When MEDHA begins playing and beating various types of (mostly large) drums, people’s jaws drop to the floor. What exactly is going on? Who are these ladies?
There’s a sense of power and energy in the air, along with some lighthearted fun, in addition to the booming drum beats. The women are wide-eyed, thrusting their hands and drumsticks up quickly and then back down in unison to strike notes, bouncing from side to side on their feet to the rhythm.
The seven-member combination, called “MEDHA,” which means “wisdom to move forward” in Khmer, was founded in 2017 by Sang Sreypich, 28, and Men Mao, 35, after meeting at a music workshop organized by Cambodian Living Arts. The organization promotes traditional arts and culture, which were nearly extinguished during Cambodia’s civil war.
Since then, they’ve been practicing and performing in Cambodia and around the world in the hopes of demonstrating and proving that women can play drums and dance just as well as men.
Drumming instruments were also implicitly reserved for men for many women growing up. So many women wanted to do it and play drums as children, but they were told, ‘Oh, you’re a girl, so here’s a flute or a violin, or Drums are too loud for girls.’ That is something we frequently hear. So MEDHA is shaking things up.
MEDHA is performing traditional Cambodian music with choreography, which includes drumming and dancing.
MEDHA made its debut in 2018 at the Heritage Hub in Siem Reap’s Wat Bo Pagoda. They immediately drew attention with their choreography and mastery of large drums and other traditional instruments such as xylophones and string instruments.
MEDHA’s message is for every girl and woman in the world to recognize their own wisdom. In this world, men and women are equal. They believe that by performing, they can inspire women and girls to believe that they are worthy and strong.
Photos: MeDha Women Drumming