Things to know about Drumz Austin

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

DRUMZ is looking forward to Spring 2009 in Austin and the continued growth and development of a vital and exciting drumming community here in Central Texas! I am so grateful for the continued support and friendship of all of you who have graced this space with your presence over these last 6 years of DRUMZ on Kerbey Lane and I anticipate many more beautiful and inspiring rhythms and vibrations within these walls in the days and months and years to come! I have the intention of putting more focus and energy into my teaching and facilitating in the days ahead and I foresee DRUMZ becoming more and more of a music studio and a gathering place for learning and sharing music. I hope to bring many exciting percussionists as guest teachers to DRUMZ in the future and I look forward to the unfolding of a new chapter here in 2009.
Please note that there is new and enticing energy on the street as Kerbey Lane welcomes the fantastic and irresistible new Bakery and Coffee Shop, Russell's, to our Kerbey Family, as well as the beautiful new "Caroline's" women's clothing store at 3700 Kerbey Lane, slated to open Feb.20th! Caroline's is right in front of DRUMZ and I encourage all of you female drummers to drop in and check out the new trends and lovely garb the next time you are in the 'hood! You be stylin' for sure with a djembe over your shoulder and a new outfit from "Caroline's"!
Austin seems to defy the notion that there is a recession happening in our Nation and a global economic crisis gripping our world...just continuing to "keep it weird" I suppose! Whatever happens, I trust that drumming and our recognition of the importance of rhythm in our lives will still be a part of our conscious evolution and DRUMZ will survive and perhaps even thrive through this economic "downturn"!
It is really good to be home again after an amazing and moving adventure to Africa ( a short journal of my travels follows, if you are inclined to want to know more about my trip, read on below!) and I look forward to sharing a rhythm with you soon!
Peace,love, and gratitude,


The Djembabes have a number of performances coming up in the Spring so I hope I see many of you out in our audeinces movin' and groovin' to the beat! Please check out our website at or look for our schedule under "performances" here on!
Axe' Axe'

For those of you interested in my recent trip to Guinea in West Africa , I offer these reflections upon returning to the warmth of my home here in Austin, Texas....

Newly Out of Africa...a few reflections and experiences from the Motherland upon my return...

Feb.3rd, 2009

Dear family, friends, students old and new,

I am back from my trip to Africa and taking a few days off to re- enter this vastly different world! It was a very moving and intense experience and I am sure it will take time to process all that I experienced during those 3 1/2 weeks. Certainly I was not prepared for the depth and breadth of the extreme poverty that pervades Guinea, nor was I prepared for the generosity and love I received from so many people, despite the inhumane and oppressive deprivation present in their daily lives.

The women in Guinea are particularly powerful and strong and seem to do the bulk of the hard physical work, as well as the earning of some form of minimal existence at markets for their families and friends in need, the cooking, cleaning, birthing and caring for the many children, the social organization of celebrations, the healing, the nurturing...on and on...they do it...because there is no choice. Now I have a new understanding of Africa as "the Motherland" and not "The Fatherland"...from the heart, I understand a lot more now. The perseverance and the dedication of the women to their families and to survival is beyond measure and to do it, they no doubt live one day at a time, moment to moment, putting one foot in front of the other. They do it with astounding dignity and monumental grace ,heads held high, even as their necks are compressed under the weight of the water they carry on their heads, or the fruit, or fabrics, or fish, impeccably clean and dressed in their finest garb (regardless of what that might be), they bring to mind visions of lovely dark-skinned Goddesses rather than women who are oppressed, overworked, weary, and unsure of their next meal or the safety of their children. In their very tired eyes , despite everything, there is still love...and there is still faith. I will not forget them. And once I am grounded back in this reality again, I will come up with a plan to help in some way empower and honor the women of Guinea and create help and hope for the precious children and their future.

