given the gift of two of Álvarezs’ songs, “I Swear It” and “R U Fking with me”, transcribed by the hand of the creator herself.
“I Swear It” was created when I was alone in my studio. I started to play the groove spontaneously. It has a Beatles groove to it—unstructured like the one in “Ticket to Ride”. My main influence when I write songs is blues rock—so I sing thinking about that. I got home, grabbed the guitar, and tried to play what was in my head—and there it was, the main riff recorded on my phone. Lyrics came quickly—“I Swear it” is about someone that swears in a childish way that they didn’t do what we all know they did. I was inspired by a girlfriend’s breakup story. I wrote “R U Fking with me” alongside Lonnie Hillyer, my bass player. He already had the six beat riff and composed the bass. It was hard to learn it since originally it didn’t click with me, so I made a few changes to adapt it to my style. And since it was impossible for me to sing on top of that, I decided to leave the riff as the main phrase and sing along in a way that expands as the song develops. The lyrics talk about a person (I was thinking about Lonnie) that, despite having many talents that people would love to have, are always being criticized and only recognized for their flaws.
Read Andrea's interview on page 38
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Both songs have instrumental moments. Those parts come out spontaneously during rehearsals and more often they come from me, from the drums. I feel it when I need that instrumental development and my bandmates tag along.
SETUP by ZoĂŤ Brecher Photo courtesy of artist
Kanade Sato AGE: 15 FROM: Saitama Prefecture, Japan
What was your first kit? Pearl Rhythm Traveler How old were you when you got it? Four years old Why did you start drumming? It seemed fun looking at my father playing drums. So I wanted to play too. How many drum sets have you had? Four acoustic sets, and two electric sets.
Where did you buy your current kit? Pearl Drums
TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE
Do you have a dream kit or cymbal? The set I'm using now is the best!! If you were stranded on a desert island and could only keep one part of your kit what would you save? My snare drum Are there any unique things about your setup? 13.5inch hi-hat is quick response and tight soundâ€”not loud, very good.
Pearl Reference PURE:
A: 20x16” Bass Drum
1. HH Medium Heavy Ride 20”
Pearl Drum Racks Pearl Demon Drive Double Pedal
B: 14x12” Tom
2. HH Thin Crash 17”
C: 12x9” Tom
3. HHX Groove Hats 13.5”
D: 10x8” Tom
4. AA Thin Crash 15”
E: 8x7” Tom
5. AA China 20”
F: 16x14” Tom
6. AA Mini Hats 12”
G: SD : 14x5” Custom Classic Legend - One Piece Maple -
7. AA Splash 8”
Pearl Kanade Sato Model
HEADS REMO Coated Ambassador Clear Ambassador
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8. APX O-Zone Crash 16”
JAMILA WOODS HEAVN Jagjaguwar October 2017
YO LA TENGO There’s a Riot Going On Matador Records March 2018
Jamila Woods is a Chicago-raised poet and musician. Woods has appeared alongside Chance the Rapper in “Sunday Candy” and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s 2016 “White Privilege II.” Woods formed M&O and dropped two albums with the duo before working on her solo album, HEAVN.
Yo La Tengo have always had a warmth to them uncommon among the indie bands they came up alongside in the ’90s—whether playing noisy, garage rock, instrumental drone, or pure pop, they’ve always made songs of inviting intimacy. There’s a Riot Going On illustrates this better than anything before. Its songs unfurl slowly, and things never get loud or hooky, but Riot is captivating in its shimmery warmth.
The album hosts light, airy, and uplifting beats, but the lyrics are as intense as they are beautiful. In “VRY BLK,” Woods sings, “I’m very black, black, black, can’t send me back, back, back, you take my brother, brother, brother, I’ll fight back, back, back,” to the tempo of the nursery rhyme, “Miss Mary Mack.” The juxtaposition of a nursery rhyme being paired with lyrics about protection, murder, fear, and love is haunting.
On Riot, YLT leans into the ambient, droney passages they’ve played with in the past, eschewing the direct, clear romanticism of favorites like “Autumn Sweater” or the orchestral indie rock found on Popular Songs for soft, minimal pieces that layer until they approach soundscapes more than rock songs. Texturally, it more often resembles Boards of Canada or Fennesz than Yo La Tengo’s obvious peers. It’s a long, blurry album, but never aimless. When gentle interruptions come, like melodic fuzz bass on “For You To” or jazzy polyrhythms on “Above the Sound” or “shoo-wop” harmonies on “Out of the Pool,” they carry extra weight and satisfaction, but they wouldn’t land so powerfully if not for the beautiful stillness around them.
