Reviewer Lois C. Henderson: Lois is a freelance academic editor and back-of-book indexer, who spends most of her free time compiling word search puzzles for tourism and educative purposes. Her puzzles are available HERE and HERE Her Twitter account (@LoisCHenderson) mainly focusses on the toponymy of British place names. Please feel welcome to contact her with any feedback at LoisCourtenayHenderson@gmail.com.
Author: Angela Smith
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Basing this book on interviews conducted with over 50 top women drummers, Angela Smith recounts how, in addition, another 160 women gained both national and international prowess through their mastery of the art of drumming. Their astounding success in what was once a male-dominated profession is truly inspiring, with much being attributed to their determination to prove that women can be just as good, if not, at times, better than men at pursuing those interests to which they are passionately committed. Opening her introduction with an anecdote regarding the ninety-nine-year-old Viola Smith walking into a music store in Orange County, California, and being astonished to be met with frank adulation from the floored store owner, Smith continues to stress the importance of the role played by professional women drummers for thousands of years. The opposition that they have encountered is shown, over the eons, as having made them more determined than ever to prove their mettle as worthwhile musicians who have outstanding talents to share with fellow musicians, and with their avid followers, as well as with the rest of the world. And who better to tell the story of so many musically gifted women than one who is a working musician and music journalist herself, who has already written the acclaimed Steel Drums and Steelbands: A History?
Angela Smith’s focus in this overview of women drummers is on women who have, over the last six decades, made it to the top in terms of popular and contemporary jazz, country, blues, and rock. By focusing on the individual drummers involved, she has been able to bring to the forefront their most outstanding achievements, as well as the limitations that they faced on their careers emanating from a social climate that has all too often been antagonistic to them reaching their full potential. The multiple black-and-white photos of the drummers, many of whom are portrayed “on the job” also help to personalize this interesting, and occasionally provocative, glimpse into the world of the percussion instrument from a woman who is all too conscious of the legacy of discrimination that has permeated the world of music for far too long.
The chronological structure of Women Drummers aids in making the work a coherent whole, in addition to the chapters being well signposted and containing numerous helpful headings. The index is quite lengthy (20 pages) and detailed for a book of this nature, and there is also a helpful appendix, consisting of a listing of selected discography, video links, and online resources, as well as an 11-page bibliography. In short, Angela Smith seems to have done her research well, and produced a lively and informative text on a subject that, in the past, has tended not to receive the attention that it should. Although the fluency of the book has lost out somewhat to the amount of information contained therein, it is a worthwhile text that deserves its place on any music-lover’s shelf, but especially on that of keen feminists, who only too ardently wish to promote their cause.