FLAMGIRLS ROCK!

                                

Anastasiya Kostromina

    “I am woman hear me roar.”  Those words written and sung by Australian-American Artist Helen Reddy came at the apex of the female empowerment movement in the early 70’s.  The song, its lyrics and message served as an Anthem for women during that time who felt oppressed and were now demanding to break free…free from being dismissed, held down and pigeon holed.  Further into the song, the lyrics declare, “You can bend but never break me.  ‘Cause it only serves to make me.”  The charge fueled many newly empowered women to new heights.  More than 4 decades later, we have women serving in the highest levels of our government, heading up and running major corporations…even landing on the moon.  However, the advancements were not without struggle.  Breaking down barriers to hold positions normally reserved for their male counterparts often came with a price. Those fearless women braved the way.  So, Thank God in 2015 women from all walks of life can spread their wings and be free or…can they? FLAM talked with three young ladies who are trying to do just that.  But, as they strike out to “march to the beat of their own drum”, they’ve all had to, at some point, demand for the guys…to give the “female” drummer some.  

    A few years back Rolling Stone conducted a poll asking readers to pick the 10 best drummers of all time.  Surprisingly, not one of them was female.  What?!  What about Sheila E., Cindy Blackmon…Terri Lyne Carrington?!  FLAM decided to do some research looking up the very definition of the term drummer in Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  The definition of a drummer is listed as: One that plays a drum; sometimes used figuratively in phrases denoting unconventional thought or action like marching to a different drum.  It’s interesting.  It never referred to the term as “HE who plays a drum”. 

Zee "Bateria" Johnson

But, if you’ve ever seen Zee “Bateria” Johnson play, you’ll definitely have to give HER respect.  She is definitely woman.  Hear her roar!  She doesn’t shout or scream.  She let’s her kit do the talking.  “Anytime a guy or someone asks you to play, it’s imperative that you go for blood!”  Zee, who coined herself Zee Bateria (Spanish for drummer), says it was a tough journey that led to self-discovery. Graduating at 17, she tells FLAM she went to college early to major in science, because that’s the path her parents laid out for her.  The irony is she played and had a passion for drums since she was a child.  Zee Bateria says she had to take an elective in college.  So, she signed up for a keyboard class.  She tells FLAM she loved it so much she would stay in the piano lab from 9am to 10 o’clock at night.  Despite never reading music or playing keyboard, by the time the class ended, Zee was, reportedly, playing better than people who’d been playing since childhood.  Can you say prodigy (smile).  The self-taught drummer and keyboardist changed her major to Music. The native Houstonian says her goal was to make her mark as a drummer after college.  There was a major shift after she posted a video of a choir singing acapella with her playing the drums.  People began to demand to see more of her phenomenal skills on the drums.  She started posting more videos.  Zee says her social media friends grew from 200 to 1500 almost overnight!  But, all it took was for one person to cause her world to seemingly come crashing down.  A well-known local Houston drummer and producer, whom Zee describes as a 30 something grown man with a family, reportedly posted that she was a “wack girl drummer”.  The tide changed after his post and a flood of comments came in ripping Zee Bateria apart.  The attacks were so vicious she shut down her social media accounts and put her sticks down.  She says she wallowed in the hurt and the pain for several months.   Until one day, she decided to let his rejection be her motivation.  “I decided I was going to take that comment and throw it in his face!” she said.  Zee decided to audition for the Guitar Center Drum Off.  The determined drummer tells FLAM her preparation for the contest was intense.  She says she would wake up at 4am and practice for 5 hours before heading off to work a full day at a local yogurt shop.  Then, she would come back home to practice for 5 more hours.  She held down the intense regiment for 4 months.  It paid off.   In 2014, she got 3rd place in Houston’s Guitar Center Drum Off store finals.  She placed 3 out of 300.  And, yes…she was the only female.  Zee says, “A lot of girls came up to me and said I never saw a girl play, and I never saw a girl play like that!”  The greatest reward for her wasn’t winning.  Zee says it was the full circle moment she had when she faced her biggest critic.  It turns out the drummer who tore her apart was one of three people judging the competition.  He, reportedly had to eat his words after she blazed on the kit.  “The guy apologized and said I was a beast on the drums”, says Zee.  She forgave him, but tells FLAM she has no time for people like him.  “Now, I’m dangerous, because don’t care what people say!” 