Woods's album shows that she is a combination of grace and guts. Her candid description of her life in all its complexities is a refreshing addition to the hip hop and R&B world. In this one album, Woods talks about being an alien, her grandfather’s Alzheimer’s, Black girl magic, and police brutality, to name a few.
Despite being like a cohesive, immersive hour of music, Riot was recorded in fragments, with a leave-the-recorder-onand-we’ll-put-it-together-later approach in the vein of Can. It feels appropriately out of time, not dependent on larger world context, and outside of the increasing hecticness of life in 2018. It’s kind of the opposite of its namesake—the tense, urgent Sly & the Family Stone masterpiece. It’s a record of the intimacy and care we can give no matter what things are like outside. It’s a welcome feeling right now.
Listen to this: When you’re on a long drive and full of bittersweet thoughts about where your life has been and where it could go.
TOM TOM MAGA ZI NE
—Audrey Zee Whitesides
HEAVN feels exactly like how art and music should feel—honest. Woods is currently touring in Europe, with later dates in the U.S. Favorite track: “Holy” Listen to this: When you wake up and want to feel empowered and beautiful. —Jessica Lynn Perez
BAT FANGS Bat Fangs Don Giovani Records February 2018 Drummer Laura King and bass player Betsy Wright joined forces to produce and record their self-titled album at Candyland in Kentucky (owned by Mike Montgomery of Ampline). Bat Fangs plucks riffs you’ll remember from 30 years ago; it delivers imagery of Poison and early Bon Jovi. This is a vast difference for Wright and King, with Wright on hiatus from playing bass in Merge Records’ Ex Hex and King the ex-drummer of Flesh Wounds and Cold Cream. The band facetiously describes their music as “heady, heavy music for third eyes and stiff upper lips.” While its inspirations are thematically metal, and Wright’s riffs are inspired by early ’80s glam metal bands like Warrant and Winger, Bat Fangs also seems to pull from power female singers like Patty Smyth, while consistently retaining a pop sentiment throughout that makes it a lasting, powerful debut album. Listen to this: With a hairbrush microphone and a friend (extra points if you wear a vintage Bon Jovi shirt). —Metta Pry
MUSIC LA LUZ Floating Features Hardly Art May 2018
MANY ROOMS There Is a Presence Here Other People Records April 2018 Performing and recording under the name Many Rooms, Houston, Texas-based Brianna Hunt pours her soul into her first full-length release. There Is a Presence Here is a starkly beautiful work of minimalism. Unapologetically personal, slow and meandering, the album feels like a warm wave cresting over the internal monologue of a jilted lover. Driven mainly by a somber, pulsing piano or a softly picked acoustic guitar, and almost always accompanied by atmospheric synths and delicately placed harmonies, Hunt manages to create a richly textured soundscape whose tonal character is far greater than the sum of its parts. You won't find much traditional verse/chorus/verse song structure on There Is a Presence Here. Instead, Hunt chooses to look at the big picture. As you listen to the album, top to bottom, tracks seem to weave into each other; growing from mournful dirges into majestic crescendos, and collapsing back on into themselves before the whole process is repeated. Standout songs include “Which Is to Say, Everything,” which expands from a delicate whisper into a powerful climax, and the profoundly intimate “The Nothing” that feels as though you’re overhearing a secret practice session in a sparse bedroom populated only by Hunt, her guitar, and a mess of handwritten lyric sheets spread out on the floor. Despite the lack of grandiose instrumentation, There Is a Presence Here is full and lush. Take your time, slow down, and get on its ethereal wavelength. You’ll be rewarded with a truly unique and interesting experience. Listen to this: With raindrops from a summer thunderstorm peppering the ground outside your window. —Stephen Otto Perry
The Seattle natives of La Luz—now living under the beautiful, pink, sunset skies of Los Angeles—have finished their fourth studio album Floating Features. As the title would suggest, the album boasts dreamy guitar riffs, breathy vocals, and soft percussion. Listening to Floating Features feels a bit like you’ve spent all day on the beach drinking acid-spiked Kool-Aid. The album opens with the title track “Floating Features.” This instrumental piece, with its heavy use of the fuzz pedal and organ, create an atmosphere dripping with Tarantino-sentiment. There is a melancholy tone to the album that transcends depression. Even while singing “we’ll be broken until we die” in “Greed Machine,” there remains an undeniable presence of hope and acceptance. Like a meditation gone terribly wrong only to come back around full circle to be exactly right. Favorite song: “Walking into the Sun” Listen to this: Driving down the coast at sunset. —Jessica Lynn Perez
ALICE BAG Blueprint Don Giovanni Records March 2018 Alice Bag is the Latina, punk rock, feminist, badass from the mid-’70s LA punk band, The Bags. From the very beginning, Bag has been a force to be reckoned with. Her stage presence and vocals visibly matches her persona in Penelope Spheeris’ documentary, The Decline of Western Civilization. And with similar political and social issues occurring in our current political climate, Bag has yet again taken the stage. With her second album, Blueprint, she collaborates with other feminist heavy hitters like Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, Julie Ruin). The multiple vocals on “77” chant “It’s time!” It rings with the unity of women to make change for equal pay. Bag also collaborates with two more strong women—Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile, Sex Stains) and wild child Teri Gender Bender (Le Bucherettes). Bag states that working with talented women inspire her and push her to work harder in her creativity. She also collaborates with the loud and proud, Latino, and queer Martin Sorrondeguy, who is a punk staple from Los Crudos and Limp Wrist.
