Tag Archives: feminism

A Protest Music Interview: Saffron A

There are different ways to both react and deal with trauma. Saffron A is a young musician from Brantford, Ontario, who chooses to put her experiences into song. Sad songs are as common part of popular culture as anything, but there are deeper levels of personal experiences that are getting their taboo sticker torn off by a new and brave generation.

As Saffron explained to me via email it felt natural for her and impossible not to create songs about some of the traumatic events in her life. In addition to her ‘normal’ touring and connecting with her audience she participates with organisations, such as Take Back The Night, giving talks and singing her songs at various empowerment events.

Check out her latest EP’s, both out this year, on her Bandcamp page.

First of all, for those not familiar with your work, who is Saffron A?

I am a feminist solo artist, and I play the tenor guitar and octave mandolin. My music sits where emotion and intellect intersect, focusing on themes of sexual assault, mental health, trauma and empowerment!

Has your music always been political or made in protest?

My music hasn’t always had this focus, but it has developed through lived experience. My earlier work was more experimental and explores the facets of human relationships. I would argue that I still do those things in my current writing, but with more precision and social awareness.

“At the time it was an easier way to say that something upsetting has happened to me, without having to explain my experience 50+ times. I felt compelled to write these songs as an act of survival, there was little choice on my part. “

Your recently released an EP, titled Resistance, which is a follow up to another EP, released earlier this year, called Resilience. You describe the first EP as “a collection of songs which focus on the initial response to experiencing sexual violence.” What made you decide to put these intimate feelings into song and how do you describe the process of both writing and then performing such songs?

It all started with the song Resilience. I wrote it after my assault as a way to process my experience, and released a demo of it to share with my friends and family. At the time it was an easier way to say that something upsetting has happened to me, without having to explain my experience 50+ times. I felt compelled to write these songs as an act of survival, there was little choice on my part. Writing has always helped me understand myself more and process my life and feelings, so it was only natural to process this trauma through song. When I started performing Resilience, the response I received during the song and after the show was profound. I knew that there was more I had to say in connection to this piece, and I had to form a full picture of my experience. That’s when a lot of the writing for this project began.

What’s interesting is a number of songs on the Resilience EP were written previously, but they fit with the narrative so well. With the Resistance EP, I wrote all of those songs from a place of frustration and unrest. At the time of writing Resistance I was finishing my Justice Studies degree. Having personal experiences with facets of the Canadian justice system (the police, court) and being further traumatized when seeking help motivated me to dig in and write Loud and Clear, as well as Priceless Advice. Break and Enter, as well as Flashes speak more to my internal response to external trauma. The title track Resistance is my battle cry to keep fighting and continue to live despite the injustice. Performing these songs is unique every night and they feel like they have a life of their own.

How have people been receiving your music, especially when you play live?

I’ve been cutting my teeth touring this summer, and these shows have shown me how important my music is right now. A blanket statement is that people are challenged and moved by my work on a personal level, but it goes deeper than that. My shows have felt like a collective energy exchange of emotion, and afterwards folks thank me and share their own stories with me privately. I am honoured to be apart of these dialogues and inspire people to think critically about our society and how desperately things need to change.

Recently you both performed and gave a talk at two Take Back The Night events. How did that go and what other activist activities or events do you participate in?

It was amazing to get to speak and sing at the Take Back The Night rallies in Halton and Humber College. It is an honour to be a part of the community in this way and to connect with different populations in public spaces. I also have been a guest speaker at the Transforming Trauma Into Triumph conference by The Gatehouse, which took place at the Toronto Police College. That was an important accomplishment for me, and a great event to be a part of.

Can you tell us about your instruments of choice, the octave mandolin and tenor guitar, and how it came to be that you use them for writing your songs?

I started playing the mandolin, and I’ve stayed within the bounds of instruments that are tuned in fifths! My dad custom built me an electric tenor guitar which changed my whole sound, and then he crafted an electric octave mandolin which was another game changer. They are my signature pieces that set me apart.

You got a new single out, Priceless Advice, which readers can hear above. What can you tell us about it?

Priceless Advice is featured on the Resistance EP, and it deconstructs the messages people socialized as young women are given to keep themselves safe. These “helpful suggestions” come from parents, the police, friends, the media. Society puts the responsibility on women not to be violated instead of teaching men not to violate others.

Where you are from, do you feel there is a strong scene of artists like you that use their voice to spread either political, intimate or protest messages?