The children are as amazing as the women. Children with very little adult supervision, little to eat, and NO toys, gather in groups to play amicably together in the dirt with rocks and little pieces of cardboard, if you were very lucky, maybe an old bicycle rim and a stick to push it with. The love and affection of the children was showered upon us every time we crossed the road, took a walk, went to market, trekked to the "internet cafe" ( that was usually down due to the electricity being out almost all day everyday of the week in our area...I was able to send two emails out the entire time I was there!). They loved to hold our hands and say "hello" in English, or "bon jour" in French. They just seemed to want to touch us and feel the closeness, touch our hair, our skin, our clothes...and I would wonder what we really represented to the children...wealth, "things", $$$, nurturance, hope, possibility, love? I would never go again without learning at least modest conversational skills in French...the inability to easily communicate was challenging for me throughout, though towards the end we had established communication in many other ways besides our language, and even our language barriers were beginning to melt as I gratefully began to recall more and more of the French I had consciously and carelessly avoided prioritizing in college. The children had even begun to try to teach me "susu", the native language of many of them, though not all. They would laugh hysterically at my feeble attempts to replicate their words. They would teach me phrases like " You are crazy!" and " Give me candy". It sometimes created mayhem when my roommate and I would attempt to give out the small trucks and cars and crayons, books, pencils, and paper, M&Ms, special tooth brushes and toothpaste etc. we had brought to share with them. I would think about the film "The Gods must be Crazy" and that coke bottle and wonder if our gifts were, in fact, NOT what they needed. We learned to say "share these" and eventually " we have no more" in French , and things seemed better after we ran out of goodies. In the end, it was heartbreaking to leave them...they ran after us with their little arms outstretched for one last touch as we left with our suitcases in our beat up "magbana"( very old cargo-type vans people rent with their drivers, with small, funky, odd shaped windows cut out of the metal so you could breathe )for the final night in Conakry. Their little hands reached through the openings to touch us for the last time.

It was a long and hard ride...every ride was a long and hard ride in Guinea, this one was no different, just tearful. It was to be our last magbana ride...gratefully. The roads are dirt and dust with deep ruts and huge bumps and craters and the vehicles are old and mostly wasted and the drivers put the pedal to the metal every chance they get so you spend at least half the ride air born or crashing down into your seat or someone's lap. There are not nearly enough vehicles to go around, so seemingly anyone who has one becomes a "taxi" and charges others to crowd in and ride. The small compact cars carry a minimum of 7 people ( counting the driver). If you take a cab with less than five other companions, there will be people crowding in to join you whenever you questions asked...that is the rule. The "magbanas" seem to have a minimum of about 20 bodies ...yes, a minimum, not maximum! Sometimes we would see other magbanas go by within inches of ours with so very many people packed in it would seem totally impossible... it was often unbearably hot and stifling, with simply breathing a chore even in our "spacious" situation. The few paved roads we navigated were usually more frightening than the deeply rutted and hazardous dirt roads! The cars go so fast with chaotic traffic patterns and unceasing horns and the close calls are constant...lots of prayers sent up on those drives in the magbanas. Surprisingly we witnessed very few actual accidents. Looking out those small, torched- out windows , were sights and scents, and sounds of depravation and poverty so haunting that I may never forget them. I could never have "prepared" for what I saw, smelled, tasted, and felt in those moments of connection staring out those small openings in the magbanas.

