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Arcata, California, United States

Arcata, California, United States
Band World Funk


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WoMama @ Private Party

San Francisco, California, USA

San Francisco, California, USA

WoMama @ Farmer's Market

Arcata, California, USA

Arcata, California, USA

WoMama @ Humboldt Brews

Arcata, California, USA

Arcata, California, USA

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



WoMama’s debut CD, Foté Faré, was three years in the making and is a “good representation” of the band, according to Jesse Jonathon (vocals, balafon, melodica, pans, dun duns, repinique, kit).

“It’s a collection of the first eight, nine songs we wrote together,” he said. “We’re excited to have a digital calling card of what people can expect to see in a live show.”

And what people can expect is a stunning combination of musical cultures from around the globe. Thanks to the influence of HSU music prof Eugene Novotney, Jonathon “fell in love” with perscussive sound and followed that love to study its origins – a common theme among WoMama members.

Melody Walker (vocals, shekere, pans, clave, tamborim) described WoMama as a fusion of “song, drum and dance – a holy trinity in every culture.” Only in our culture, she said, “does it seem to be separate.” Walker pointed to “shows where nobody’s dancing” and music meant solely for listening – such as classical – as indicators of how that trinity fails to manifest in the American-European world. “It isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” she qualified, but it’s not WoMama’s thing.

“At our roots, we’ve always had the three together.”

With so many members, how does the creative process work? “We try to keep it a democracy,” Jonathon said. “If [a song] is someone’s idea, they pretty much have the say.” Levels of commitment vary based on outside commitments, he added, but everyone’s actively involved. The goal is to make the summer festival touring circuit. Jonathon would like WoMama to do some work on a university level, too, exploring and instructing about the ethnomusicological roots of what they do.

Several members have traveled to other countries to study, Walker said. She’s been to Brazil, Joe Bishop (djembe, steel pans, balafon, dun duns) studied in Guinea, Ken Lawrence (bass, vocals) performed in Africa.

Adding to the CD release show Friday night in Redwood Raks (in the Old Creamery Building) are dance troupes SambAmore, AkaBella, Ya Habibi and the New World Ballet Company. “We wanted to provide something really special,” Jonathon said.

Tickets are available through the Works and North Coast Horticulture in McKinleyville. Cover is $10 advance and $15 at the door, CD included.

WoMama is: Joe Bishop (djembe, steel pans, balafon, dun duns); Jesse Jonathon (vocals, balafon, melodica, pans, dun duns, repinique, kit); Brian Osper (electric guitar, vocals, balafon, pans, dun duns); Ken Lawrence (bass, vocals); Greg (drum kit, dun duns); Robbie Douglas (congas, djembe, shekere, dun duns, clave, blocks and bells); Melody Walker (vocals, shekere, pans, clave, tamborim); Lauren Smith (vocals, pans, dun duns, cabasa, tamborim).

- Arcata Eye

Monica Topping For the Times-Standard
Article Launched: 10/09/2008 01:15:55 AM PDT

The irony of a bunch of white kids playing West African, Cuban, Brazilian and other folk music does not escape the members of WoMama.

The group, which has been playing together for three years in different incarnations, has called their new album Foté Faré, which loosely translates to “white people dance” or “foreigner dance,” in the Guinean tribal language of Susu.

”It's kind of our homage to the fact that we know that we're a bunch of white kids playing this African, Brazilian, Cuban, Trinidadian music and we want to respect that and we want to have a sense of humor about it,” says WoMama founding member, singer and percussionist Melody Walker.

The band's name also comes from Guinea.

”WoMama is a word in the tribal language of Susu from Guinea, West Africa, and it means 'hello everybody,'” Walker said. “It's a common greeting in Guinea. One of the founding members of the band, Joe Bishop, traveled to Guinea years ago and he brought back a lot of this music that we've fused with rock and reggae and funk and all the types of music that we already played....and he also brought along some of the words that he learned when he was there. 'WoMama' was one of those and it stuck out in his mind.”

WoMama was formed at Humboldt State University, by a group of music students.

“We met in the percussion department at HSU studying Afro-Brazilian, West African, Afro-Cuban and
Caribbean Trinidad calypso music,” said Jesse Jonathon, also a founding member, singer and percussionist for WoMama. “Being percussionists, we all got enraptured with the polyrhythmic textures and it was a perfect fit for us to put all of these styles together and mix it with the music we had grown up with, basically rock 'n' roll, bluegrass, and Americana.”

”The background of WoMama came from the ethnicology (sic) of Dr. Eugene Novotney,” Jonathon said.

While not all of the current members of the band had Novotney as a professor, or necessarily went through the H.S.U. music program, they've all felt his influence.

