Singing and Self Recovery

Image courtesy of My Heart Sings.
Image courtesy of My Heart Sings.

Like most people stress can get the best of me. Project after project, priority after priority: it can eventually become too much. I started to look for ways to tend to my depleted emotional wellbeing and put an end to the monotonous cycle of stress I had become caught up in; but what should I choose? Yoga just confused me and meditating made me sleepy. I thought I was at a loss until I discovered a local women’s singing group.

While it may be a pastime usually relegated to the stage or the shower, depending on the singer, singing is proven to be incredibly beneficial to your mental and physical well being. The Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health recommends singing as a way of promoting mental wellbeing and researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden have discovered that choir members’ heartbeats synchronise when they sing together. This brings on a calming effect similar to yoga.

Read the full article at The F-Word.

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.

 

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Review | Girls: Meet Your Punk Foremothers

Image courtesy of BBC.
Image courtesy of BBC.

When it comes to documentaries on women in punk, the topic is usually given a brief five minute recap. A few token women are name-checked in between various dog-toothed male veterans discussing whether Lydon or Strummer influenced them the most. So when I see The Culture Show has a special half hour feature on women in punk I immediately sit down to see what it is all about.

In Girls Will be Girls, presenter Miranda Sawyer documents the history of women in punk during the early era of 1976/77 when it was limited to squats and small shows across London. Focusing on the stories of veterans Viv Albertine, guitarist in The Slits, and Chrissie Hynde, Sawyer inquisitively asks whether the female punk spirit still survives today. The answer is obviously yes, but let’s move on.

Read the full article at The F-Word. 

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.

No I Won’t Get Your Tea On: Self Care in the Punk Scene

Image

Here we go. The not all men brigade strikes again. Legend has it the army has soldier posted near every woman, primed and ready for the moment she questions any part of the patriarchal nature of our society.

In the firing line this time is noise pop group, Joanna Gruesome’s singer Alanna McArdle who in an interview with Drowned in Sound made a few observations on misogyny in music. The article was posted on Drowned in Sound’s facebook page and in response readers wrote varying degrees of offensive comments such as “There’s nothing like blaming your own lack of success on imaginary things”, “Get over yourself, love” or the ever faithful “Now get my tea on”. No matter what your saying about misogyny it always boils down to ‘that’ comment in the end. Like an ever faithful dog that always returns to shit on your carpet, some form of the “get my tea” line will be repeated till the end of time.

Originally published at The F Word. Read more here.

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.

Retrospective | Lady Bo

lady bo

I’ve spent the last few days researching my black female guitar foremothers in an almighty playlist that I’ll share with you all soon. In the process I discovered Lady Bo, lead guitarist in Bo Diddley’s band from 1957-1961. Lady Bo, real name Peggy Jones, was the first female guitarist to be hired by a major act and was a huge influence on Diddley and his sound.

Jones’ life was changed after a chance encounter with Bo Diddley before a gig at the Apollo Theatre. She was carrying her guitar with her; Diddley who was so stunned to see a beautiful woman with a guitar invited her to the dressing room as Jones recounts in an interview with Lea Gilmore:

After a while he opened his guitar, asked me to grab mine and play something. When I opened my case he laughed louder than anyone I’d heard before. I wanted to know what’s funny? Hysterically he said what is that? He had never seen a Supro guitar. I said, “Now that’s a dumb question! First you probably never saw a girl carrying a guitar down the street before and want to know if I played it, did you think that was funny?” He said, “No!” I continued, “then you insult my ax and I listen to Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell and Charlie Parker and I think I’’ve heard of you! Do you think that’s funny?” He said, “No, but I like your attitude, let’s play something.” I said OK and the rest is history.

Although Jones had only been playing guitar for two years she had shown a talent for music from a young age. Growing up in the Sugar Hill district of Manhattan she enjoyed tap dancing at an early age and studied opera and learnt the ukulele at age 9.  She graduated from New York’s High School for Performing Arts studying dance, drama and music theory.

Read the rest of this post over at Don’t Dance Her Down Boys.

We Need to Talk About Racism in Punk

black punk

I recently wrote an article about my experiences in a white majority punk scene and culture and why we need to talk about racism in the punk scene.

The initial article was posted on Collapse Board and received a lot of coverage and comments.

I wrote a follow up article on my music blog, Don’t Dance Her Down Boys, responding to some of the comments I received from the first article.

It is an issue that I feel strongly about and aim to write more about in the near future.

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.

