In Ghana, the polyrhythmic drum-driven musical style known as takada is a woman's cry to freedom. "To be a composer or drummer among the Anlo-Ewe people of Ghana was something reserved for men," explains Corina Fitch, drummer, dancer, professional midwife, and the director of the Takada Women's Ensemble. "But in Ewe culture, drumming is the prime method of communication, so they were denied free speech by not being allowed to play the drums." In the 1950s, a group of women clandestinely created takada, telling the community that they wouldn't cook, clean, or care for their children until they were allowed to play it publicly. "The strike lasted about half a day," laughs Fitch. "The men relented soon enough when they realized how much work the women did." The weaker sex, indeed.
This Saturday Fitch and her seven-member female troupe will beat their drums in celebration of women at the first Women and Culture Festival. The South Florida group, whose members hail from Costa Rica, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other rhythmic nations, will perform the takada and music from Ghana, Togo, and Benin.
Women expressing themselves through song will also include M. Renee Prieto, head of Renaissance music group Generica, and singer Karen Jones, well known as the leader of the outstanding Unity Church Choir. In addition, belly dancer Hanan will perform, artist Sonali Echevarris will exhibit her paintings, designer Karelle Levy will showcase her knitted fashions, DJ Majica will hit the decks, actress Amy Baez will emote, and Dinorah de Jesus Rodriguez and Amy Serrano will offer excerpts from their films, about -- what else? -- WOMEN!
"I know a lot of women in our community who are doing great art in a variety of forms but not always getting the right kind of exposure," says event organizer José Elias. A member of the Cuban roots group Conjunto Progreso, Elias is also the man behind the five-year-old Afro-Roots Festival. "The participants are women from different cultural backgrounds who've therefore had different influences," he stresses. "I think of it as a global celebration of women."