Some members of WoMama may be recognizable from other local music projects including SambAmore, of which Jonathon is a member and he says “satisfies the desire to be part of a complete drum group as well as writing for horns, so I get to have a drums and horns group which also works with dancers.”

He also plays with a West African tribal-style drum group called Dun Dun Faré and Samba D'Allegria, which makes an annual appearance during the North Country Fair's samba parade.

Walker is involved with AkaBella, an a capella group, which, she said, “consists of five women, four of which have been in WoMama at different points in time.”

”I'm primarily a vocalist in WoMama, but I have my fantasies of having a band that's just vocalists. I love the sound of voices and choral harmony.”

Walker and Jonathon were also founding members of percussion troupe Bloco Firmeza.

Of the other members in WoMama, vocalist Lauren Smith is also in AkaBella with Walker, guitar player Brian Osper is a member of newgrass band, the Bucky Walters, bassist Ken Lawrence is a local luthier who builds custom guitars for James Hetfield of Metallica and drummer and percussionist Greg Huffman makes marimbas for a living at world-famous instrument producer Marimba One, located in Arcata.

”Many of us are multi-instrumentalists,” Walker said. “The unique thing about WoMama is that WoMama can simultaneously be many of these other projects that we're involved with, if need be. WoMama can pick up Brazilian percussion instruments and become a batteria. WoMama can stand in front of dun duns and play djembes and become a West African troupe. And WoMama can also break down and all sing if we have to. These are all things that we can bring and we like to do that during our set--we like to break down to just the percussion and the vocals and the dance and show that original trinity that you find in every culture.”

WoMama's CD release show tomorrow night will feature live collaborations with Shoshanna and the Ya Habibi Dance Company, New World Ballet, AkaBella, Quente SambAmore, a special appearance from music professor Dr. Eugene Novotney, who leads the H.S.U. Calypso Band, and Calypso Band member Kevin Repp.

”You're going to see everything at this show,” Walker said. “You're going to see dancing, you're going to see choral singing, you're going to see full-on percussion, you're going to see some fusion of percussion and horns. You're going to get the West African, the Brazilian, you're going to get a set of pretty much traditional pan music from Trinidad... It should be a great night that really represents what we're trying to bring.”

Advance tickets for the WoMama CD release show are available at the Works in Eureka and Arcata, North Coast Horticulture in McKinleyville and from members of the band. Doors for the show at Redwood Raks, located in the Old Creamery building in Arcata, open at 8 p.m. and all ages are welcome.

More information on WoMama and samples of their music can be found at http://www.myspace.com/womama. - Times-Standard

A nine piece action band that is the Afro Galactic Dance Orchestra “Womama,” will have the dance floor at the Humboldt Brews absolutely vibrating tonight.

With a start time of 9 p.m. and a $5 cover charge, this over 21 experience will take you from Humboldt to West Africa in about 15 minutes. The power of this band is so awesome that it if you are sitting when they start, you won't be for long.

Tonight's performance is billed as their, “Tour kick-off party and booty shaking good time.” After hearing them at the Oyster Festival Saturday, it is best to highlight the “Booty Shaking,” as that is what you and everybody else in the club will be doing. It is impossible to do anything else. They make you want to dance, dance, dance.

First of all, Womama is West African, from the Su Su language and it means, “Hello Everybody.” The group took this name because they are a very friendly group of musicians and all their songs and music reflect love, happiness and togetherness. Second of all, this band is very close, with an almost family atmosphere as they set the stage to begin the explosion that they like to call a performance. Thirdly, you have got to experience this band in person to feel the passion and energy that this group puts forth...it is almost infectious!

Band member Jesse Jonathan, who sings and plays multiple instruments said, “We are very democratic, nobody is really the leader. We are all in it

Jonathan explained that the group had its roots through Humboldt State University. He and other members of the band studied with Eugene Novotney who was then the head of the Percussion Department at HSU.

These studies led Jonathan and others to form, The Jammers League, an informal HSU club that met two nights a week in 2003 to play, practice and have fun. Three members of Womama were gleaned from these melting pot sessions and by 2005 the band that makes feet move was started. Womama was alive, but like the original Frankenstein monster there were many more parts to be put together before real life emerged.

The Jammers League alums that are now part of the band are Melody Walker, Ms. Lauren Smith and Bryan Osper. Walker and Ms. Smith provide some percussion, lots of enthusiastic singing and some of the wildest dancing you will ever experience. Osper plays the guitar that is the heart of the strings of Womama and he is very talented. Other band members are: Joe Bishop, drummer Greg Huffman, Robbie Douglas on conga, percussionist Oliver Crane and bass player Kenneth Lawrence. Lawrence makes his own instruments, so if you get to the show take a close look at his Bass...it is awesome.

