The she-beat goes on

The Citizen, Tuesday 6 July 2004
The she-beat goes on

Vibe – Petrus Rapule

An all-female drumming group is banging the drum for women across the globe, writes ALISON MARSHALL.

Six women from Soweto are aiming to turn the drumming community around, infiltrating this previously male-dominated cultural activity, and captivating international audiences.

Aptly named Basadi Le Meropa (women of the drums), the group has just returned from a whirlwind tour of the Netherlands after being selected by visiting talent scouts from the annual Festival Mundial in Tilburg.

The Basadi Le Meropa group formed last year, when Khensani Kubayi, Tiny Modise, Mpho Rasenyalo and Lerato Ndlovu met at the Drum Cafe, where they were dancers.
“We started learning the drums and, as we were the only ladies in the cafe, we decided to form our own group,” said Kubayi.

Later they were joined by Juliet Qhobosheane and Nomsa Khoza to make up this highly sought after group of powerful young women.

But these chicks are not all about pounding out the rhythms.

They also do different styles of dance, including traditional, pant-sula, gumboot, township jazz and Afro-fusion.

The girls also make use of stick choreography, using short sticks for rhythmical effect.

It was this variety that attracted the Dutch talent scouts.

“They were so impressed by Basadi’s energy and their wide range of abilities that they invited them to travel to the country,” said the group’s facilitator, Franka lnsinger.

Basadi Le Meropa toured the Netherlands for three weeks, giving dance and drumming workshops to children at primary schools and community centres, and performing at festivals.

“They were one of eight groups selected worldwide,” said Insinger. The other groups came from Mali, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Peru, India, Brazil and Indonesia.

Basadi stayed in a leafy bungalow park just outside Tilburg in the south of the country. Each group had a Dutch “tour guide” for the duration of their stay who took care of all logistical and local issues. “It was so nice that some of us didn’t want to come back. The people loved us,” said Kubayi.

She said the group didn’t see much of the country because they were kept very busy.”We had three days of rest. We were putting on three or four shows a day.”

Added to that, she said the girls were getting to bed at 3am every day because the sun only set at 11pm.

“Holland is very nice, but very quiet. There’s not much happening, unless you go to Amsterdam,” laughed Kubayi.

“We made it exciting. We had a lot of fun.”

But, as the saying goes, there’s no rest for the wicked, and the girls are keeping busy with numerous performances.

“Since we came back we haven’t rested,” said Kubayi.

The girls said they learnt a lot from their overseas experience.

“We are used to performing corporate gigs, so the festival audience was Basadi’s biggest,” said Rasenyalo.

“The Dutch audiences were not as active as South African audiences, but they were very supportive and would come and watch and give feedback,” she said.

Rasenyalo said the trip to the Netherlands was great for the group in terms of growth.
“It’s one of the first times we’ve been on our own without the guys and we had to cope with tuning problems and doing guys’ stuff. We’re so used to having the guys around,” she said.

Apart from not having the manne around to do the dirty work, Rasenyalo reckons it’s lekker forming part of an all-girl group.

“Each and every individual has their own talent, and every performance is good – even if there isn’t a supportive audience,” she said.

You can’t keep good women down, and the group has gained enough support for talk of them returning to the Netherlands for next year’s Mundial Festival.

They may also represent South Africa in Belgium as soon as September.

Says Insinger: “We’re thrilled that the girls had such great success in Holland, and they enthusiastically said they’d invite Basadi back again, so we’re hoping they will.