In conversation with Trash Kit’s Rachel Aggs

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Very few people have made such an impact on DIY punk music as guitarist and singer Rachel Aggs. She came to most people’s attention in 2009 as part of punk trio Trash Kit. Their sound is complex, channelling experiment bands like The Raincoats and Marnie Stern with melodic harmonies and polyrhythmic drum beats. She went on to form the ultimate post-punk party band Shopping whilst also playing in the pop duo Sacred Paws.

Loved by music nerds, punks and pop fans alike, she’s an under appreciated staple on the DIY punk scene and as a musician her melodic guitar has become as recognisable as her sung-spoken vocals and tumultuous hair do that always covers her face ever so slightly. Her fame is slowly starting to rise though; Aggs was recently named by i newspaper as one of the unsung heroes of British indie music and has gone on tour after tour with Shopping, the hardest working band in punk.

Read the full article at Gal-Dem.

I don’t always get paid for writing so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

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Black outlook: why the marginalised need sci-fi more than ever

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The world changes, but our need to take a break from it doesn’t. From H.G. Wells’s scientific fantasies to the popularity of the Marvel franchise and The Hunger Games, sci-fi has always been a preferred mode of escapism.

The reasons are numerous. One theory, by the 19th-century sociologist Max Weber, is that the west is in a state of disenchantment because of our society’s focus on rationality and bureaucracy over mysticism and wonder. This suggests that many people are leading predictable, stable lives and need an injection of fear and magic that seems completely removed from their own experiences. Or at least they used to feel that way.

2016 has been a fearful year. We’ve seen natural disasters, endless wars, the normalisation of far-right politics and a rise in white supremacy. Sometimes, sci-fi no longer feels like escapist fantasy. After the year we’ve all experienced it feels like we’re at the beginning of a film about a group of plucky teenagers who band together to take down the tyrant terrorising their world.

Read the full article at BFI blog.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

In conversation with Mangoseed

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My parents always used to say that there’s no song that wouldn’t sound better as a reggae song. Now that could have been their overwhelming sense of Jamaican importance (we always think we are the biggest island in the Caribbean) influencing their pride in reggae music but it’s hard to deny the brilliance of Jamaica’s most well-travelled genre. That’s why it’s always powerful to hear new bands who take the best elements of reggae and recreate it for today.

Mangoseed collect strains of roots music from around the world to create their multi-faceted south London sound. Formed in 2008, their gigs are always a stage show of well-coordinated moves, frantic guitars and steady, cautious bass lines. The band released their debut album Basquiat, a nod to American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, in 2014 and have high hopes for the future. gal-dem spoke to Mangoseed to find out more about the band and their original sound.

Read the full article at gal-dem.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

How much are black ideas worth?

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Image courtesy of Mike Linksvayer

In the past, if the average person wanted to know what was going on around the world, what the latest trends were or take in the thoughts of their generations most prolific thinkers they would have to open up a broadsheet and ingest the information given to them on the page.

Now with the avid use of social media that is no longer the case. Pew Research Center found that 62% of Americans get their new from social media. Since you can interact 24/7 on social media, gone are the days when newspaper pundits were seen as unchallengeable intellectuals. We no longer merely consume our information; we respond, offer our own analysis and become cultural critics in our own right.

This is most obviously the case for the black community who use social media in new and fantastic ways; from hilariously funny vine culture (RIP) to university debate worthy Facebook threads. Although black people are prolific across all social media platforms, the most well-known enclave of black thought has to be Black Twitter.

Read the full article at Media Diversified.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Fried chicken and swimming really aren’t pressing issues for Black British youth

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The BBC is an institution close to many people’s hearts. Known for its programmes about working your fingers to the bone baking a Victoria sponge in what must be an extremely stuffy marquee and surprisingly white East End communities, it has rarely ventured deeply into the topic of race, preferring to see itself as a non-partisan organisation.

This is probably what caught most people off guard when during the station’s promotion of BBC Newsbeat’s online documentary That Black British Feeling, which asked why Black Lives Matter is in the UK, they asked series of inane, reductive questions on their Twitter page. These included “Is it true all black people like chicken” and “The myths around swimming and being black …”.