Listen to: when facing a #MeToo moment. —Carolina Enriquez Swan
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In the song “Se Cree Joven” the Spanish-pop melody addresses agism, making a point that there is no expiration on the punk life, one can dress and be who they want regardless of age. Discrimination is discrimination in any form. “Asi me siento bien!” The theme for the album is refocusing on a personal level and making changes to result in a better self and environment.
BOOKS + SHOWS
STANDUP FOR DRUMMERS Starring Fred Armisen Netflix Original February 2018 Although you may already be familiar with Fred Armisen as a comedian and writer for Saturday Night Live and Portlandia, before his time in front of the camera, he spent several years behind the kit touring with Trenchmouth. Armisen, who has written articles for Tom Tom and has interviewed drummers for Tom Tom TV, has just put out a new special on Netflix aptly titled, Standup for Drummers. And that’s exactly what it is—in his trademark nerdy and quirky style, he cracks jokes that only drummers will get, like how it’s awkward to walk back around the hi-hat stand, and how sometimes guitarists can’t find the 1 in the beat (love you, guitarists!). The special begins with the camera panning over the outside of the club with eager fans lined up in front of a sign declaring “Drummers Only.” It even shows some of them demonstrating their stick prowess on a drum pad on their way in. Maybe there was a secret rudiment they needed to know in order to get in? Armisen doesn’t just stand there telling jokes though—he gets a little help from his friends like Sheila E., Tré Cool, Clem Burke, and Stella Mozgawa to demonstrate different experiences drummers have and ways to collaborate with other musicians—even if it’s just to make fun of another band in your scene. In another memorable bit, Armisen showcases different kits starting with one from the 1930s and working his way up to present-day set ups. He uses his time onstage to uplift the drummers in the audience, reassuring them, “you’re just better than everybody else” when you walk through the airport carrying your snare. While this might not be fun to watch with someone who is not a drummer or a musician, Fred just really gets us, you know? —Rebecca DeRosa
THE GIRL IN THE BACK: A FEMALE DRUMMER’S LIFE WITH BOWIE, BLONDIE, AND THE ’70S ROCK SCENE by Laura Davis-Chanin Backbeat Books May 2018 There are several memoirs and accounts of the early punk scene in New York and London, and this does not disappoint. While Laura Davis-Chanin might not be a household name, she was in the crowd and then onstage at Max’s Kansas City CBGB’s, and the Palladium with her band, the Student Teachers, riding the punk explosion in the ’70s. She is a keen observer who draws you into her corner of the scene where teenage rebellion, sex, drugs, rocky relationships, and music reigned freely. When she was just a high school student, she fell in love with punk and new wave and began following bands like the Mumps and the Erasers. Thoroughly inspired, she and her best friend Bill Arning decided to start a band and recruited other young musicians to join them. With Lori Reese on the bass, they had a female rhythm section, which Davis-Chanin said made them stand out at the time. Their pop sensibilities attracted the attention of Jimmy Destri, keyboardist and synth player for the band Blondie, which had had recent success with the album Parallel Lines. He offered to produce a single for the Student Teachers, and in the process, Destri and Davis-Chanin struck up a love affair that lasted a few years. They even wrote a couple songs together that Blondie recorded.
