Kasiva Mutua

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Kasiva Mutua tours internationally, performing a combination of afrobeat, zouk, samba, reggae and soul, and she wants you to know that women play the drums too. For many, this is an unneeded declaration—sure there are women percussionists, Sheila E, Cindy Blackman and Alicia Warrington come to mind. But for Mutua, that statement was not always a given. "There's been a ton of problems I've faced as a female percussionist," she told CNN. “Drumming has been a subject of taboo to women in Africa and me rising as a percussionist and going publicly with it and making a living out of it is problematic to some people." But she persevered and it paid off, even leading to her appointment as a TED Fellow. Now she’s paying it forward.

The Kenya native co-founded an all-female percussion group called MOTRA (MOdern and TRAditional Rhythms), and is also working with an all-female band by the name of The Flower Project. “This is one of the many ways we can inspire fellow women to pick up instruments set aside for our male counterparts,” she says. This is also just one of the many ways in which she follows the footsteps of her powerhouse influences--women like the Ivory Coast-born singer Dobet Gnahoré, Malian musician Fatoumata Diwara and Cameroonian crooner Kareyce Fotso. “I admire their sound and performance presence, but more so, because they set a pace for African women to follow. They act as examples that we can look at, be proud of and emulate.”

Citing the girl child and gender equality as world issues she’s currently passionate about, Mutua embodies her own definition of a powerful woman; one who positively influences an individual or a community. According to her, powerful women are everywhere, and the world should be taking notice. “We need, and especially in the African continent, good community development plans, and tapping into the assets that women bring to the table is applaudable.”

MUSICTeneille Craig