For an organisation that’s usually too steeped in nostalgia to notice any changes in society this sideways jump to openly using racist stereotypes to start a conversation seems a little left-field. What happened to the BBC that never mentioned racism?

Read the full article at IBTimes.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Twenty Years or More From Stardom

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I want to play a game. Close your eyes, relax your mind and trust me. There’s a star onstage. A rebellious star, a captivating star, a rock star. When your eyes meet, you’re so breath taken by their presence that it feels like a weight has been dropped on you from above.

They make you move, they make you want to be them and they make you want to be with them. A well of creativity and a fountain of unending charm; they have the life experience of being downtrodden and disrespected to draw their art on.

Open your eyes. Now if you didn’t visualise a proud defiant black woman on stage then you and I are clearly reading from widely different history books. Don’t be too hard on yourself though. It’s an easy conclusion to reach considering we rarely hear about the accomplishments and influence of black women in any area. We only recently found out that the scientists that helped get America to the moon were black women. Who knows which other sisters’ names have been forgotten or falsely remembered?

Read the full article at Media Diversified.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

It’s clear which race the Italian Government wants to procreate

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Italy: The place to go for delectable cuisine, breathtaking culture and that creeping sensation that you’re living in worst of the 1950s. From Berlusconi’s many, many gaffs to the abuse thrown at black footballers, news from Italy has made us despair on many occasions.

The latest reason to shake our heads comes from Italian health minister, Beatrice Lorenzin, and her nosy insistence on butting into women’s lives to increase the birth rate in the country. Earlier this month, Lorenzin launched a series of posters to promote Fertility Day, which took place on 22nd September.

The posters featured women with hourglasses to demonstrate their ever dwindling biological clock and included slogans such as “Beauty knows no age. Fertility does” and “Reproducing is the best way for young couples to be creative”.

The Italian government and Lorenzin were roundly mocked for the sexist and ageist campaign, which was reminiscent of the fascist slogans of 1930s that encouraged women to have more children for the country.

Read my full article at IBTimes

Singer / Songwriter panel at Bridging the Gap

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It was great to speak on the singer / songwriter panel at Gal Dem‘s event Bridging the Gap: Women in Music at Rich Mix.

I shared a panel with Fran Lobo, Azadi, Laura Misch and Marie Dahlstrom.

We spoke about how we started, our influences and why we make music.

You can watch the recording of our conversation here.

 

Are all-male bands who use female names alienating women in music?

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With the likes of Single Mothers, Black Girls and Asian Babes using gendered terms to mask their masculinity, Stephanie Phillips investigates the effect it is having on women in music.

There’s an unspoken problem that all male bands face; how to stand out from the billion and one other all male bands. When you think about it can you really tell one bunch of sad looking guys in a shoegaze band from another? Aren’t Alt-J just Foals with a different haircut? Why do Thom Yorke and Chris Martin have the same interchangeably dull looking face?

Let’s face it, men are dry and said dryness has led to a trend amongst the more progressive end of indie and punk that involves finding new ways to be more than just ‘white men’. Some bands seek out female members to make them look diverse, some try on a different culture or style; blending in a half-arsed attempt at bhangra after a particularly enthralling trip to India. There are many ways to not come across as too stale, male and pale while still enjoying the benefits of said maleness and paleness.

Recently, all male bands have solved this problem by feminising their band names. Each year, music fans have the unenviable job of deciphering the reasons bands chose name such as Single Mothers, Black Girls andAsian Babes (Asian Babes actually do have one female member but we included them because it’s still such an awful name).

Read the full article on Getintothis

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Azealia Banks’s rage is understandable, but not when she’s using the rhetoric of white racists

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Shade is a hell of a drug. Once you take it you just can’t get enough.

The line between hilarity and pain is so fine it’s barely visible, but it’s there. That line got crossed once again yesterday when Azealia “the walking definition of the phrase ‘your faves are problematic'” Banks launched a vitriolic racist and homophobic attack on former One-Direction star Zayn Malik.