The other thing I was ill-prepared for was the level of intensity of the drumming itself. Having attended one of Mamady's previous camps in San Diego three years ago, I thought I at least had a vague idea of what I was getting into. Wrong. Here the character of the learning situation and teaching was quite different. The learning experience was much more challenging for many reasons, not the least of which was the sometimes oppressive heat in the outdoor classroom setting, the overwhelming poisonous and offensive scent of Deet slathered on my body, the distractions of the sights, sounds and unusual scents coming from the outdoor kitchen just behind me with the large group of women gathered to laboriously and with much dignity and honor create our meals while simultaneously caring for their babies and stray young children under foot. Mamady's cell phone interruptions and frequent visitors, and my own wandering mind and the interruptions it presented me with in appallingly regular intervals, intensified the stress. To say nothing of the pressure I was feeling to get it "right" and to memorize the often lengthy and complex compositions that composed the traditional "solo" patterns that were taught in this ,the more advanced class. With so few students in this session it was difficult to escape the scrutiny of our teacher, Mamady Keita, one of the most renowned djembefolas on the planet! Sometimes I would have to remind myself to just breathe as I would feel my muscles tense with anticipation and self-judgement and suddenly I would feel the little 5th grade girl inside shuddering with fears of imperfection. Even the ingenious technique my roommate and travel companion, Jany, evolved called "the averted eyes technique" was only minimally effective with so few students and a master teacher like Mamady whose uniquely keen ears and eyes allow little to escape his scrutiny in a class. A truly warm ,generous, loving and light hearted spirit by nature, in the classroom, Mamady's tenor was usually quite serious and at times felt threatening and unreasonable. There were only eleven students at this camp, which is half the number usually in attendance. They blamed the low attendance on the global economic crisis and the military coup that had taken over Guinea the week before I left. Military Dictator/President Lansana Conte' died the week before I was to leave for Guinea after 24 years of running Guinea with an iron fist and massive corruption. One of the richest countries in resources in Africa ( Guinea is the home of 80% of the world's treasured bauxite mines, a mineral used in producing aluminum, as well as diamond, gold, and uranium mines), through a long history or oppression, corruption, and exploitation, Guinea has been reduced to being one of the poorest most corrupted countries on the face of the Earth. Fears of a potential power struggle upon Conte's death were quelled as a bloodless and peaceful military coup led by Captain Moussa Camara quickly took over control of the government with popular support of the people and hope for this small and impoverished Nation ( slightly smaller than Oregon) was awakened for the first time in many decades. Fortunately, though it is another military coup as Conte's original takeover had been , the new leader seems committed to creating fair Democratic elections in the future and to wiping out the massive corruption that pervades every aspect of Guinean life and has destroyed the country's economy and the hope of the people for many, many years. These criminals from Conte's regime are now being tried in government trials and are being held accountable for their theft of the Guinean people's funds! What a concept! Trials are well underway and repayment is being demanded or property seized. Interesting that this small devastated African Nation has put into place a seemingly viable plan for accountability of crimes committed while in power under a previous regime, and yet we as a Nation seem content to let our recent" suspect" government officials walk away without trial or investigation or accountability of any kind. Interesting. Perhaps we have something to learn from this tiny Nation besides drumming.
Our plans to make the trip were very touch and go for that week before we left and it had not been without some anxiety that I boarded the plane at the Austin Airport and headed for this unknown little country on the other side of the world. A new Prime Minister was appointed the week before we were to leave Guinea and he had served as previous Prime Minister during a portion of Conte's time. We learned he had been a beloved, compassionate and effective advocate of the people ,a leader that Conte soon dismissed. It turned out that this newly re-appointed Prime Minister, the civilian diplomat, Lansana Kouyate, was our neighbor and lived just two doors up from our compound in Matoto, a small, impoverished "suburb" of Conakry! We had walked by his place everyday for our private lesson out in an old dirt field by a marsh near his home! It was a very unassuming place. Hundreds and hundreds of people ran up the dusty road in front of our compound that day he was appointed to gather at his home in joyful celebration. Everyone was shouting and honking and delirious with positive expectation and hope, not unlike the promise held in the celebration and excitement of Obama's victory night just a short time before we left home. We went out and stood by watching and joined in with our voices and our hands high in the universal "V" for victory sign to note our solidarity. The kids were in heaven ,coaxing us to join in and crowding around us shouting "Kouyate! Kouyate!", their trusting little faces and bright dark eyes lit up with hope and possibility and an innocent knowing that this was indeed a great moment for them and their country. Kouyate seemed to be their "Obama" and the thrill of anticipated change and hope was contagious and powerful. It was exhilarating to be a part of this piece of history that will hopefully mark a new beginning for Guinea and it's people. Infinite possibility shining in the eyes of these people living in one of the poorest and most oppressed Nations on the face of the was humbling and emotional and inspiring all at once... one more wave and ripple in the shift in universal consciousness on our planet, let us pray.

