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Come enjoy the power of the drum with our community!

Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014: Afro-Cuban with Carolyn Brandy

1pm to 3:00pm

Oakland Public Conservatory
1616 Franklin St, Oakland, CA

Cost is $25 – $10 (sliding scale);
Under 12 free (must be supervised by an adult);
No one turned away for lack of funds
All Levels Welcome

Carolyn Brandy will be leading us in Afro-Cuban rhythms.

Conga Magic
Carolyn will continue to explore techniques and rhythms for the Conga drum. She will take simple basic patterns and explore the variety of ways they can be varied, played and used in different folkloric contexts. This class is good for the beginning students to advanced students.

Some drums will be provided but we ask that you bring your Conga drum if you have one.


About Carolyn Brandy

Carolyn Brandy has been drumming for over 40 years. She has been instrumental in bringing women to the spirit and healing of the Drum. Carolyn is the Artistic Director of Women Drummers International and co-creator of the Born to Drum Women’s Drum Camp. She was also the founder of the Bay Area’s favorite marching band, Sistah Boom in 1981. In 1976, Carolyn co-founded the popular band, Alive! that toured the nation for almost 10 years and has 4 recordings to its credit. She has worked in the SF Bay area for many years as a composer, performer, teacher and cultural worker.

Carolyn is an expert in the folkloric drumming styles found throughout the island of Cuba. She has been a practitioner of the Yoruba-based Cuban religion, Regla de Ocha, also known as Santeria, since 1977. She was initiated as a priest of the religion in Havana, Cuba by Amelia Pedroso in 2000.

Carolyn has led five successful cultural tours to the Island of Cuba to study Folkloric music. She has organized workshops in Havana, Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Santiago De Cuba, and Guantanamo, where the groups studied with masters of Afro-Cuban drumming and dance.

Carolyn has produced an instructional DVD series called: Step by Step Conga Instruction which will be available for purchase at the workshop.


DRUM SUNDAYS Workshops occur on the 1st Sunday of the month

Cost is $25 – $10 (sliding scale);
Under 12 free (must be supervised by an adult);
No one turned away for lack of funds

Classes are always open to ALL LEVELS unless specified.

Some drums will be available for the class on a first come first serve basis.

Sistah Boom!

Sistah Boom!

Sistah Boom played at many events during the 1980’s under the musical direction of it’s creator Carolyn Brandy.  It  continued at various times since then with various musical directors  At some time, the band dissolved.  Then In 2008, Cleve Jones called Carolyn to ask her to bring Sistah Boom to the filming of Milk.

We had an exciting time playing together in a scene for the film and decided to reconstitute the group. Sistah Boom played at the Dyke March stage and led the parade out into the streets in 2008, 2009, and 2010 and at Gay Pride in 2009. We’ve played at Sistahs Steppin’ in Pride in Oakland the same years. In 2008 we celebrated gay marriage in San Francisco by playing on the steps of City Hall for the newlyweds. We were honored to play at the memorial for Del Martin in 2008.

Statement: Sistah Boom has been active in support of racial, gender and social justice. We are committed to working on these issues internally as well as playing kick-ass music!

Our Instrumentation: Bells, (Brazilian) Tamborims, Rattles, Shakers, Snare, Toms, Surdos, and any small percussion instrument that is easy to march with.

To join Sistah Boom for future events, or to invite Sistah Boom to play at your event, contact us.

Contribution: We pass a bucket at each rehearsal for a contribution of $5-$10 or more per player to help pay Carolyn, our musical director, take care of expenses, and fund STB.

Instruments: We would like women to bring their own instruments if they have ones that are part of our instrumentation. We also have some instruments that can be loaned. We will have a “check out” system for old STB instruments and some of Carolyn’s instruments. Women checking out instruments will be asked to pay a deposit to be held by STB.

The Global Movement of Women Drummers

The Global Movement of Women Drummers

Carolyn Brandy, June 2008. —  I believe that there is a Global Movement of Women playing drums on the planet at this time.  There are thousands and thousands of women playing drums all over the world.  This would not seem so incredible, except for the fact that in the majority of cultures of the world, drums have been strictly forbidden for women to play for eons.  This taboo is part of the psychological and spiritual acculturation that claims that the female and that nature is inferior.  Women have been so brainwashed and tortured that we actually have believed this ourselves for centuries.

Why are we waking up now?  Because the planet’s very existence as we know it is threatened because we are so out of balance.  The force of technology, destruction, greed and constriction has become so strong that the creative, nurturing, expansive power of the planet, a complete and conscious living organism, has to come into balance in order to survive.   I believe that this movement of women drummers is a manifestation of this “waking up” and process of evolving consciousness.