The Oyster Festival was the perfect venue for these fun loving music makers, and the blue skied sunny day provided the ideal weather for fun danceable music. The crowd was patient and calm as the nine-piece band began to set up their myriad of mikes and assorted instruments in preparation for performance, but once the first beat was struck they were anything but. Womama took off like a Lear jet at a county airport, and they reached full speed just about as fast. The first few tunes got the audience going, but by the time that the band began to perform El Fuego, the dancers had flooded the area in front of the band. Everybody in the crowd of thousands reacted as El Fuego captured their souls with a powerful tribal beat that was accompanied with at least seven members of the band using some form of percussion to urge the dancing crowd. Crowd members from 18 months to over 80 were dancing, toe tapping, or swaying to the powerful African beat that was being poured out upon the crowd by this incredible band.

With their new CD at the printers and their first tour coming up, this band is ready to spread its wings and start entertaining folks south of the Redwood Curtain. They will play in Santa Cruz and San Francisco on their upcoming mini-tour. They have explored the origins of African music, dabbled in Brazilian song and dance, and created tunes with a Caribbean beat; all in search of creating some of the most danceable music that can be created.

Womama brings all that and more to the stage of Humboldt Brews tonight beginning at 9 p.m. with a $5 cover charge. - Times-Standard

The local "Afrock" band WoMama kicks of its first tour outside Humboldt with a show at Humboldt Brews Thursday, June 19. As I understand it, this was also supposed to be a CD release party for a just completed album, Foté Faré, but you know how those thing go. (Two years in the making; no discs yet.) I have a pre-release burn of it and it's really good. I don't think the term "Afrock" (coined by band member Melody Walker) quite catches the breadth of what they're doing. Just about everyone in the band came out of HSU prof Eugene Novotney's percussion program, so there are African elements, and Caribbean steel drums are ever-present, and there's Brazilian percussion. Principal songwriter Jesse Jonathan uses hip hop style for his conscious message vocals. The rock part is clear as guitarist Bryan Osper rips into electric solos channeling Carlos Santana and others. The band rocked the Oyster Fest and will surely do the same at HumBrews. - The North Coast Journal

Arcata-based music group WoMama is set to take their first mini-tour to the SF Bay Area this summer to share their fresh form of world fusion with new audiences. Friday, June 27 and Saturday, June 28 WoMama will make their Bay Area debuts at Mojito in San Francisco and the Catalyst in Santa Cruz.

They will be kicking their “mini-tour” off with a local performance at Humboldt Brews on June 19 where they will raise funds for gas money and hone their set to take on the road and they will be back in town by July 5 to play the Arcata Farmer’s Market.

July 2008 will also see the release of WoMama’s debut CD, Foté Faré. The project has been two years in the making and was recorded by Piet Dalmolen at Fire Planet Studios.

Thanks to a sponsorship by local company Northcoast Horticulture Supply, WoMama was able to finally finish the project this year.

WoMama has been described as an “Afro-fusion dance orchestra.” The founding members of WoMama met in the Music department at Humboldt State University while studying under Dr. Eugene Novotney.

For more information, visit myspace.com/womama. - The Arcata Eye


Foté Faré (NHS, 2008)



WoMama has been described as an "Afro-Fusion Dance Orchestra": Classically trained musicians rocking the ancient rhythms of Africa in a souped-up rock band. Their unique expression of global fusion focuses on the music of the African Diaspora as it has evolved in places like Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad and the United States into styles like Samba, Rumba, Calypso and Rock 'n' Roll. WoMama's music also heavily emphasizes the sounds of the mother continent, Africa, drawing on traditional African rhythms, songs and dances from Guinea, Zimbabwe and beyond. Their tunes range from simple arrangements of ancient African melodies to epic compositions with intricate harmonies and multiple tonalities, all geared to drive the dance floor wild.
WoMama’s lyrics draw inspiration from the West African “griot” tradition of storytelling through song, taking the listener on an adventure through time and memory. People flock to the rootsy rhythms and then stay for the stories. The lyrics are a mix of traditional and inspirational, fusing ancient themes with progressive consciousness and singing in many different languages. WoMama songs are about love of life, the earth and one another, and display a “raging optimism” that is sure to lift the spirit.
Their instrumentation is extremely diverse in origin and includes the balafon, an 800 year old Manding instrument, next to steelpans, one of the newest acoustic instruments to be invented in the world (only about 70 years old). WoMama handcrafts many of their own instruments including djembes, dun duns, sticks and mallets. Bassist Ken Lawrence is an internationally renowned luthier, and makes his own custom electric bass guitars. Greg Huffman makes marimbas for a living and Joe Bishop is currently learning to craft steelpans from 50 gallon oil drums. WoMama also features vibrant hand-sewn costumes, creating a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. WoMama's material components reflect the homegrown, organic nature of their music and their commitment to Humboldt-style sustainability.