"I have always felt that what we're doing is pleasing to our ancestors."
Since 1993, ladies of the nineteen-year-long running, Atlanta-based, drum, dance and vocal ensemble, Giwayen Mata, have developed a solid spiritual connection to African drum and dance performance and African Diaspora supporting audiences around Atlanta and the world. “I hear the ancestors and angels singing when I perform,” states Giwayen Mata Co-founder Gail Vernon Zuri Sami Ra Maati Jordan. “I am always humbled to have been called to do this work. Playing the rhythms of our people is a gift and sharing it with others who can also be moved is a blessing.” Titled as Atlanta’s “Best World Music Act” on more than one occasion, this 18-member, all-sistah ensemble, garnered in Senegalese-styled West African attire are here to stay, to teach and entertain, and to remain a powerfully important staple in Atlanta’s arts community.
With a mission to preserve and represent African culture, their latest endeavor is to salute fathers, sons, brothers, and male loved ones in their live concert production, SALUTE TO OUR MEN, on this Father’s Day, June 17, 2012 at 3pm at The Southwest Arts Center 915 New Hope Road. Within a 90-minute concert format, Giwayen Mata and special guests will adorn audiences with well-choreographed, high-energy drum, dance and spoken word vignettes that center around culture and traditions found in Mali, Senegal, Guinea, and Ivory Coast, West Africa. Although Giwayen is comprised of all women, this performance is shared with male talent, and the entire focus of the show is all about the love and celebration of men. “After conversing with one of our Giwa sisters, Zanaida Wakatama, and other respected choreographers, dancers and entertainers in this market, we felt that it was time to celebrate our men with the same kind of heartfelt enthusiasm as we have celebrated women for so many years,” says Sister Omelika Kuumba, Executive Director and Giwayen Mata Co-Founder. “Our initial concepts were and have expanded to include the collective talents of many. The show blends theatrical drumming, dance, and drama with real life family and community dynamics. It’s going to be a special, memorable experience, indeed!”
Some have called the show empowering, while others call it inspiring. The ladies call it ‘a blessing’ and beam with excitement to be able to provide a cultural vehicle into communities thru music; lots of music! The Giwayen Mata play an orchestra of djembe, sangba, dununba and kenkeni drums with each live performance, which is not very commonly seen by women. Kuumba states, “When we first formed our ensemble, we would hear ‘Women don’t play the drum!’ Over the years, we have broken barriers for female percussionists with the determination to tell the story of our people [through music] and I have always felt that what we're doing is pleasing to our ancestors."
Since the ensemble formed, over seventy-five women have performed as a unit; each one contributing choreographically, musically and even some have contributed through costume design. ‘The Giwa Way’, as they like to call it, is one whose members ‘get in where they fit in’ and demonstrate a free range of creative spirit with each effort. Giwayen Mata possesses unlimited potential to elevate communities, audiences, minds and spirits. They have been tapped to execute an Atlanta-based series for DanceAfrica, Brooklyn Academy of Music's longest running program —and one of America's largest and most vibrant celebrations of African and African American dance, music, and culture, and are consistently embraced by respected officials, national organizations, and schools. They know how to ‘bring it’ every time they hit the stage making Salute to Our Men a show that you don’t want to miss!
Giwayen Mata on YOUTUBE
Giwayen Mata on FACEBOOK
Giwayen Mata on TWITTER
Giwayen Mata on GOOGLE+
Giwayen Mata on PODOMATIC
Giwayen Mata on EMAIL
-by jen farris, arts contributor