When I started playing drums 40 years ago (1968), I was a loner.  Almost any woman who was playing drums before the 1970’s will tell you the same thing.  It had to be a passion that you just could not put down, because the culture around you was not supportive or inclusive of your endeavors, and there were few women who also played.  For the majority of women, it did not matter how skilled you became, the circle of male drummers was an inner circle that could not be penetrated because of a contractual agreement amongst the men.  Whether this contract amongst peers was spoken or unspoken, it was always there through peer pressure, through jokes like “you play like a girl”through intimidation, ie the threat of not being “one of the guys”, or through religious rules and gender mandates.  Most men felt that women gathered around the music to watch male drummers play because they were so potent and attractive, not because it was possible that the women were attracted to the drums themselves.

I have found in my career as a drummer and a teacher of drumming that many women at the same time desire to play the drum, also fear playing it.  Women tell me, “I always wanted to play the drum, but I played the clarinet instead.”

Why do many women have a fear of playing drums? The collective feminine consciousness is attacked every day on this planet by the constant war and violence that is committed against women, and the pain that is delivered on the life force of the planet itself.

When we read that 80-96 year old witches are being burned alive in Kenya (May 21, 2008) and learn of the atrocities that take place all over the globe on women and children: in the Congo and in Darfur; in the Middle-East wars; in China where girl babies are still killed; the pornography, molestation, and abduction of children in every town, village and city of the US; stonings and beheadings; the kidnapping and holding of women against their will. This constant stream of violent occurrences and enactments against the women and their children on the planet is a constant reminder to ALL women that one step out of line, one dark night in the wrong place, one moment of rage, one time being “out of your proper place”, or trusting too much, can still result in being burned at the stake, raped and/or dismembered.

The collective memory of the witch hunts, what Eckhart Tolle calls “the collective pain body” is being kept alive and well:

“Nobody knows the exact figure because records were not kept, but it seems certain that during a 300 year period between 3-5 million women were tortured and killed by the “Holy Inquisition” an institution founded by the Roman Catholic Church to suppress heresy.  This surely ranks together with the Holocaust as one of the darkest chapters in human history.  It was enough for a woman to show a love for animals, walk alone in the fields or woods, or gather medicinal plants to be branded a witch, then tortured and burned at the stake. The sacred feminine was declared demonic, and an entire dimension largely disappeared from human experience.”

Can you imagine if a woman were caught playing a drum, especially with other women or while she was menstruating?  Why is it that women have been virtually forbidden to play drums across the entire planet for thousands of years?

The drum has many powerful properties.  One of the most important qualities of the drum is that it is a healing instrument. It has the power to heal, I believe, because it can take us out of our waking mind to a deeper level of consciousness, especially when drums are played in groups.  The loss of the self to the whole is a key that unlocks presence.  In this presence other dimensions are available to us.  We are able to see a shift of molecules and their transparencies, as form becomes less separate and more connected, in the presence of the collective sound.  We start to become hyper aware of the waves – sound waves and light waves – that are passing through our bodies, one following the other in mandalas of repeating patterns, one coming after the next, with their constant subtle, and not so subtle, changings of energy and life force.  This pure energy of rhythm and color has the code to unlock mysteries that the waking mind cannot comprehend because they do not exist in the world of thought, but only exist in the conscious presence of sound and light. This is why drum masters/maestras teach us to “feel, don’t think” when we play.  The thinking of the rhythm is not the vehicle that will take us into the presence of the rhythm, the presence of the whole, the presence of the ecstatic.

The drum is also an instrument that is loud.  It is an animistic cry, a sounding, a rumbling that captures immediate attention from human and animal alike.  The drum calls communities together, and indeed is a communal language that is older than modern linguistics.  In this language of old were delivered original stories, teachings and parables about good character, how we came to be, and how to live in community.  This universal language of the drum contains a supreme intelligence, an intelligence that our thinking minds cannot totally perceive or comprehend.  A collective and universal intelligence that is contained inside the presence of interlocking rhythmic patterns that contract and expand, create tension and release, and produce an understanding that is already contained in the function of the atoms and cells of our bodies, in the attraction of our solar system, and the laws of our galaxy and its relationship to other galaxies and dimensions.  The drum is that heartbeat that announces consciousness.

The drum is erotic.  The drum is sensual.  The drum makes our bodies catch those sound waves and express them.  Why have women been thought to be “dirty”, or “loose”, or of “lower social standing” if they even wanted to play a drum, instead of, for example a violin.  “Why would you want to do that?” Is a question still asked.  “I wouldn’t let my daughter put that drum between her legs.”  Is a statement I have heard many times. The very thought of playing a drum emasculates the female, makes her less desirable, less feminine, less submissive, less willing to go along with the program, and less weak appearing.