In our group,there were four men from Taiwan, one man from Australia, a young woman from Turkey, a woman from Canada, a 23 year old woman from Japan, and three American women all over the age of 47. Most of the students were half my age! That was an awakening! Mamady has a professional performance group in Conakry that was scheduled to play the evening of Jan. 30th at the Cultural Arts Center in Conakry so he had decided that he would have us, his students, for the first time in the relatively long history of his camps, perform the famous "pyramid" he had composed for our session in front of a paying African audience!. These "pyramids" , for which he is renowned, are long compositions which usually comprise five or six different traditional rhythms and much unique "choreography" created by the Master himself, which consists of often difficult and advanced hand drumming techniques and must be laboriously memorized and executed with at least some degree of expertise. This particular pyramid contained several rhythms which were Mamady's own original creations in addition to two traditional rhythm compositions. Though ,at a level, this opportunity was a prestigious and a great honor, at another level, it created an ominous and unrelenting pressure from day one. Nothing is written down, everything is oral. Each day we would have two hours of instruction in the morning in two different groups, either beginner/intermediate or intermediate/ advanced. Then every afternoon we had another two hours of strictly "pyramid class" study that included both groups AND a number of Mamady's advanced African students he works with privately and/or in his performance group. This group ( which was another ten or so people) definitely "beefed up" our student group. It also accelerated the pace of learning and of playing...sometimes to an unimaginable degree. This group had actually already learned this pyramid in the camp that took place the three weeks before our camp and it made our experience sometimes unbearably difficult and fast paced. I felt a lot of compassion for the students in the "beginner/intermediate" level group because they were often targeted for "not getting it" in the pyramid class. Truly, it was against all odds that we were able to pull this thing off on Jan. 30th at the Cultural Arts Center, because it was an amazingly difficult and complicated piece of work and so many varied skilled levels were present in the group. Mamady's wife agreed it was one of his most challenging pyramid compositions. It was absolutely AWESOME to play, but the work to learn it was grueling and relentless. My roommate and I hired Sekou, one of the most advanced African students to "tutor" us in the afternoons and without that, I am certain, we never would have gotten it. Sekou was actually the "leader" of the group as Mamady did not perform with us at the event and young Sekou ( 24 years old) was responsible for the majority of the soloing and all the breaks etc. He was an awesome drummer and a wonderful ,gentle teacher with soft, warm eyes and a magnetic smile and personality. We actually had first hired Abdulai, one of the other most amazing young African drummers, the first week, but had to let him go because his attitude was so harsh and offensive and his respect for women sorely lacking! Once we did that, we actually were able to create a friendship with young Abdulai, and somehow I think he learned something important from the whole thing that may hopefully help him in the future. He was a med student in Conakry,as well as a gifted drummer and performer, and the income he lost when we canned him was certainly impactful. The men in Guinea have a lot to learn about respecting and honoring women, to say the least. We felt it was important for this young man to know that treating women with aggression and disrespect could have a negative and undesirable consequence. Unfortunately, most of the women in Guinea have no economic power ,and this, coupled with long standing traditions and a lack of education, keep them at the mercy of their husbands/fathers/brothers. Sekou, on the other hand, seemed to respect and honor himself and everyone else and was a total joy to work with. Even during the performance itself, his kind eyes would often focus on Jany and I from across the stage to give us both encouragement and advance warning of the next "directive"! The performance was at 7pm that Friday night the 30th and our plane was scheduled to leave at 11:30pm. That last magbana ride from our compound in Matoto to our final performance turned out to be more exciting than usual. As we reached Conakry proper and neared our final destination, the Cultural Arts Center, we were suddenly thrown around in the back of the van as the driver swerved dramatically and without wartning as the cars all around us screeched, honked, and dodged one another as we seemed to tilt on two wheels and narrowly escaped what seemed like a certain rollover into the ditch I was facing out that magbana hole in the metal. It wasn't our first near miss, but it was our last. By now I think we had all come to terms with the reality that to be in Guinea with any degree of peace or comfort, one must acknowledge and trust that if the end comes, it is simply destiny and there is no need to fear. Certainly the possibility and plausibility of the end seemed closer than usual on more than one occasion during our time there, this was no exception. Another good life lesson about living in the moment and trusting.