Review | Skinny Girl Diet / The Ethical Debating Society Split Single

SGD  TEDS single

Originally published at The Girls Are

Skinny Girl Diet/Ethical Debating SocietySplit 7″ EP, HHBTM Records

When exactly did riot grrrl die again? Someone said it was in 1994, when it got too big and disillusioned. Some say it was when Bikini Kill broke up. Some say it was as soon as it began; a star too bright it obviously had to fade away. Why do things have to die? Can’t they rise and fall, hibernate for a few years and then re-emerge in a new form ready to fit into the time, culture and political landscape they find themselves in. In an age where Pussy Riot proudly declare themselves riot grrrls and the 90′s – and everything that came along with it including terrible comedy rap songs –  is cool again, it is safe to say that riot grrrl is alive, fierce and focused on the road ahead.

Click here to read more.

Reclaiming rubbish design: eco friendly interiors with 2012Architecten

Originally posted at Design Build Network.

As environmental issues become ever more important in our society, interior designers are increasingly looking to make their interior pieces more eco friendly. While many designers choose to incorporate sustainably sourced wallpaper, clay paints or organic fabrics into their designs, few have taken the route of the Netherlands-based company, 2012Architecten, who merge sustainability and innovative designs using reclaimed materials.

Led by directors Jan Jongert, Césare Peeren and Jeroen Bergsma, 2012Architecten was founded 15 years ago when eco design and sustainability was not as widely known as it is now. This focus on sustainability has led to some unique, mad-cap designs, including a dance floor made out of desks, windmill blades masquerading as a playground and an office decorated with old ceiling tiles and teddy bears.

When you start throwing teddy bears and windmills into the mix many would say you risk being labelled as quirky or kitsch. 2012Architecten certainly don’t worry about being quirky, in fact they wear their quirky label with pride, regarding their innovative designs as a more “playful” way of promoting environmental issues.

Superuse – redesigning waste

To understand 2012Architecten you first have to understand Superuse, their primary concept that affects every aspect of their business. “Superuse is the transformation of wasted materials, components and elements into a new purpose, giving it a secondary not pre-purposed [sic] life,” said director of 2012Architecten, Jan Jongert.

After the initial design period, the team research various sources of material in the local area and plot them on a harvest map, which shows potential materials and their distance from the building site. The aim of the map is to limit transport distance to reduce energy.

Since the final designs of their projects will always be influenced by what building materials they can find at the time, the team have to prepare for the fact that their designs are constantly in flux and may have to be changed once the materials are found. Jongert describes this stage in the project as a “parallel process”.

One of the company’s more complex projects was the design and construction of a residential villa built for a couple to showcase a collection of paintings. Around 60% of the villa was made from reused materials, including the villa’s kitchen drawers, which were made out of old billboards, as well as the curtains, which were made out of greenhouse foil.

Another of the company’s more complex projects was the redesign of avant-garde arts and culture institute WORM. After overcoming various restrictions that came along with the 19th century building, the team created the perfect home for the institute. They used reclaimed parts of an Indonesian Airlines Airbus for the concert hall and reused rolling photo archive cabinets found in the basement as furniture.

Hajo Doorn, director of WORM, said: “We didn’t know when we were starting or how it would look like in the end and that’s a very dynamic way of dealing with architects.”

It seems understandable that many would feel slightly concerned when faced with the idea of being surrounded by used materials. Jongert says he has noticed many of his clients have the same reaction: “In the beginning people react awkwardly … to the idea of using waste, but when we design we always find a new aesthetic and patterns with those materials and components, not revealing their origin in the first instance, but creating a new layer in the new function. People react positively and surprised when they discover the origin and depth.”

Although challenging, the experience of working with reused materials is certainly not something that Doorn regrets, saying: “It is fun to do it and to be environmentally friendly doesn’t mean it has to be boring.”

Transforming waste, transforming attitudes

Although the redecoration of interiors for homes or businesses are usually purely for aesthetics, using reclaimed or recycled materials can have as positive effect on the environment as reusing materials saves energy which would have been wasted creating new materials.

On 2012Architecten’s talent for using reclaimed materials, Jongert explains: “Our strength is that we look at what people find discarded and ugly and waste and transform that into new aesthetical products.”

The terms eco-friendly and green design have not always been as popular as they are now. Jongert knows this all too well and reflects on the changes that have occurred during his time in the industry.

“When we started 15 years ago there was not much interest in these thoughts … the whole concept of recycling resources has pretty much changed,” Jongert says. “I think there is a much bigger understanding about this.”

