Women drummers are hard to come by and seldom get the recognition as their male counterparts. Take the late Karen Anne Carpenter, for instance. In the 1970s, she and her brother Richard formed the Carpenters, with her playing the drums. When Karen Carpenter died in 1983 from complications arising from anorexia nervosa, the tributes were on her superb vocal performances rather than on her drumming – though she was recognised as an excellent drummer among the fraternity. In the iconic avant-garde band Velvet Underground led by the late Lou Reed, drummer Maureen Ann ‘Moe’ Tucker always played second fiddle compared to her male band members. Talk about Velvet Underground and the extrovert Lou Reed and creator Andy Warhol stand out. But does anyone remember ‘Moe’ Tucker? So why are women drummers always passed over, unless they’re playing in an all-girls band? Jedil Robelo, a Filipina drummer with Moi Tiet and Bacan bands, shares her views on this issue with Sonny Inbaraj Krishnan on International Women’s Day.
Good Times2: Why do think there’s a lack of female drummers in Cambodia? Is the profession dominated by men? Why is it so?
Jedil: Maybe the reason is the lack of creative spaces for females to hone their musical talents. Yes, it is a profession dominated by men. To be honest, many professions are dominated by men. So why can’t women also be drummers?
Good Times2: What is your advice to women who want to be drummers?
Jedil: For improving in the kit/percussion instrument of choice, my advice is: find a mentor who will be your source of wisdom and inspiration, someone who will guide you through your musical journey. Set realistic goals in relation to developing your timing, your ability to play different musical styles, and musicality/improvisation.
Good Times2: On International Woman’s Day, what is your message to other women?
Jedil: I initially played drums because it was my medium for self-expression. I just played drums because it felt good. But later on, there are realizations about identity and power (as a woman and Filipina). Maybe my advice would be: find a deeper meaning in what you do, don’t compare yourself to others – develop grit, and OWN your story.
Don’t water it down and adjust your narrative because you perceive that it won’t fit in someone else’s idea of what it should be. Your soul is your story, no one can take it away from you. And that is something empowering.
Good Times2: How did you start learning to play the drums?
Jedil: I remember I was in my Fourth Grade and during my lunch break I heard a high-schooler playing drums to Red Hot Chili Pepper’s ‘Otherside’. I was instantly drawn to music from then on. I learned by listening, and there was a drum-set at our local church back then. No one used it, so I decided to teach myself to play.
Good Times2: You are also are a basketball player? How did that come about?
Jedil: During gradeschool, I had a lot of sparetime before the first class. I spent it playing basketball. It was just fun, and I enjoyed playing it.
Good Times2: You went to the University of The Philippines on a basketball scholarship? What did you major in, in UP Diliman?
Jedil: Yes. I am an English Major.
Good Times2: So how did you get to Phnom Penh?
Jedil: A family friend who has been living here for the past 27 years invited me to visit Cambodia. Initially, there were no plans of staying long term. But I got a job, and had the chance to play music as well with various bands in Phnom Penh.
Good Times2: Are you teaching now, and what subjects?
Jedil: I am currently teaching middle and high school music in an international school in Phnom Penh.