I’m from Brantford, Ontario, and there is a small but mighty activist scene. The music scene itself is not welcoming to bold women, but groups like Advocates for a Student Culture of Consent are cool to collaborate with. Another barrier is that there are few spaces for people to have concerts, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable inviting anyone to see me play in those venues because I can’t ensure their safety. Brantford needs safe accessible art spaces, but there is a gap.

What are some of your musical inspirations? Do you follow other contemporary artists that also use their voice responsibly?

For me personally, Janis Ian is my favourite songwriter of all time. Her brutal honesty and vulnerability in her work is inspirational. I’m also influenced by the versatility of Jack White. More politically minded bands like The Clash, Hole, Nirvana and Bikini Kill push me to be blunt in some of my writing. 

Riot grrrl bands have been having a resurgence, so The Shiverettes and Peach Club are so needed. They’re bringing important messages to the forefront!  In the world of popular music, Lizzo is a gem, and her messages of self love and empowerment bring me to my feet.

Some of my friends in the Canadian music scene like The Lifers, Annie Sumi, Missy Bauman, Scott Cook and Piper & Carson are also important voices. They make noise and speak their minds, but also leave people feeling safe and cared for at the end of their sets. They share their own social commentary in a way that people listen and don’t feel alienated.

What is on the horizon for you?

In short, more music, more touring, more adventures! I’m excited to share what I’ve been writing and I look forward to bringing my songs to new places and spaces.

Lastly, thank you very much for participating and for your music. Is there anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?

Thank you for giving me a platform to share. Consent is everything! Support your local music scene and empower marginalized voices! If you like any of my songs, please share them with a friend and follow my journey on social media!

Check out more about Saffron A’s work on her Webpage ı Spotify ı Facebook ı YouTube ı Instagram

A Protest Music Interview: Drea

“1 out of every 6 women in America has been a victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.”

This is the quote that starts Drea’s new music video.

The visuals follow Drea, with blackest of backgrounds, as she sings her way through a terrifyingly personal song. The piece is Drea’s way of using her voice in solidarity with other survivors of sexual assault.

I contacted Drea online and asked her about her new single, her work with WiMN (Women’s International Music Network), as well as a handful of other projects she has either started or is part of, and learned where she finds the time to dance, teach, create and sing.

First off, can you tell me a little bit about your background and how and when you started making music?

Music has been a part of my life since I was small. I grew up in a musical family, but was never encouraged to pursue music as a career. I started writing music and performing when I was 7, and continued through high school and college. After I graduated, I decided to try my hand at a full-fledged music career, and one thing led to another until I was making the big move to Los Angeles.

You just released “Monster”, a new single and your part of the #MeToo conversation. Can you tell us about that song and what drove you to create it?

This is a song that has been with me for many years now. I think I’ve always been waiting for the right moment, the right production team, the right time for me personally to release it. I really took my time on this one, because this is the song I wrote about my terrifying experience with rape. I know that I may never have legal justice for what I’ve experienced, so I wanted to be sure to give the song the artistic justice it deserves.  I also wanted to release it specifically during Sexual Assault Awareness Month (which lasts all of April) in order to stand in solidarity with other survivors and to hopefully continue the #MeToo conversations that are still so important to be having in our society.

Has your music always been political, made in protest or socially conscious?

You know, it hasn’t. I think I’ve always tried to have a deeper meaning to my music, but with some of my earlier songs, I was really grasping to find a socially conscious explanation that fit. However, in the last year or so, I have been much more intentional about what I’ve been putting out, partially because I’ve had complete creative control over these last several singles. My last two songs in particular center around my experience with rape and the PTSD that followed that trauma, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to release them and therefore create a platform to discuss the importance of consent, mental health awareness, and healing after trauma.

I read you have worked with WiMN (Women’s International Music Network), can you tell us about that connection and cooperation?

I first connected with the Women’s International Music Network when I won the “She Rocks So I Can Walk” contest, where contestants were asked to describe a woman or women who inspire them in order to win a chance to walk on the red carpet for the She Rocks Awards in Anaheim, CA. At the award show, I connected with many of the operators of the WiMN, and since then I have partnered with the organization for several of my music premieres, and have also been a guest writer for their blog.

Besides the music you are part of different projects, some of which you have created, such as Reclaim Movement and the For Her Concert Series. Can you tell us a bit about these projects and also, I must ask, where do you find the time to make music?