It was a thrilling evening and Mamady gave us an eloquent and moving introduction, reminding the audience that the djembe knows no borders...neither color, ethnicity, religious, political, nor gender. He commended us for the extraordinary effort we had all put forth to bring this piece of music to fruition and he honored the diversity of our group as he introduced the many countries of origin we represented...Canada, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, the United States of America, Turkey, and Africa! We were definitely one radiant global family on that stage, all of us dressed in our fine, newly acquired African garb, djembes strapped on, hearts pumping! Suddenly the blood, sweat and tears that had gone into our preparation seemed minimal compared to the enormity of this moment together on that stage in Africa. For the first time, I think, we understood why we were there and the significance and gravity of this piece of music we had come together to learn and to share. When the rhythms of the djunduns started their powerful beat and our hands brought forth the voice and vibrations of the music of our djembes, the energy was electric on that stage and seemed to move through and enliven the audience and maybe even the wiring because miraculously the electricity didn't go out even once and we had lighting the whole evening! A number of us had solo parts to perform within the piece ,and mine was the first one. Feeling strangely confident and trusting, I walked out to the edge of the stage to face a large audience of mostly African faces with a djembe strapped on and a smile in my heart. Needless to say, it was truly an unforgettable moment. The audience was incredibly expressive and generous with their support and enthusiasm and the whole event took on a surreal and timeless sensation. Soon we were bowing to the thunderous applause of a very delightful and kind audience. Though Jany and James ( the Australian guy) and I were destined to miss the big after-party celebration (we were the only ones scheduled to fly out that night), we were relieved to quickly embrace a few of the many new and dear friends we had made and bust out of there right after our performance, heading quickly to the Conakry airport and avoiding the drama of long and emotional good-byes. For the first time since we had arrived, the three of us settled comfortably into the back seat of one of Mamady's SUVs. Within moments, two more African men from the staff who had become our friends at our compound in Matoto, the suburb we had lived in these past few weeks, were crowded into that seat with us, apparently coming to offer their assistance in carrying our luggage or who knows why. We had become accustomed to the many "unknowns" we faced in our experiences there. We weren't really sure why we had to once again endure the sensation of being crushed into a vehicle, but we all consciously held back the resistance we felt to this "intrusion" of our personal space and for the last time ,we tried to relax into the "african-style" closeness of this final ride. We were each counting the hours to our stopover in Paris. The intensity of the whole experience had led all of us to a place of longing for the safety and warmth of our personal space, our homes and family. We were ready to begin our journey home....out of Africa.

This is a tiny part of the whole story...I am sure it will take some time to process it all and reflect on it's meaning in my life. I am so grateful for the friendship and love and support of my traveling comrade, Jany Champaigne from Lafayette , La. who shared almost every moment of this experience. Our shared tears and laughter and the late night chats and shenanigans from under our mosquito nets on our respective top bunks ( everyone said they looked like "princess castles") , and all those hours of study and comedic relief on our makeshift "sofa/divan" in our room will be cherished forever. Our shared, sometimes questionable, sense of humor was a Godsend every step of the way. Thank-you, Jany, my true "drumsista", for everything. Thanks especially for helping me keep it all in perspective when things would start to slip over the edge in yet another meltdown.

In this quiet moment at home, I am feeling deeply grateful for the opportunity to have so closely experienced Africa and it's people after all these years of long distance connection, and I am feeling deeply grateful to be the the the warmth of my family and my home. I am looking forward with anticipation to the classes to come...the rhythms to be shared...the possibilities that this connection to Africa is only a beginning. There is new meaning to the UBUNTU concept that my friend Sharon shared with me a short time before this trip. UBUNTU comes from the Bantu languages spoken in southern Africa and is related to a Zulu concept which means that a person is only a person through their relationship to others. Desmond Tutu explains "...there is a common bond between people- and when one person's circumstances improve, everyone gains , and if one person is tortured or oppressed, everyone is diminished." The Ubuntu theology has a belief that ethical responsibility comes with a shared identity. If one human being is hungry,thirsty,or abused or oppressed in some way, the Ubuntu response is that we are all collectively responsible. My connection to the people of Africa is felt deeply now, and more than ever I am committing to drumming and group music making as a means of spiritual connection, empowerment, community building and strengthening, and creating change and peace on Earth. I look forward to seeing you all soon somewhere along the drummer's path. As I sift through the many visions that are swirling around in my brain and a concrete project evolves which will need your involvement and support and allow us to experience the spirit and true meaning of "Ubuntu", I will keep you informed.
With peace, love, and hope,

