the undocumented history of female drummers

Tom Tom is the magazine pushing female drummers to make more noise. This is their guide to the women in history who have inspired others to get behind the kit.

by Francesca Dunn
10 March 2017, 3:25pm

Mindy Abovitz started Tom Tom back in 2009 to give female drummers the recognition they deserved. Initially a blog, it aimed to improve the online representation of non-male percussionists, which at the time seemed to consist mostly of hyper-sexualized images of women and drum kits. Described by collaborators as the leader of the revolution, Abovitz has created a space for female drummers from all over the world to be seen, celebrated, and motivated.

The likes of Stella Mozgawa from Warpaint, Beyoncé's drummer Kim Thompson, and Palmolive from The Slits have all been featured in Tom Tom, which also organizes regular panel talks and events such as "The Oral History of Female Drummers," which took over MoMA's PS1 back in 2012 with drumming performances. 

The latest edition, The Roots Issue, focuses on drummers discussing where they started out and how they've grown since, as well as a drummer's guide to various awesome cities. Prior to that, former drummer of The Prettiots Rachel Trachtenburg starred on the cover of The Money Issue, which was full of really useful tips such as how to get a great kit for cheap, how to do taxes as a musician, and how to ask for a raise. So wise! In need of more wisdom, we turned to Mindy and her team for answers. 

Hello Mindy! Tell us, where are all the female drummers?
They are everywhere. They are your neighbor, your mom, your girlfriend, and your best friend's little sister.

What's the most important thing you've learnt through making Tom Tom?
That starting your own company and growing it is a MASSIVE challenge with a MASSIVE reward at the end if you can endure.

If you could give one piece of advice to all female/non-gender conforming drummers, what would it be?
Don't give a shit what other people think or say about anything you do. Play your music exactly how you want and with confidence from day one.

How can we go about helping to transition novelty to normal?
Representation, permission, and intentionality.

Which features or interviews are you most proud of having secured for Tom Tom?
All of them! Truly. I have loved our interview with Bobbye Hall, ESG's Valerie ScrogginsGina Schock, when Jack White interviewed Carla Azar, our resident 11-year-old writer bo-Pah interviewing other girl drummers, etc. It is all so much fun.

Which other zines are you a fan of?
I am a fan of the ladies who run Women in Sound, Got a Girl Crush, MATH magazine, She Shreds Mag, Crybaby Zine, and so many more.

Please, lovely ladies behind Tom Tom... teach us about the undocumented history of female drummers.
While the history of female drummers hasn't been documented as thoroughly as the history of male drummers, with some dedicated researching, one can find quite a bit of information on female drummers throughout history. Check out this top ten list (in no particular order) of some notable drummers who have inspired other women to get behind the kit!

1. Anne "Honey" Lantree of The Honeycombs
Years active: 1963-1967
Genre: Pop
Location: North London, England
Top Tune: "Have I the Right"

2. Maureen "Moe" Tucker of the Velvet Underground
Years active: 1964-1973, 1990, 1992, 1993, 1996
Genre: Rock
Location: New York, New York
Top Tune: "Sweet Jane"

3. Karen Carpenter of The Carpenters
Years active: 1969-1983
Genre: Pop/Soft rock
Location: Los Angeles, California
Top Tune: "We've Only Just Begun"

4. Sandy West of The Runaways
Years active: 1975-1979
Genre: Punk Rock
Location: Los Angeles, California
Top Tune: "Cherry Bomb"

5. Atsuko Yamano of Shonen Knife
Years active: 1981-present
Genre: Pop/Post Punk/Alternative/Indie
Location: Osaka, Japan
Top Tune: "Pop Tune"

6. Debbi Peterson of The Bangles
Years active: 1981-89, 1999-present
Genre: Pop/Rock
Location: Los Angeles, California
Top Tune: "Hazy Shade of Winter"

7. Sheila E 
Years active: 1976-present
Genre: R&B/Pop/Soul/Rock/Funk/Latin Pop
Location: Oakland, California
Top Tune: "The Glamorous Life"

8. Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney
Years active: 1994-2006, 2014-present
Genre: Punk/Indie/Riot Grrrl
Location: Olympia, Washington
Top Tune: "Jumpers"

9. Meg White of The White Stripes
Years active: 1997-2011
Genre: Blues/Rock/Post Punk Revival
Location: Detroit, Michigan
Top Tune: "Seven Nation Army"

10. Cindy Blackman
Years active: 1982-present
Genre: Jazz Fusion, Rock
Location: Yellow Springs, Ohio
Top Tune: "Are You Gonna Go My Way"


Text Frankie Dunn
Undocumented history of female drummers by Lindsey Anderson of Tom Tom

tom tom magazine
music interviews
mindy abovitz
female drummers