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To her amazement, she began to rub elbows with David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, and other notable figures of that era. Bowie saw something in the Student Teachers, even going to their band rehearsal and tweaking some of their parts, and helping them in other behind-the-scenes ways. But a wrench was thrown into Davis-Chanin’s fledgeling career as a musician when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 18. On doctor’s orders, she hung up her sticks and later pursued careers in law and writing. Multiple sclerosis may have taken Davis-Chanin away from the kit, but it hasn't stopped her from creating. She is currently working on a novel entitled A Finished Noise and a book with Michael Alago, the former Elektra Records executive responsible for introducing Metallica to the world in the ’80s. She also co-hosts “Phi Fic,” a podcast on fiction for The Partially Examined Life Network. —Rebecca DeRosa
BOOKS + SHOWS
HIT SO HARD: A MEMOIR Patty Schemel Da Capo Press October 2017 Patty Schemel was once described by Kurt Cobain as the “best musician” in Hole and indeed, she was. Bringing power and poise to her role as the hard hitting, no-nonsense drummer of the band during their epic rise following Live Through This, she helped to define the sonic power of that landmark album and of that era. Flash forward 23 years and she has had a long career drumming with not just Hole, but touring with bands like Imperial Teen, Juliette and the Licks, and most recently the band Upset. And now Schemel has just released her memoir, Hit So Hard. The book follows the 2012 documentary film also titled Hit So Hard, and is an even more intimate look at the woman behind the drum kit. While she speaks of many events of her life, it is closely linked to the trajectory of Hole; it would be impossible to separate the two in the narrative. She recounts her early life and teen years in the pre-grunge boom days of 1980s Seattle, to meeting Courtney Love for the first time during her audition for Hole in 1992, to working on the iconic album that truly etched the band’s place in rock history. As the story of Hole and Schemel’s career unfolds, she also explores her experiences with a growing addiction to heroin amid the chaos of life on the road with Courtney Love and being within the rock diva’s inner circle. Drugs were also her way to cope with the dual tragedy of the deaths of her close friends Kurt Cobain and Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff within months of each other in 1994; the 1994 Reading Festival, 1995 VMAs, and Hole’s MTV Unplugged appearance amid others serve as anchor points for the story. These are events we all remember as fans as watershed moments in ’90s history and culture—but things that we tend to forget happened to real people dealing with huge pressure from the industry along with lives increasingly spiraling out of control, while the media salivated waiting for ever more “Courtney drama.” It is easy to overlook that they were not just MTV fodder or pictures to be flipped through in the pages of a glossy music magazine. She humanizes this time for us and brings it out of the abstract with poignant detail. In telling her story, Schemel does not hold anything back. It is raw and it is real every step of the way. She candidly speaks of the aftermath of being fired from Hole and how deeply out of control her life became surrounded not only by drugs and alcohol, but toxic people who helped fuel and enable her. Within a year of being out of the band, Schemel found herself addicted to not only heroin, but also crack cocaine, while living on the street and working as a prostitute to feed her habit. She was as far from screaming fans and TV cameras as one could get. Through it all, she is open about everything, describing points in her life where she didn’t care about her previous rock star status or anything much at all, and just wanted to stay mired in a life of needles and crack pipes. The harrowing struggle to get clean by going in and out of detox and rehab more than a dozen times is described in gut-wrenching passages. It is clear not even Schemel herself believed at that time she could ever escape her demons.
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But she did escape them; she did find a way out. A final trip to rehab in 2005—one she said she was not sure would work—was the beginning of a new life. As open as she is about her struggles through despair, she is equally as engaging when writing about her newfound freedom from substance abuse and how that radically transformed her life. In the period after achieving sobriety she continued to play music, but she also discovered a love of working with dogs—which she also attributes to helping her stay sober—and opened her own business, as well as met her future wife and became a mother a few years later. Her love for her family is palpable in the way she describes her life with them and how it means everything to her. Hit So Hard is a story of a rock star, yes. And she recounts an amazing, intense, frenzied, and magical time in the musical landscape, a golden age we aren’t likely to ever see repeated. It is the story of incredibly influential talent. A story of pain, loss, and struggle. But more than any of those things, it is the story of triumph and the will to survive the dark experiences of the human condition. And the payoff of living through it to find a whole new life waiting on the other side. —Kate Hoos
DRUMMER FROM ANOTHER MOTHER by stud1nt
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The DFAM is my first and only analog percussive synthesizer and possibly even my last—though I don't consider it just a drum sequencer. It’s incredibly intuitive, flexible, and encourages spending hours falling down an experimentation rabbit hole as a dynamic, chameleon-like sound generator and shaper. And whether you’re new to, or an old hand in, the Eurorack world, it integrates seamlessly with other modular gear, but you can plug ’n’ play without any patch cables. Maybe that’s what I love most about the DFAM: how quickly it lends itself to the immediacy of creation. Dial the pitch knobs whatever way you please, and hit “run” for instant rhythmic gratification. Although the DFAM is monophonic, outputting only one sound at a time, you can create ever-evolving, chaotic, subdued, and expressive tones and timbres patching the synth to itself, or with subtle changes to the filter control knobs. The DFAM feels like a complete instrument all on its own akin to a guitar or piano, begging for its rules to be learned, bent, and broken.
