YO' MAMA HAS RITMO: Look at your watch: The time is 1995. But if that watch is on an arm of a female, the date hasn't truly caught up with men's clocks yet--in the world of music and just about every other world that exists on the planet.
It used to seem that everyone, except for soon-to-be-extinct conservatives, knew that women were treated unfairly in our society. Women and men seemed to want to change that inequity and the corrections once seemed inevitable. Now conservatism is chic and women are chicks again. Where I come from, those kinds of cruel injustices are called tough tittie.
Since I work for the paper in town that most often positions itself on the left side of the political stripe (with some loud exceptions) my job is to feed you a little information now and then on people outside the mainstream. Swimming in that outside is Mama Ritmo, a local group of women doing the most musically masculine thing gals can do: drumming.
"It's not the kind of thing that's traditionally been regarded as appropriate for women and that's why we love it all the more," says Barbara Bird, the group's founder and artistic director. "We feel like we're standing for something: We're standing for women having the guts to do something they haven't traditionally been given permission to do. And we're doing it not in an arrogant, hostile way. We're doing it in a fun-loving, respectful, joyous sort of a way."
The group was formed in 1992 when Bird was asked to put together a drumming presentation for an International Women's Day celebration. The quartet she gathered then has evolved into a 10-member ensemble specializing in folkloric drumming styles including calypso (from Trinidad); bémbé and rhumba (Cuba); ibo, yamvalu and mahi (Haiti); bomba (Puerto Rico); merenque and illesa (Dominican Republic); samba (Brazil); kpanlogo (Ghana) and djole, cou cou, tedebau and lamban (from West Africa), among others. They also have original compositions that draw on their many influences.
Although none of the members of Mama Ritmo come from any of the countries from which they've compiled their repertoire ("We don't qualify for Tucson Meet Yourself," says Bird with a laugh), all have studied--or are currently studying--folkloric drumming with Bird. She operates Casa Tambores, a drumming school, out of a studio next to her home. It's there that she disseminates the folklore and drumming patterns she has accumulated since 1978.
"There hasn't been a lot of (folkloric drumming) teaching available in Tucson," Bird says. She's acquired knowledge and techniques from a variety of informal teachers and people, albums, movies and books that she has sought out in her quest to pound and kiss the skins. "When people have come through town I've cornered them and given them dinner and talked about their culture and
learned a new drum beat and things like that."
She also spent about a year studying drumming under Carolyn Brandy in San Francisco and has gotten instruction, off and on, from several drummers in Tucson.
Eight members of Mama Ritmo will perform this Saturday, August 26, at Café Sweetwater, 340 E. Sixth St., in a free concert: Bonnie Anderson, Erica Herbert, Debbie Jackson, Christa Keller, Laura Key, Cyn-d Turner, Katherine Waser and Bird.
Ritmo had its biggest gig earlier this year when they opened a concert at the University of Arizona's Centennial Hall for The Drummers of Burundi.
Ritmo opens this Saturday's show at 9:30 p.m. and is followed by Aché Pa'Ti (an eight-member rhumba group) and Sounds of Brazil (a band specializing in the music of northeastern Brazil and Bahia).
LAST NOTES: Collective Soul brings their Steven Tyler-Joe Perry-derived hard rock to the Buena Vista Theater, 251 S. Wilmot Road., on Friday, August 25. They've been tour openers for Aerosmith and Van Halen--and they sound like it. If you dig arena rock, the BV is the place to be. Call 747-1886 for ticket info.
No need to call anyone about tickets for the Leo Kottke concert on Saturday, August 26, at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave. The show is sold out. If you really want to listen to Leo finger pick the night away, try for one of a dozen standing-room tickets at the door.
If you want tickets for the John Tesh concert that same night in the TCC's Music Hall, call a hearing specialist first. If your ears check out, have your brain scanned for foreign objects--a phony, plastic crystal may be lodged in there.
Tesh is the most fatuous New Age asswipe known to exist. There may be someone even more soulless somewhere, but it's doubtful. Lionel Ritchie is a sweaty, screaming James Brown compared to Tesh; John Denver resembles Aretha Franklin more than Tesh does an authentic human being. Even Yanni appears to have a pulse when you measure him against the man who is the whitest shade of pale.
If this little rant hasn't convinced you that Tesh is dreck, see if the folks in the white coats will let you out of your padded cell to dial 791-4266 for more information on the concert.
Invisible Records' Route 666 Tour hits Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, August 30. The label's Evil Mothers performs with Horsey and Lick in a show sure to make God happy.
Mothers' vocalist Curse Mackey describes his band's Pitchforks album as full of "religious satire, bizarre sex and satanic mass hysteria," among other pleasurable things. Call 622-8848 for more info.
Rich Hopkins and Luminarios return from a tour of the Midwest to debut their new album, Dumpster of Love, on Friday night at Club Congress. They're accompanied by Fish Karma and Slippery Jill of Flagstaff. Admission is $3 and includes a $5 discount on the album.
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