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Drumz is back in the back! Come check out the cottage at 3700 1/2 Kerbey Lane behind Lululemon! We have returned to our original location in the beautiful gardens in the back...only bigger and better than ever! Come see the new space, enjoy the stroll down the path between Lululemon and Kerbey Lane Cafe, and linger in the lush tropical gardens of DRUMZ! This is finally the perfect spot!! We have an amazing array of world percussion instruments for your listening and playing pleasure and you are invited to come explore them! We are a "do touch" store and we warmly invite you to come discover the musician inside YOU ! Our business hours are:
Tuesday-Friday- noon -6pm
Saturday- 11am-6pm

Classes are happening most every evening so check out our class schedules and you might find a class just for YOU! May all of our rhythms be in celebration of diversity, may all of our rhythms be bridges to understanding, and may all of our rhythms be instruments of peace, healing and of joy!
Axe Axe
Sherry Gingras
Drumz Proprietress

Friday, June 09, 2006

PLEASE VISIT OUR NEW STORE AND GALLERY (DRUMZ/DANCING WITH THE FLAME) at 3700 Kerbey Lane in Austin! We are right next door to one of Austin's oldest ( and finest!) restaurants, Kerbey Lane Cafe ( the original!). HOURS: noon-6pm Tuesday through Friday , Saturdays open 10am-6pm and NOW OPEN SUNDAYS from 10AM-3PM! A World Percussion Paradise and a collective of local Austin Art merged into a beautiful, creative marriage of music and art!This is not an escape from reality...this is about the essence of reality!Come lose your mind and find your soul!

Call 453-9090 for specific directions or inquiries or email us at:!
From the WESTSIDE: We are right off West 35th Street, one block East of Jefferson Lane and just four blocks East of Mopac ( exit MOPAC at the 35th Street exit.And turn left at the Flying Tomato Pizza.
Or from the EASTSIDE exit IH 35 at 38 1/2 Street and head West on 38 1/2 to Kerbey Lane( a few blocks East of Lamar Blvd.) Turn right onto Kerbey Lane at the Flying Tomato Pizza!


The old address is no longer functioning- please send emails directly to:

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"The Djembabes" are a local group of twelve Austin drummers and singers who are dedicated to the joy and inspiration of hand drumming and the possibility created by sharing music with the community in ways which allow interaction and the unfolding of a vibrant Community Spirit. Sharing rhythm is ourpassion and our dream is to help create a world of beauty, harmony, understanding and mutual respect , celebrating the sanctity of all life through music and song, our universal language. Our intention is that our rhythms are always in celebration of diversity, create bridges to understanding, and speak as instruments of peace. We play with our hearts in our hands in hopes of touching the hearts of the people who are listening. We hope our music wakes up and inspires the creative musical spirit which lives in each of us, reminding us of our deep connection to one another and to all of life.

Thank-you for this opportunity to share what we love. Sherry Gingras

Members of the group are :Sherry Gingras, founder/manager of "The Djembabes" ,native Austinite, drum teacher, drum circle facilitator, owner of "DRUMZ " , former founder of "Heart in Hand"and "UMOYA".
Jody Martin-Emerson, Business woman, drummer, former member of "Heart in Hand" Women’s Drum ensemble and "UMOYA" percussion ensemble
percussionists :
Shannon Cohen
Kathy Rowell
Dianne Preston
Lauren Dickson
Lynn Turner
Debra Latimer
Shekere player, Marcia Lucas

And lead vocalists, sisters Tracy and Leigh Wise, past members of INKULULEKO, a Women's Multi-cultural vocal accapella ensemble and also Sherri Canon's percussion ensemble,AFRO-DITE.
Jennifer Graham

Elvie Underwood, master of movement!
Yvette Montalvo
Michelle Pinkman

The Djembabes play primarily for Community events in keeping with our musical and spiritual philosophy, churches, marches, as well as private gatherings and celebrations and circles. We are available for private ceremonies, celebrations, rites of passage, weddings, birthdays and special events.

Contact: Sherry Gingras, manager (email)

3700 Kerbey Lane

Austin, Texas 78731