“DFAM is the first addition to the Mother ecosystem of synthesizers and presents an expressive handson approach to percussive pattern creation. It requires no patching, and absolutely no experience is needed for human beings of any age to quickly begin synthesizing new and unique rhythmic compositions.” —Moog
by JJ Jones Evans created a big buzz in the drumming world last year with their release of the UV1 drumhead. Made from a single ply of coated 10-mil Mylar polyester, a UV1 is described as having an open sound similar to a coated Ambassador but “with a durability and longevity never before seen in a drumhead.” Other raves described them as “unmatched durability, consistency, strength, and sound,” and “the most versatile and durable series of 10-mil drumheads you’ll ever put on your drums.” These are strong statements! Does the UV1 live up to its hype? We were sent a 14”, 10”, 14”, and a just-released UV1 EMAD 20” bass drum head with removable dampening rings. Most drumhead coatings are sprayed on with a gun and air-dried, but UV1 coating is silkscreened and then cured with high-intensity ultraviolet light. UV curing has been around for over 50 years and is widely used in other industries due to shorter production time, reduced waste, and an extremely even application. UV-coatings are also said to have more resilience and longevity.
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I’m not normally a big fan of single-ply drum heads, since I favor lower, more “thuddy” tunings on my toms. In lower registers, single-ply heads are usually too flexible, and the sound is very open and ringy. Depending on the size of the drum, I virtually always have to apply multiple gels to minimize the overtones. Given this, I expected my feelings toward the UV1s to be an appreciation of their durability but a dislike of their sound. Boy, I was wrong. For dampening, I needed to apply only half a drumdot™ gel on the high rack tom and one full dot on the snare and middle rack tom. Both sounded great with a pure, rounded tone, were super responsive, but could also withstand hard hits at lower tuning ranges without being “flappy.” A very happy discovery was the application of a Big Fat Snare Drum™ donut dampener to the floor tom, which sounded unreal on the UV1: an awesome, fat, growling, low attack. I love it! Similarly, the EMAD kick head sound, particularly with the narrow dampening ring, was punchy, present, and full of attack, with tons of low end. Fantastic.
But, just as everyone says, the most amazing thing about the UV1s is their durability, which is nothing short of jaw-dropping. No joke, I have had the UV1s on my snare and toms for almost a year, and they show virtually no signs of wear and sound as good as they did new. I’m not kidding: there are hardly any marks (and I practice two to three hours a day some weeks), and the few marks that are there require getting up close in bright light to see. Just for contrast, I compared the UV1 on my 10” tom with a brand new coated Remo Ambassador. Literally, there was a mark on the Ambassador from the very first hit. Enough said. UV1 drumheads from Evans are amazing and live up to the industry hype. They’re a general purpose head that will work for a variety of styles and tunings, while lasting two to three times longer. Get some. You’ll thank me a year from now, when they’re still on your kit! [Check tomtommag.com for our video demo of the UV1s!]
When Mona Tavakoli hits the stage with multi-Grammy award winning singersongwriter Jason Mraz, she requires an instrument that will capture her musical personality and unique rhythmic approach. Introducing the LP MT Box. Crafted at the new California Cajon shop, this Spanish-style cajon includes a specialized, graduated port design and North American pine body with Baltic birch soundboard, offering a versatile tonal spectrum. It’s dynamic, just like Mona.
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D ID SP I SLPALYA W Y ISNPTREI R NG 2 02107 1/81 8 D I S P L AY S P R I N G 2 0 1 8
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Tom Tom's double cover Spring issue includes some of the hottest international artists of our time. It features in-depth discussions with th...
Published on Mar 21, 2018
Tom Tom's double cover Spring issue includes some of the hottest international artists of our time. It features in-depth discussions with th...