Ubaka Hill at Women’s Drum Center – Interview

Ubaka Hill

Ubaka Hill is appearing in Minnesota this week, sponsored by the W0men’s Drum Center.

CONCERT: Rhythms for the Trees: A Concert of Percussion, Poetry, Song and Vision

Featuring Ubaka Hill and with Drumheart. Open to the general public Saturday, August 25, 2012

Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for the Marketplace , Performance begins at 7:00 p.m.

Jeanne d’Arc Auditorium, Whitby Hall, St. Catherine University 2004 Randolph Ave., St.Paul, MN

Ubaka’s 2-day Workshop: Drumsong: the Art and Spirit of Drumming

(for women and girls)

Friday, August 24, 2012, 6:30-9:00 p.m. & Saturday, August 25, 9:30-1:30p.m.

At Carondolet Center, 1890 Randolph Ave., St.Paul

Register for workshop ($60) at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/258804

Ubaka arrived Monday to prepare for a week of appearances around Minnesota, we talked by phone.

What brings you to Minnesota?
The Women’s Drum Center ( WDC ) is responsible for brings me out and setting up the workshops and concert, and setting up the Million Women Drummers Gathering 2013 , what we call, “Meet and Greets”. One of those will include a workshop but these are primarily to speak about the Million Women Drummers Gathering 2013 initiative/movement and how local and global communities and individuals can be a part of it.

What is the Million Women Drummers Gathering 2013?
It is a two tiered, tow levels, and two phased program. There is a gathering planned for October 11-13th, 2013. Between now and that date it is about raising our consciousness, and becoming more awake and aware that our wooden musical instruments are trees. As simple as that is, it is quite profound to become aware that we are participating in the deforestation of our old growth forests, our third world local woods, and of our wooded areas within the US and around the world. I have been drumming on the wooden drum for over thirty years. There was a point where I was not as awake and aware, and mindful of my participation indirectly, by being a consumer of drums, in the deforestation and the senseless cutting and disrespect of the trees, and the woods. In the sustainability of our future. Around 2007, something awakened inside of me. That awakening had to do with our unconscious consumption of wooden instruments. I am including all wooden instruments, from acoustic guitars, to upright bass’s; pianos, marimba, clarinets, flutes, violins, cellos harps, all the instruments. If we do not sustain the trees that our wooden instruments are made from, we do not have a future for those instruments that we love to play, and listen to, that we enjoy dancing to. We won’t be able to sustain the music of those trees and so won’t be able to sustain the folkloric traditions of our various cultures. Generations that will follow us, will also not have the trees or the wooden instruments for those trees to play.

The Million Women Drummers Gathering 2013 initiative is essentially about creating a new mindful model as musicians and listeners, and players of wooden instruments. This call is coming from the leadership of women who love drums and who love trees. The Gathering in 2013 is a celebration of our new awake and aware selves, and our effort to create a new mindful model through planting trees, through having conversations about trees and creating a sustainable future, and to celebrate this by creating local rhythm circles including all players of wooden instruments while we plant trees and while we begin to create new technologies, ideas, and new approaches to a sustainable green policy for manufacturers, new traditions and new ways to approach the trees and the forest with gratitude and appreciation and the their replenishment.

Do you support  the connection people make by using wooden instruments, only in a sustainable way?
Yes, but with balance and mindfulness, appreciation and gratitude. When there are trees the soil has integrity and is held together. There is water, we breathe better. We know the benefits of trees. We also know the benefits of playing wood., there is nothing like playing wood versus playing plastic. Manufacturers have done a great service by providing synthetic drum heads and materials as an alternative. Energetically, when you are sensitive to vibrational frequency, or are utilizing the music to help expand our consciousness and be part of the evolutionary process, and our spiritual selves as well as healing ourselves, the organic matter and consciousness of the trees and animals is the most potent experience we can have with music. We are calling on people to repair and re-circulating previously played instruments. Drummers tend to be collectors and yet play one or two primary drums. Let us repair and refurbish some of these instruments and re-circulate instruments whether through barter, trade, or sale. If we do this we can reduce the amount of living trees that are being cut for new drums. A wooden drum which has been played is more awakened than a drum which is just cut and has not been played. This movement is created by women, but the culmination of the event and initiative is for everyone.

What is the location for 2013 event?
We are encouraging creating a global movement and consciousness with the same core values and structure for creating this new mindful model. We want people to host local events and tree planting events in our individual countries and then we will have our own US-based Million Women Drummers Gathering 2013, as a summit and a public gathering. There will be a central location where we can house the conference and the summit, and which has plenty of open space, and trees, but we haven’t confirmed the actual location yet.