The change in attitudes towards eco issues has seen 2012Architecten’s business increase year by year. “It has also changed the kind of projects that we are involved with so we started with very small interiors and more art-like projects and grew to really big interiors and buildings.”

Taking responsibility for green design

Along with its followers eco design also has its critics. The main criticism of eco design is that it puts politics before design, creating a clash between green and good design. Jongert strongly disagrees with this stance, stating that bad design is not limited to “conscious” designers.

“You have very bad green design and very bad non-conscious design as well and there is also very good design that doesn’t take care of anything. Design, I think, is about creating added value and in every process this is possible, the difference is the responsibility you take as a designer.

“It takes maybe a bit more effort to deal with all the contexts you have to take care of and to understand about it and that’s not something that designers are taught very much about in their education, but I think this is a new way to go.”

Another criticism of eco design is that it can be expensive to buy green products or make your home eco friendly, and in this economy many people may not want to spend money redecorating their homes in a sustainable and eco friendly way when redecorating is already seen as a luxury.

Jongert agrees that for many people, converting to an eco friendly lifestyle can be expensive, but he sees a way around it: “As soon as you find people in your neighbourhood that are a bit handy and you have material to supply, you can, on a very small scale, transform your direct environment, so I think that’s much more interesting.”

The design skills and knowledge of 2012Architecten might seem quite daunting to replicate, but the company wants to make it as easy as possible for ordinary people to make their homes eco friendly and sustainable using reclaimed materials.

“We are working on a digital ‘harvest map’ so that other designers as well can see what materials are available,” Jongert explains. “Because it is connected to superuse.org, you can get inspiration from other products that are being designed and gain the knowledge to make it possible to obtain these materials that would otherwise be hidden.”

“That is something that we think is essential, that materials should not be privatised after they are harvested. They are returned, in a way, to the public.”

Sounds of my Life | Riot Grrrl & Me

 

Originally posted at Serious as part of the ‘Sounds of my Life’ series.

Stephanie Phillips runs Don’t Dance Her Down Boys – a blog-shaped manifestation of her one woman mission to share a love of female musicians and female fronted bands with the world. She also contributes to various blogs we’ve previously featured here such as Black Feminists and The Girls Are, and below let’s us in on her life-defining discovery of Riot Grrrl.

I’ve always felt music hit me in a way that was different to other people. Certain songs can send chills along my spine and make me feel unsafe and uneasy. Others, from the first note, energise me and make me want to change the world before the song’s even ended. Even with my weird wiring for music, nothing has hit me as hard as when I first heard Bikini Kill way back when I was a chubby, unassuming teenager.

I am of the first generation that grew up with the internet and downloadable music so like most teenagers I spent most of my time searching for new music, desperately clicking on link after link hoping this song would be the one. That it would be the one to change my life. The song always comes around, you just never know when, fate’s not going to let you know in advance.

That song was I Like Fucking by Bikini Kill, an awesome title and even more awesome song. The song is a perfect, straight-to-the-point, two minute punk song that sees lead singer, Kathleen Hanna, sing about sex-positivity and how her love of pleasure does not make her less of a feminist. It’s fair to say that I was a tad taken aback by this. I wanted to know everything about this Bikini Kill, who they were, what they did and where they came from. This led me to Riot Grrrl.

Riot Grrrl is a feminist punk movement that started in the early nineties in the punk/indie scenes in Washington, DC in the US, moving to Portland and then very quickly to the rest of the states and various countries around the world. Bands such as Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill were at the heart of Riot Grrrl. The movement started in reaction to the male-dominated punk scene as a way for the girls to create their own culture, call out sexism when they see it and express themselves. Mostly it gave young girls a voice. Not the timid, quiet one they were used to but a loud, strong, confident voice that told anyone that could hear, ’they were in control of their own lives’. As a teenager that had the same timid, quiet voice I was completely drawn into the idea that you could have this voice, that you could create your own culture, look however you wanted and, most importantly, be a feminist.

If I didn’t learn what feminism was through Riot Grrrl I would have never realised that I had actually been a feminist for years, I just didn’t know there was a name for it.  Feminism has influenced me my entire life and has led me to work on Ladyfest, the Riot Grrrl inspired grassroots music and arts festival, set up my own music blog about female musicians and start my own band.

I throw myself into the DIY ethos of ‘create not consume’ because I’ve grown beyond tired of the limp, stale offerings mainstream culture attempts to shove down our throats. If their culture doesn’t fit, throw it off and make a new one, that’s the Riot Grrrl way.