Reclaim Movement is an open level dance class for women who have survived sexual assault and trauma. I run the class out of North Hollywood, a suburb of Los Angeles, every other Wednesday. I created this class because dance had been such an important part of my healing after my experience with rape. Dance and positive, uplifting music by female artists helped me to reconnect with my body after this traumatic event. I knew I was far from the only woman who had experienced this disconnect with her body, and that many women from all walks of life would be able to benefit from a safe dance environment and supportive community of women. 

I started the For Her Concert Series after seeing so many songwriter nights in Los Angeles being run by, and therefore heavily featuring, men. I wanted to create an event that not only featured all female performers, but that also had a female crew, which is incredibly rare. I hosted the event at a female-owned business, and ran the concert to raise money for homeless women in Los Angeles. The event is “women supporting women” to the core, and that’s what I love about it. 

Over the years, I’ve cultivated many skills that have allowed me to produce these kinds of projects on my own fairly quickly. I also have a flexible job that allows me to pay the bills but also devote time to music. Organization and a lot of early mornings have been huge contributing factors to my being able to accomplish all the projects I have brewing in my head. Also, taking things one step at a time. It’s about conserving the mental energy to devote oneself to the present project, and then move on to the next thing only when it’s time.

…I am actually heading to graduate school to study public policy in the fall… After that I will be focused on working in my community to make the world a more safe and equal place for women and other marginalized groups.

Finally, are you working on a new album?

I am not. First of all, we are moving out of an album-selling industry. Singles are more the name of the game for new artists, especially independent artists. Even record labels are doing EP deals now for newly signed artists instead of album deals. The market just doesn’t care as much about albums in our streaming society; artists typically put them out because they are either under a major label contract to do so, or they want to achieve the milestone for themselves. 

That being said, I am actually heading to graduate school to study public policy in the fall, so I will be moving out of Los Angeles at the end of the summer. I plan to continue music for the rest of my life, and can do so from anywhere, but my focus will primarily be on my studies for the next few years. After that I will be focused on working in my community to make the world a more safe and equal place for women and other marginalized groups.

Check out Drea’s music and movement at dreaxmusic.com.

And if you need to call someone there are many ready to listen or help:

800.656.HOPE (4673)

www.rainn.org


Malta: A Scene Report From The Loud Women Crew

This article was originally posted on loudwomen.org and re-posted here with permission.


Janelle Borg (of Maltese punk band Cryptic Street) reports on the women at the forefront of the Maltese music scene, exclusively for LOUD WOMEN

I have been raised by the Maltese music scene. From when I started getting involved in bands and musical projects at the tender age of thirteen, my life involved gigs, rehearsals, studio sessions, organizing events, seeing venues in Malta open and close, hanging out in iconic bars and cafes popular with the local scene, and the like. For a country with a grand total of 475,700 inhabitants, Malta’s underground scene has flourished in spite of a lot of obstacles. Being a woman in this scene, it felt natural to continue this series by interviewing some game-changing players in my homeland’s underground scene, that are helping to break the glass-ceiling and promote women’s involvement in music.

Presenting:

Alison Galea – an alternative music pioneer and chameleon who, along the years, has been vital in establishing a couple of Malta’s most innovative musical projects

Leona Farrugia – a young artiste and arts apasionado experimenting in music and photography.

Beangrowers: Love, You Can Never Give Up

Yasmin Kuymizakis a.k.a Yews – An electronic musician, sound artist and sound designer. Additionally, she’s the co-founder of Malta Sound Women Network, which aims to connect, support, mentor, promote and educate women and girls in electronic music and sound.

1. >>Can you introduce yourself and your involvement in music?

Alison: My main roles in music are being a part of Beangrowers, formed in the 90s, The Shh, a duo side-project, and Etnika, Malta’s first and most-known Maltese “tripfolk” bands. Over the years I have also participated in other projects, including Phillip Boa and the Voodooclub (Germany) and French jazz band, Festen.

Etnika: Maddalena
Leona Farrugia – Photo by Jon Mo

Leona: Generally, I try not to label anything, so I don’t really categorize myself as a ‘musician’. I try to be creative every day, so for me personally, it’s more of a creative thing and a way how to express my thoughts, creating something thanks to these thoughts. I started out with Cryptic Street. Together with the original members, the band started in secondary school as a school project. The girls really believed in what I can offer, and I continued to work after that.

Cryptic Street: Let’s Go Suki

Yasmin: I have my one-woman electronic act called YEWS, plus I am one of the founders of the Malta Sound Women Networkwhich is an organisation affiliated with the Yorkshire Sound Women Network (UK). We aim to bring like-minded women together; to share knowledge and skills in music and sound technology, sonic arts, production, audio-electronics…and anything to do with using a kit to create sound.