The Twitter rant was prompted by Azealia’s belief that Zayn copied her music video. When Zayn seemed to respond to her on Twitter stating, “I see you reaching but I don’t care” and “My @’s too good for you”, instead of Azealia replying with a quick, catty comeback, all hell broke loose.

Read the full article at IBTimes

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Crooked Grrrls

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Extract from an illustration by Kelsey Wroten

Originally published in One Beat Zine’s Identity Issue, November 2015

I always knew that I was different. Well, not that I was different but that I was treated differently to other people. From an early age I was used to the different tone, the sad looks, the blank faces my presence would draw out of everyone and anyone I came across. I noticed the difference in the ways I was treated compared to other little girls my age. I didn’t know what exactly was causing this wave of indifference to everyone around me but I knew that it centred not just on me but how others perceived me.

If you don’t know, it can be hard growing up as a little black girl child. I’m not feeling sorry for myself, just stating the facts.  The treatment I received and interactions I had with people were all heavily influenced by how they perceived my blackness and therefore value. The different tone was one in reaction to my perceived threatening nature. The sad looks reflected the pity they felt looking at my unconventional appearance that didn’t fit the rigid Eurocentric beauty standards. The blank faces were from those who do not even rate my existence as worth acknowledging.

Navigating this world is complicated, confusing and requires an ability to both adapt to different identities and to be able to deal with the reconstructed concepts of black female identity imposed on you by society. Like many black women I found myself representing all things to all people. Having a fixed identity during my teenage years to early twenties became secondary to keeping the perception society has about black women alive.

Sometimes I was shy and quiet, easier to get through the day if no one knew what I was thinking; sometimes I was more gregarious, playing the fun black best friend from every sitcom ever; sometimes I tried to over compensate and be better than my white counterparts, knowing that I’d be judged more harshly than them.

Dealing with such contradictory personality traits and expectations it is no wonder that black women can find it hard to find their own identity. But not all is lost. This is the point in the story where every black girl needs to hear political scientist, Melissa Harris-Perry’s theory on the impact stereotypes have on black women’s lives. In her book Sister Citizen, Harris-Perry refers to the ‘Crooked Room’ theory; a post world war two field dependence study that saw subjects placed in a crooked room in a crooked chair and asked to find their vertical. Many subjects believed themselves to be standing up straight in relation to their surroundings even though they were standing at angles of up to 35 degrees.

Harris-Perry expands this theory to suggest that when black women have to confront race and gender stereotypes and are constantly shown warped versions of their own humanity they are standing in their own crooked room. Sometimes we see ourselves purely in relation to our surroundings and adapt to become the Jezebel, strong black woman, baby mama that we see looking back at us. Have you ever acted up and louder than you normally would around white friends and asked why? It’s because that is the way we have been taught to act.

Of course, sometimes we ignore our surroundings, see the damaging images for what they really are and stand tall.  This is not something that every black woman is able to, or feels comfortable enough to do. They may not be at the right point in their life or may not understand how to be once you break down that wall. After all even when you stand up straight you’re still in the same crooked room with the same images weighing down on you, forcing you to conform.

To stand up straight, take a look at the images and stereotypes around us and see how cartoon-like we would have to be to truly meet the stereotype of the black woman. Once we see it for what it is, slowly that room will start to transform. On the walls a space will emerge, ready to create a new identity based on beauty, intellect, and power for each and every black woman.

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.

Article in Intersectional Politics For Punx Zine

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You can order the first issue of Intersection Politics for Punx zine which features my article. The first issue focuses on race and racism in the UK DIY punk scene.

I wrote about growing up listening to pop punk as a teenager in the Midlands and the unintentional violence of white femininity.

The zine was edited and compiled by Cassie Agbehenu, bassist in Fight Rosa Fight, who says that she was “sick of being the only person of colour at shows when she knew of punx of colour sitting at home and not feeling welcome. We’ve got so much work to do and so many conversations to start.”

I don’t always get paid for my work, so if you’ve liked my pieces and want me to write more you can donate a couple pennies to keep me going in between paid work.