Eckhart tolle writes:

“The suppression of the feminine principle especially over the past two thousand years has enabled the ego to gain absolute supremacy in the collective human psyche. . . . If the balance between male and female energies had not been destroyed on our planet, the ego’s growth would have been greatly curtailed.  We would not have declared war on nature, and we would not be so completely alienated from our Being.”

We who have the power to recreate the heartbeat have lost the ability to be wholly in its presence and possibility.  We have lost the ability to know our own sacredness.

This is why, I believe, there is a Global Movement of Women drumming today.  We are waking up.


“Witches”burnt to death in Kenya   BBC News, May 21, 2008
2 Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, p. 155-6
3 Tolle, p. 155

©Carolyn Brandy, 6/2008

Gate, Parking, and Registration Info

Work Study is now closed.

Walk in registration is available by cash or check only. Please note that the prices for Walk in registration are an additonal $10.00 per day.

Bort Meadow has a locked gate.  We will have women opening the gate during designated hours.


Friday: 9-12:15 pm;  4:30-7pm;  10-10:30 pm.

Saturday 8-10:15 am; 1:15-2:00 pm; 5:15-6:00 pm; 10-10:30 pm.

Sunday  8-10:15 am; 1:15-2 pm; 3:30-4:00;  and after closing circle approx. 5-5:45 pm.

If gate is locked when you arrive, please park above and walk down the hill approximately 10-15 minutes to Camp Central. Go down the hill, follow the paved road around to the right until you come to a circular unloading zone, which is Camp Central. Proceed to the right of the circle which goes through the middle of camp until you come to registration. Hurray! You have arrived.

If gate is open, please drive your car to ‘Camp Central’ where you can quickly unload your gear in the unloading zone before parking in the lower lot, and then walking to the meadow. There will be women at Camp Central to help you unload.  If you have mobility limitations, (un)loading assistants will be able to help you access an on-call shuttle to pick you up and bring you back to Camp Central from the parking lot.  Shuttle is not W/C accessable but driver can help with transfer and loading mobility equip on board.  If you have accessibility or other concerns please contact us ASAP before camp.


DAUGHTERS OF THE DRUM by Avotcja, 2014


We were born to Drum
Somos Hijas ritmicas
We were conceived in Rhythm
Whether we knew it or not or wanted it or not
It was & has always been
About upholding La Clave en el alma
The beauty & sanctity of the Rhythm that created us
The Rhythm that is us
Somos el latído de la naturaleza
The Rhythm
Of our Mother’s labor pains announced our coming
And it’s always the Rhythm of our breathing
That lets the world know we’re alive
Bellas fuerzas místicas pero picosas
Feel it!
We walk & sing, pray, dance & cry in it
Every single word that flows out of our mouths
Is a rhythmic declaration of our presence
Somos la esencia de La Bomba
And even our sacred Mother Nature
Dances rhythmically through the Seasons
Every single year
Keeping the Rhythm of our lives in balance
Our universe is an inescapable symphony
Ritmos sagrados
Held together by vibration
By the sound of the sum of us
The always right on time
Magical, rhythmical timelessness of us
Somos la fiebre apasionada de la Rumba
The heart of Bebop & Cubop
Was born in us
Is Creation’s gift to us
Somos el corazón del Tambor
Born in the womb of creativity
An undeniable Rhythm personified
Wake up world!
We are your Children
And we were born to Drum!!!
Copyright © Avotcja

Volunteer Shifts

Born to Drum 2014

Born to Drum 2014

Faculty List


Afia Walking Tree

Afia Walking Tree

Afia Walking Tree’s philosophy is that we are all on a journey to re-emerge as whole beings and be in sync with our universes. She uses African Diasporic drumming, singing, dancing, and the honoring of one’s lineages as vehicle to help her clients and participants cultivate new tools and pathways to realize their destinies. Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, Afia Walking Tree is a masterful percussionist, visionary facilitator, and outstanding performer, singer-songwriter and recording artist who builds’ bridges across multi-ethnic intergenerational communities. Afia has been a collaborative artist with many luminaries of our time.

In 2007 and 2008, Afia toured with the internationally acclaimed Les Amazones Women Master Drummers of Guinea as one of their lead soloists.  January 2009 Afia chaperoned thirty three people on her second Drum and Dance Cultural Immersion Tour to Guinea. There she received initiations for playing Djembe and Dunun for numerous ceremonies, dances, and social celebrations. Afia offers intensive study and consultation for individuals, semi-privates (2-4), and small to large groups at all levels. She also brings her work to schools, non-profits, colleges, universities, and corporations internationally.