The hand-carved djembe drum originated in Guinea several hundred years ago. Made of a solid piece of linke wood (a hardwood with serious resonance) with goatskin stretched across the top, it was considered magical enough to transport people into other worlds when played well.
As West Africa's leading percussion ensemble, Les Percussions de Guinee--a government-sponsored group whose members are chosen from among the most distinguished djembefolas (master drummers)--is accustomed to transporting audiences. But on Tuesday night, they'll cede the stage to a new and powerful group of drummers--the first cadre of women master drummers.
In what the UA is billing as "a gender-role-erasing evening of West African drumming," Amazones, the Women MasterDrummers of Guinea, will demonstrate the mastery and passion that inspired the name "Amazones," after the warrior-women of the ancient kingdom of Dahomey (Benin).
Amazones was begun by the widow of the revered Master Drummer Noumody Keita, after Keita came to her in a dream and instructed her to complete his life's mission by gathering together a group of women to give joy and maintain hope by playing the djembe. But the ensemble has gone beyond the mission of saving traditional African rhythms; the inclusion of women in the Master Drummer circle has helped to open the other women of Guinea to new ideas and opportunities. Tuesday night's performance will mark the first time female percussionists have ever shared the stage with male djembefolas; you can witness this historical event for only $10-$26.
Don't be put off if you call Clinical Master Herbalist Amelia Plant at the number above and she's a little ... well ... mean. She's tough, that's all, and her "NO FEAR!!!" tagline is the result of her conviction that humans can--and must--take sensible steps to boost their immune systems in preparation for what's to come.
"It's not about fear," she's says. "That's what terrorism is. But the CDC (in Atlanta) has been saying for a while, for example, that the Asian flu could become pandemic, like the Spanish flu did when it killed thousands of people. It's not about taking a pill; it's a whole lifestyle. Lots of people's immune systems are compromised right now."
Plant's lecture is described in her literature as "learn how you can arm yourself naturally against bioterrorist diseases: plagues, smallpox, anthrax, dengue fever, legionnaires disease, botulism, influenza."
"These aren't new diseases or new concepts," she points out. "They're ancient. I just want people to know that there are specific herbs and homeopathic medicines that you can use to fight them, to prevent--that's the name of the game--and even to cure.
"I'm a medical herbalist of 30 years," she continues, "and I want people to be aware that there is a possibility they could arm themselves if they start now and with certain foods, diet, attitude, lifestyle.
"Of course, if you haven't started already there may not be any hope," she adds (see what I mean? Tough), "but there are people out there already doing some of these things who might like to know specifically what they can do against these dreaded diseases."
The lecture is free.
Don't want to know how many people are infected with HIV/AIDS? Neither do lots of other people in the world, which is probably why, according to AIDS.org, someone on planet Earth contracts the AIDS virus every six seconds. And as much as Southern Arizonans would like to gaze at desert vistas while feeling safe from the world at large, the Pima County Health Department counts approximately 3,000-4,000 of our friends, family and neighbors who are living with HIV/AIDS.
"People seem to have forgotten that AIDS remains a critical problem in our community and is very active," says Rick Wilson, director of development for the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation. "AIDSWalk gives us an opportunity to alert the community to the threat of AIDS and to commit ourselves both to doing what we can for those living with it and to form a prevention mentality ourselves."
The purpose of the AIDSWalk event, according to Wilson, is three-pronged: "What we try to do is commemorate those who have died from AIDS;" he says, "show that we're willing to be with those living with it, say that these are good people and we're there for them; and the third thing is to promote testing and prevention."
Victims of AIDS will be remembered in several ways--through a balloon-release prior to the start of the 4K walk; through a reading of names by Cleve Jones, founder of the National Memorial AIDS Quilt Project; and by the presence of several panels of the quilt itself, which--from humble beginnings in a San Francisco storefront--has grown to include 44,000 panels, each submitted in memory of a loved one lost to AIDS.
For more information about the event, call the number above.
From harvest moons to stargazing parties, the heavens have gotten their fair share of City Week ink since I took over, and not just because I still wrestle with a secret desire to be a top-notch astronomer. It's also a tribute to the fact that we live in a remarkable area for looking up, and if you don't believe me, move to some other city and see the sad, anemic little pinpricks that pass for stars in the rest of the country.
Dr. Elizabeth Green, who will be delivering the Monday-night lecture, couldn't be found on the evening I called. (There was some speculation that she was on the "90-inch"--telescope, that is--but no.) Dr. Thomas Fleming, however, was very present at the other end of the phone, and is--thank goodness--one of those scientists prone to metaphors that actually make sense.
"Stars are born like puppies," he said, "in a litter. And as they age, they begin to move away from each other. So you have this open cluster configuration of stars that's like a kindergarten of stars--yellow ones, red ones, blue ones--and it's these blue ones that Dr. Green is interested in. The blue ones are the ones that age and die first; out of 1,000 stars, you might have six blues ones. So the mystery is, why are they still there? It's very odd."
The lecture is free and open to the public; for more information, call the number above.