Sitting in Libana’s rehearsal space at Third Life Studio (Somerville, MA), there’s a feeling of arriving on consecrated ground. Years of practice, positive intention, community making, and laughter seem to pour from the walls and through the air, surrounding the six women who have comprised Libana for the past 35 years—four of whom have been members from the very beginning in 1979. It’s no wonder that this amazing energy has translated to thousands of people singing and dancing in celebration, inspired by the powerful, life-affirming music that Libana has brought all over the world.
More than three decades ago, Libana blazed the trail of exploring traditional and contemporary women’s music cross-culturally. In the pre-internet late 1970s, Libana introduced listeners in the U.S. to the amazingly diverse music of world cultures before the term “world music” even existed. As their reputation grew, and as their own intentional creative community and artistic mission deepened, they found themselves using music more intentionally for healing and peacemaking.
“We carefully choose music that reflects global women’s experiences that communally we find moving or visionary. Through our performances, audiences take in the unique sounds, richly varied textures, yet common soul of women from around the world,” says Susan Robbins, founder and Artistic Director of Libana. “As they witness us onstage, and intangibly sense through our music the deep connective tissue that unites us as this community called Libana, they sense what is possible in the power of creative communities of women everywhere.”
Libana has made musical and cultural connections all over the globe – while singing, dancing and feasting with village Babi’s (grandmothers) high up in Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains in celebration of their traditional Sveta Bogoritsa holiday, while bendir drumming with indigenous Amazigh women during an ancient rain ritual near the Sahara desert in Morocco, while exchanging verses of “We Shall Overcome” in Hindi and English with women at Barefoot College in Rajasthan – and while bringing communal song and dance to countless venues across North America.
Recognizing that daily participatory music-making is a birthright in communities everywhere on Earth, and seeing how far removed we are from that in the US, Libana expanded their mission to inspire singers of all ages across the country to create community through gathering to sing approachable music. The women of Libana have created many recordings of inspiring rounds and chants and actively teach workshops, helping to create new song circles wherever they travel. Their music is shared in song circles, living rooms, classrooms, choruses, and at life-cycle rituals, spiritual gatherings, places of worship and everywhere people gather to sing.
“It’s very touching that people experience the power and joy of music with us and then take these songs home to their own circles,” reflects Libana member Cheryl Weber.
With a vast, varied body of work over 35 years (including nine recordings and three songbooks), the women of Libana acknowledge their own transformation has evolved side-by-side with the collected moments of deep connection they have experienced while touring nationally and internationally. “We really didn’t know when we started that our music would have this kind of impact,” says Marytha Paffrath. “We wanted to shine a light on the music, creativity, and spirit of the world’s women, but we didn’t anticipate becoming accidental cultural ambassadors.”
Libana continues bringing to audiences their inspiring message about the beauty, breadth and wisdom of our cultural diversity and common humanity, as well as a reverence for the Earth we all call home. With each strike of the drum, each chant, and each note sung in joy, they encourage everyone to join them in raising voices in song.