News Brief

Burundi Bans Women Drummers, Loses the Beat

What the hell, Burundi? Women can't be stopped from drumming so don't even try.

The Burundian government, under the leadership of President Pierre Nkurunziza, has put into place strict laws prohibiting women from taking part in the country's celebrated ritual dance of the royal drums.

The new restrictions also forbid drumming at "unofficial events" including weddings and parties. While woman are outright banned from the practice, men who want to engage, must first register with the Ministry of Culture and gain government approval if they seek to perform the ritual outside of official ceremonies, reports Times Live.

The presidential decree states that any organizer looking to have drummers at their event, must pay a fee of around $280.

The lauded dance of royal drums was placed on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2014. Prior to the government establishing restrictions on the practice, drums were widely performed at weddings. Though historically male-dominated, groups consisting of woman drummers have formed over the years.

Many have criticized the increasingly authoritarian government for its wanton and discriminatory actions against woman drummers and its obvious attempt to profit off of the sacred drumming tradition, which is, in fact, the opposite of actually protecting its cultural value.

Music
Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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