Yews: Start Making Up Your Mind

2. >>How would you describe the Maltese music scene?

A: The Maltese music scene is very rich in genres and has grown so much in recent years, but it’s comparable to a goldfish in a bowl. It lacks the freedom to be more explorative because alternative artists are not really understood by most. It is also restrictive in terms of performance spaces and audiences.

Jess and Yasmin – founders of Malta Sound Women Network

Y: For a tiny island, we have a lot of talent. We have some good popular music from bands such as The New Victorians, but I’m more familiar and involved in the underground scene in which there’s a pretty good variety of music. For example, some hip hop from215 Collective, industrial techno from Llimbs, electro/house from Jupiter Jax, classical and experimental from Jess Rymer and Tricia Dawn Williams, quirky lo-fi hits from Bark Bark Discoand I can’t leave out Malta’s alternative gods: Brodu, Beangrowers and Brikkuni… just to mention a few!

L: It has a lot of potential, and I’m not just saying that because I’m Maltese and I’m in a band….but there aren’t a lot of people who try to go beyond Malta and break internationally. It is easy to get comfortable in Malta.  But seeing it from another perspective, Maltese people have a lot of things to offer and it’s such a shame that they just get too comfortable sometimes.

3. >>What is your most memorable music-related moment in Malta?

Alison Galea with Beangrowers – Photo by Oliver Degabriele

A: My most memorable music-related moment in Malta was when I got to perform “The Priest” with Beangrowers at the European Film Awardsparty to Wim Wenders. He danced and sang along to all the words. It was a proud moment for us as a band and for me as a lyricist, because he not only invited us to form part of his film’s soundtrack but he actually really knew and liked the song.

L:  I think, for me personally, it’s when I supported The Hives with my other band nosnow/noalps.I mean, meeting them backstage and eating pizza with them is quite a thing….definitely a highlight!

nosnow/noalps: Kaleidoscopes

Y: My most memorable moment must be performing at the yearly Xmas event Pudina in 2016. This party is organised by another extremely talented Maltese musician, Danjeli, and has been going strong for over ten years now. When Danjeliasked me to perform, I was nervous as my music was too mellow for a club setting. So I wrote and produced a completely new set specifically to suit the space. And wow! Did that go well! I got a lot of support and encouragement from that gig. It was a beautiful night.

4. >>Do you think that women and non-binary folk are well-represented in Malta’s underground music scene?

A: I am happy to see more female musicians these days because they express a sense of freedom in the way they perform which is way better than a decade or more ago. However, there are still too few women making music out there than I would like to see/hear. Till now, Malta’s underground music scene still remains a very male-dominated scene. I want to see more Maltese women kicking ass on stage!

L:  Maybe? I think it’s a yes…but the thing is I really hate these labels. After all, we’re a bunch of musicians…a bunch of creatives. Personally, I support everyone, whoever you are, and whatever you label yourself as.

Malta Sound Women Network Board Meeting

Y: Malta’s underground music scene, like everywhere else, is very much male-dominated. In the past, I have noticed festival line-ups and events with not one single woman/non-binary on the bill. However, things are changing, slowly, but they definitely keep getting better. Organisations like Electronic Music Malta, for example, organise events that promote women in electronic music and are very supportive to the Malta Sound Women Network. Moreover, more women are joining the underground music scene and performing on a regular basis. I can mention bands like Fuzzhoneys and Cryptic Street, and electronic artists such as Hearts Beating in TimeSunta and Princess Wonderful.

5. Any future plans for you and your projects?

A: Working on releasing a new album with Beangrowers in 2019 and also hoping to release another video for one our new tracks. One day I would like to create my own solo project comprising of songs I have written in different phases of my life.

L: There’s definitely something cooking. With Cryptic Street we’ve just recorded some material. As a creative, I’m trying to involve myself in different projects. I’m also trying to get more into studying different disciplines in order to have more ‘solid’ work. I think that the job of an artist is not to focus on one specific, boring thing, but to constantly experiment and challenge yourself.

Y: As Yews, I am working on an EP at the moment. With MSWN, we are working on making things more official and becoming a Voluntary Organisation. We have plenty of ideas for workshops. On the 13th of February, we have an event in collaboration with EMM (Electronic Music Malta). We have a screening of the documentary ’Raw Chicks. Berlin’ with an introduction by Jess Rymer and I (founders of MSWN) and a performance by Juliane Wolf.

Yews performing at Pudina 2016