 

ARIEL JONES

ARIEL JONES

Houston Drummer Ariel Jones has had to silence the naysayers, as well.  She recalls a Tuba player in high school telling her that girls couldn’t play drums.  Despite that, she persevered. Jones was Drum Line Captain her Junior and Senior year of high school.  She went on to march in Texas Southern University’s Ocean of Soul Band.  Today, there’s no need for Jones to have to prove herself.  But, when she shows up on the scene, there’s an air of skepticism.  “Sometimes when I go to gigs and jam sessions, it’s sort of that elephant in the room until I start playing.”  Women like Zee Bateria and Ariel Jones are shattering stereotypes, while up and comers like recent high school grad Anastasiya Kostromina uses drums to drown the haters. 


The first thing FLAM noticed when interviewing the Russian born Brooklyn bred teen was that she is definitely fierce.  “As a metaphor, I drum louder to cancel out the noise of other people.”  Anastasiya affectionately referred to as AJ says, “I’ve gotten a lot of comments that say, ‘Oh, she’s a chick drummer.  She’s good for a female drummer.’  But, I don’t let that get to me, because once you know what your calling is, don’t let anybody stop you.”  I don’t think anyone would try to stop AJ if they tried.  Did I mention she holds a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do (LOl)?!  Just like Zee Bateria, AJ’s parents tried to steer her into pursuing a career in science and medicine.  The Brooklyn Drummer who started performing last summer on the streets of New York says she’s not going the traditional route.  “There’s nothing wrong with going to school, but that doesn’t guarantee you’re going to get gigs when you graduate.  Your hustle is going to get you where you want to be.”  AJ says she plans on studying under some seasoned drum veterans and taking her skills on the road.  “I see myself in the next couple of years playing for somebody like Beyonce, because I love playing for fierce females!”

   It’s clear that these women are inspirational, but who inspires them?  Ariel Jones says it’s not always the big name drummer.  For her, it is Blind Jazz Drummer Sebastian Whitacker.  He told her he got his house playing drums.  So, she knew she had no excuse when trying to accomplish her goals.  AJ says her environment is inspiring.  “It’s not always about who.  It can be what, like if I hear a sound when I’m walking down the street.”  They look to nature to inspire and God to guide them.  “God has shown me that I need to give back while coming up,” says Ariel Jones.  All three female drummers are doing just that.  Jones has recently taken a position as Band Director at Dowling Middle School in Houston.  AJ’s high school won first place in in this year’s band competition after a decade of losing, with her leading the drum line as an upper classman.  And, many students have flourished under Zee Bateria’s guidance as an Instructor at the School of Rock.  These women are teachers.  But, if you’ve looked them up on social media or seen them play in person, they’ll teach you a lesson all right.  “This is me. I’m sexy and beautiful.  But, I kill it on the drums!” says Zee Bateria.  And, to that we remember the charge of Helen Reddy and say…Roar woman roar!

Story by Nikki M. (FLAM NEWS)

Posted on July 2, 2015 .

DRUMMING AND STAYING FIT

Picture this…You spend the better part of the night “Hittin’ Skins”.  But, when the act is complete, do you feel rejuvenated or completely drained?  For those of you non-drummers out there who may be reading this…Get your mind out of the gutter!  However, for those of you who are constantly grinding, holding down late night gigs or any gigs for that matter, you know exactly what I mean.  Being the wife of For Loud Anointed Musicians Owner LaMar Merchant, I have firsthand knowledge of how draining and rejuvenating playing the drums can be for him.  I’ve witnessed him swinging away on the kit from 10pm to 2am with only a couple of short breaks in between.  Then, exit the stage to thunderous applause only to break down drums and hardware.  If it’s a Saturday night, don’t bother waking him up early on Sunday.  He has exhausted all his energy.  He’s down for the count…stick a fork in him.  This drummer is wiped out!  I’d rather have that than the alternative.  It’s not often that the FLAM owner hits a dryspell, but when he does watch out.  Keep him away from the kit too long and the bear comes out (Laugh Out Loud).  Clearly, as draining as playing the drums can be, he needs them in order to thrive. So, now that we’ve established that he’ll never part with the kit, the challenge now is how can he have a successful relationship with her without being constantly wore out?

