I can get a decent sound out of several types of African drums. I am also flexible enough to adapt in performance to a wide range of approaches to the phrasing of rhythm patterns. Even though I have these abilities, based on years of experience of working with excellent drummers in theatre productions, I would not describe myself as a percussionist or a drummer. Would I run workshops or present myself as a percussion teacher of any sort? I would be extremely cautious about doing that.
In my travels, I’ve met folks who feel there is an imbalance in the representation of females in the realm of African percussion playing. I’ve been made to feel as if this tendency (which could have some basis in facts) could be linked to an innate sexism in the various cultures that the traditions come from.
When I lead general musicianship workshops and use percussion instruments, I am always careful to be balanced in the distribution of the various instrument types between females and males, for this reason.
Having said this, I have noticed that the argument about inclusion of both genders in the playing of drums can sometimes be conflated with issues of skills and technique, which shouldn’t be the case. Don’t we all have responsibility as artists to be secure in our abilities before we set ourselves up as repositories of knowledge for others to learn from?
All my singing teachers were women. Most of my piano accompanists in song recitals are also female. I don’t even think about gender in making those choices. Should there be initiatives in place, for more women and girls to become proficient drummers and percussionists in African music idioms? I think so.