Introducing | Stealing Sheep

Originally published at The Girls Are.

Gloom pop darlings Stealing Sheep have been on the indie gig circuit for a few years, but after signing with Heavenly Recordings they are ready to release their debut album, Into the Diamond Sun. We first discovered the three-piece a few years ago when they organised an eco friendly bike tour across the north England – any band that wants to put the pedal to the metal and ride on two wheels is a band we want to know about.

Stealing Sheep’s songs are like the smoke from the camp fire we’re sure they gather around every night; they bend, twist change into new and wonderful shapes. Their songs evoke images of a lone marionette or a disused fairground ride; beautiful, mysterious and dark. Stealing Sheep chat to us about recording at the legendary Abbey Road studios, downloadable sheep and a potential boat tour.

Could you explain who’s in the band and what you do?
Becky plays synths, Emily plays electric guitar and Lucy plays drums. We all sing and write the songs together.

You’re getting ready to release new single ‘Shut Eye’ – what can you tell us about it?
We recorded this song in Liverpool as part of our debut album, it’s about people and getting people together to try and change things for the better. We gathered lots of friends to sing the chorus with us and try and capture that feeling of togetherness. The song has grown over time as we started playing it on our second UK tour with Emmy the Great last year. It’s evolved musically based on these shows and how the audience has reacted. We also played in live at Maida Vale for Rob Da Bank and also for Mark Riley in sessions and every time we’ve recorded it in different ways and discovered more about the song. We worked with an animator in New York over Skype to create the music video and get across its meaning to people in a visual way too.

Continue reading Introducing | Stealing Sheep

Our Plastic Brits

tiffany_porter_zurich
Originally posted at Black Feminists UK
As someone who would rather sit on a barb wire chair in a locked room filled with the undeniably terrible sounds of Simply Red than do anything sports related the Olympics is a hard subject for me to tackle.
It’s boring, I don’t understand it and seeing all those toned, muscley thighs just make me feel insecure about my podgy, wobbly thighs. It isn’t my thing basically but I’m writing about it today because of a particularly vile brand of ‘othering’ that is being committed at the moment.
The Daily Mail has decided to unleash an aggressive campaign against athletes who will be competing in this summer’s Olympics who they have called, the new xenophobic phrase of the year, ‘Plastic Brits’.
The Mail have been going at the whole “they’re not from round these parts” bit for a while and their previous headlines on the subject include “Why we need plastic surgery”, “Team GB have ended up with a bunch of foreign wrestlers, I wish they would all shove off” and “London 2012 will be ruined by the call for plastic Brits”.
They take particular issue with Tiffany Porter, an American athlete who has dual nationality, and her appointment as the captain of Team GB at the World Indoor Championships in Turkey.
Jonathan McEvoy, Daily Mail reporter, complained: “British athletics played fast and loose with our national identity on Thursday by appointing as captain a ‘Plastic Brit’ who would not — or cannot — recite the words of God Save The Queen.”
Despite the fact that Porter has held a British passport since birth, her mother is British and her father Nigerian, the reporter still believes that she is not British enough, not worthy enough and certainly not one of us.
The use of meaningless, emotive notions of Britishness to show that she is not “one of us” is a cheap shot that I would hope that most people would see through but I fear they actually will not. The whole God Save The Queen line was thrown in so the average man / woman on the street would read it and cry “She CAN’T sing our national anthem. She WON’T sing our national anthem. Well then she’s not British enough, she’s not worthy enough, she’s certainly not one of us.
The term itself is so blatantly xenophobic and anti-foreign that I’m truly shocked that it has been repeated so widely in the media. We cannot accept this blatant attempt to set up an “other” for us to ridicule, mock and blame all our ills on. If Britain perform badly I’d bet a million quid that Porter and the other ‘plastics’ get to enjoy the blame for the British loss all by themselves. How lucky for them. Of course, being a hypocritical nation at our core, if we do well you know who will be the first to get a knighthood. “Our” Plastic Brits of course.

Introducing | Fear of Men

Originally posted at The Girls Are

The internet is a fickle mistress. It can make you or break you. A band could be the next best thing one minute and yesterday’s news the next. Fear of Men are one of the many bands that have become caught up in the fame-making machine, proving a mixtape and discussion favourite among many bloggers. Determined not to be labelled as another ‘buzz band’ the group have set their own path, releasing singles on labels such as Italian Beach Babes and Sex is Disgusting.

the girls are caught up with vocalist / guitarist Jess to discuss where art and music intertwine, the band’s popularity and unusual practice venues.