JAMARCUS BROWN

JAMARCUS BROWN

  It’s been said that the drums is one of the most physically demanding instruments.  By playing them, musicians use the body’s muscle groups to deliver power, speed, endurance and coordination over long periods of time.  Any good drummer knows you’re using 4 way independence or all 4 limbs when playing.  My husband often ends a night of playing by saying, “I’m exhausted.  I know I must’ve burned 1000 calories.”  The irony is that, while drumming increases your heart rate, causes you to sweat and burns calories, it’s better if you’re in shape when you play.  Don’t take my word for it.  I decided to interview some drummers to find out for myself.  When I decided to do a story on the benefits of drummers staying fit, I literally had to chase down Houston Drummer Jamarcus Brown.  After a few texts to try and secure an interview, I caught up with him in the middle of his nightly run.  I was shocked to learn that he runs at least three 5 k’s a year.  He informed me he runs 3 times a week and works out to keep his heart rate and his chops up.  He even challenges Musicians to hold each other accountable.  “I use technology to hold me accountable.  I have a Fitbit.  I have a Garmin watch, things that can keep track of what I eat and monitor my heart rate to let me know how I’m progressing,” Brown says.  For you drummers and percussionists out there who may be slacking on your fitness game or who, let’s be honest, are sitting on the couch eating a box full of donuts as we speak (wink, wink), don’t be intimidated.  Jamarcus admits he wasn’t always this in shape.  The church drummer recounts a personal story where he was required to play “Shout Music” every Sunday at his old church for 30 minute intervals.  Well, for those you who don’t know what that means, I’ll break it down.  Jamarcus had to wear the kit out for 30 minutes straight playing up tempo Gospel music.  He remembers laughing, “Playing all that “Shout Music” wore me out.  I remember one Sunday gasping for air after playing.  Now, you know your cardio must be bad if you’re gasping after being on the kit!”  Jamarcus was determined to do more cardio.  He started running little by little to build up his stamina and endurance.  Now, when he plays for church, he doesn’t find himself gasping for air.  Jamarcus says increasing your cardio is so important for endurance.                                                

 

United Cross Training Owner and Strength and Conditioning Coach John Kennedy aka “Boss” says building up your core is even more vital for drummers sitting for long periods of time.  “I think you guys should deadlift as much as you can.  That’s going to strengthen primarily your back, but every muscle in your body, especially your core.”  The Sugarland Trainer, also, suggests investing in a foam roller or a ball to stretch out the back.  That advice has definitely worked for Drummer Marc Dipasupil who works out at United Cross Training.  His training with Kennedy usually involves a full body workout building up his arms, legs, back and core.  Dipasupil says the bottom line boils down to discipline.  “You want to be in control of the instrument, not the instrument being in control of you.”  Dipasupil sees himself not just as a Drummer, but a vessel.  “As far as being a Christian too, like you wanna’ give your best to God.  You don’t wanna’ give him your leftovers.”  Houston Drummer Jamarcus Brown agrees, saying if you prepare, you’ll have plenty to give.  Now, he shows up 15 to 30 minutes early for gigs just to stretch his arms and back to keep his limbs loose while on the kit.  It’s about cardio, core strength and commitment.  And, for Drummers who think it’s okay to cut corners, he cautions.  “Stay up all night and eat late.  They call it grinding, but it could catch up with them in the long run.  I know you’re grinding, but are you grinding for your health?”  You have to ask yourself…If I cut too many corners, will I be here to live out my dreams on the kit?

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STORY BY: NIKOLE MERCHANT, FLAM NEWS

Posted on June 4, 2015 .