How will this awareness of the use of wood in instruments translate into the global problem of deforestation for all purposes, both commercial and as basic as family cooking fuel?
Everything is inter-connected. Environmentally conscious people from Shamans , to Earth-centered people, to environmental activists have been on this trail for many years. People, activists have been killed for their love and respect of trees around the world . We are both using exotic wood , for the global elite, and using common woods for the realistic needs of shelter. It is time for musicians to join the ‘party’, To wake up and be part of the solution to sustaining our trees, our forests and our environment. We, the musicians, we are the ones the trees have been waiting for! As a musician for over thirty years, this sustainability has not been a focus of attention during that time.

How do we aid the developing world in improving the sustainable use of wood in basic needs?
We need to contribute our best and creative thinking to this level of energy resource sustainability. People contribute with their hands and bodies by moving into third world countries and getting involved in sustainable practices and tree planting. This is labor intensive, but speaking with manufacturers and determining their green policies, and their sources having green policies is important work, too. Our skills are to assist in the replenishing, healing and technology of sustainable energy.

The ‘what’, the raising of consciousness, becoming awake, aware, and mindful, is the important aspect of this initiative, not the location of the summit event in 2013. We know that drums are trees, but what does that mean for our a sustainable environment, our behaviors, attitude, and our commitment to the trees that will sustain the instruments, music, and the future for the generations after.

What is special about doing drum workshops for women?
I teach drumming to anyone who wishes to learn to drum from me. I am a musician first, and was called to drumming from a jazz band and as a social activist. My first call to teach was from an intentional community in Virginia, by the women of a mixed gender community. I teach women to drum, because women ask me to teach. I know there is a difference in the drumming of men and women, and I say that with no judgment. The reason is we are different. At the soul level we are not different, at that level we are the same. Gender programming and our divine energy, and balance of masculine and feminine energy creates a different experience when we come together to drum.

There was a time on Earth, where women were recognized as the keepers of the drum, pulse and rhythm, and were appreciated and called to bring the voice of the drum for healing, celebration, initiation, and rites of passage, throughout indigenous cultures. There arose a system of patriarchal control and oppression which removed the drum from women. We know that every souls that enters on Earth must enter through the body of a woman. Every soul experiences their first human relationship with rhythm and pulse through the body and heartbeat of a woman. The ebb and flow, the fluids, and Chi, and certainly the heart of a woman. As women we have a relationship to rhythm and pulse that is ‘beyond ‘ , beyond. It is different from the relationship to rhythm for men. We as women have been disconnected and dis-engaged from that. We are on the return . It is very profound, a cultural evolution and a spiritual revolution, part of the political movement to reclaim the drum. The workshops I do with women has this context. When I teach, I teach with the context of mind, body, soul, liberation, healing, transformation and transcendence. It related to our cultural experience and our liberation. The producing organization defines the audience for my teaching. When men are invited are invited to participate it is good when they do because it is outside the box of the patriarchy, but neither is it part of a matriarchy. My work is to find that place of balance where we are between, that divine equilibrium experiencing both the divine masculine and divine feminine.

The Women’s Drum Center is the very first non-profit that has the words women and drum within their name. I love to support them and appear with them.

Tell me about the concert on Saturday?
I am known in the world for my love of drumming in community. My name. Ubaka, means “unity is best”. The drum chose me. It is wonderful that drumming creates unity in our community. I love inviting workshop participants to join me on stage. Drumheart, the WDC performance group will join me on stage and perform some of their original pieces and some of my new work. Then some of the workshop participants will also join me on stage., performing as the “Drumsong Orchestra”.

Should the audience bring their drums to the concert?
Yes, we are inviting the drum community to also bring their drums to the concert. We will ask them to join in at the concerts conclusion as well. We are building community, within the whole community through relationships, collaborations through this whole process, with drummers, musicians, listeners, and environmentalists. The WDC will continue to be a hub for this activity after I leave.

Ubaka Hill is a shape shifter, a storyteller, and an innovative drummer in the creative traditions of jazz and in the spirit of social change. She is an inspiration to many who wish to share the power of drumsongs as a tool of liberation, community building, healing and personal joy. Ubaka will play her signature “Ube” drum and various other percussion instruments. She will creatively weave percussion, poetry, and song to inspire a positive, energetic atmosphere for the audience. She will also perform in collaboration with Drumheart, the performance group from the Women’s Drum Center. Ubaka will speak about the MWDG2013 vision to inform and inspire people’s active participation in it. The audience will have opportunities to play percussion and drums to experience the drumsong’s power to connect people in common purpose and joy.

Nels Linde is also a community advisor to the UW Stout Hand Drumming Club, and owns a business selling drums.

*If you have ever wanted to encounter the drum, as a woman, and have been afraid to try it, I highly recommend Ubaka’s workshop! NL