Continue reading Introducing | Fear of Men

How the Media Tackles Racism

Proud and Prejudiced: Channel 4

If you’re a TV addict like me you might have noticed that there has been a wealth of programmes tackling racism in the past few weeks, particularly focusing on the growing racial tensions in Luton.

My Hometown Fanatics, BBC Three, and Proud and Prejudiced, Channel 4, both focused on the Luton-based extremist groups the EDL and Muslims Against Crusaders. Another Channel 4 show about racism and multiculturalism is Make Bradford British; a Big Brother-esque two-part series that throws a mixed group of people from Bradford who failed a British citizen test into a house together to see if they can figure out “what it means to be British”. Yep, that age old question. Considering that we’ve been debating that for a while now it seems that they’ve been set up to fail really.

Now I have absolutely no idea why TV executives have decided that now is the time to discuss racism. Maybe they only just realised it actually existed. Maybe someone, a friend, acquaintance or even a passerby on the street, took them aside and whispered into their ear: “Oi you know that racism that you read about once. It still happens, you should do a programme about it.” Who knows how it happens, I suppose we can only imagine.

What I do know is that as a black woman who craves any type of representation in the media you would think I’d be happy that to have a debate about racism in Britain today on a nationwide stage. I would love that but I don’t believe that is the main aim of any of these programmes and that is why I was so desperately disappointed with all of them.

Make Bradford British sets out from the start deciding that multiculturalism has failed. I think that’s bollocks but everyone is entitled to their opinions not matter how much they frighteningly mimic David Cameron and his ridiculous world view. The housemates are all from a variety of backgrounds and are given the overwhelming task of deciding what it means to be British. Many of the housemates have their own prejudices and the programme is full of triggering and offensive language.

My main problem with the first episode is the way one of the Muslim housemates was set up to be the ‘problem’ of the house. Rashid was played out as the episode’s villain because he would not compromise missing out on praying at the Mosque to join the group on certain outings. Although he did finally give in and prayed while going out with the group, leading one white woman to realise that his faith and hers were extremely similar, I do not think the public will perceive him well. Rashid was portrayed in a negative light for the majority of the episode confirming many British people’s attitudes towards Muslims. I do not believe the one revelation about his character and faith at the end of the episode makes up for it. There is still another episode due to air Thursday 8 March, which could take a more positive turn but I do not believe it will because the makers of these shows are only interested in drama and shock value which leads me to the other two shows.

My Hometown Fanatics featured BBC Three presenter Stacey Dooley talking to the EDL and extremist Muslim groups with the aim of finding out why extremist groups are popping up in Luton. As you’ll probably be able to guess Dooley comes to no clear conclusion and, due to her truly terrible journalism skills, probably makes things worse.

Instead of taking a clear, rational look at what both groups had to say and using their own contradictory and nonsensical words to trip them up with Dooley decides to argue with every person she sees even going so far to say that it’s a “shame” that some Muslim women protesting had been rude to her. A “shame” is it. That a few women have in your eyes brought down all Muslim women because of what ‘they’ said. That’s a whole other blog post that I will tackle later because this one is already far too long. All the viewer learns from this programme is extreme, radicalised views that are great for getting annoyed at but do not actually tackle the real problem in Britain.

Proud and Prejudiced takes a slightly more removed view but still has the same result. The opposing groups both had chances to show themselves and show themselves up, which they did. The EDL leader, Stephen Lennon, repeatedly claimed that the EDL were not a racist group yet when Lennon brought out an Asian EDL member to speak at a rally the crowd turned, spat out racist remarks and several fights broke out. In turn Muslims Against Crusaders had their remarks countered by another member of the Muslim community who says the leader, Sayful Islam, did not know as much about the scriptures as he claimed.

In the end all three programmes are made for entertainment rather than to actually inform viewers. Producers will focus on drama and extreme views, which people can talk about in the office the next day, rather than a frank discussion on race.

What I would like to see is an hour dedicated to a roomful of people, a moderator and the free flow of ideas, experiences and values. Not to say that this would bring about the end of racism as we know it, but wouldn’t that be lovely, but it would at least inform the nation about what’s really going on in the lives of black people in Britain today. A safe space to take part in an honest discussion is the stepping stone to first understanding what racism is and then to breaking it down. But, I guess that would be boring to watch, or would it.

 

Originally posted at Black Feminists UK