The human voice has always been an enthralling and powerful instrument to me. The sound that escapes through parted lips can tell the deepest truths in a world where honesty is sorely needed. It can also open up the singer to a world of criticism when the truth becomes too much for the listener.
The insidious trope of a band of average white dudes fronted by a prop-like, traditionally pretty, female singer pervades the music industry. Despite the many calls for the music industry to take female musicians seriously, old-fashioned ideas about female performers, such as them lacking in technical skill, still persist in every crack and crease of this business.
So many female artists have experienced this demoralising treatment that it has almost become a grotesque routine. Former Joanna Gruesome vocalist, Alanna McArdle, wrote a brilliant article on the perils of being “just” a female vocalist in a world that lessens the validity of your role. Vocalists rarely get the full praise they deserve. The power and pressure that comes with being “the singer” is something Raphaelle Standell, from Montreal-based band Braids, knows all too well.
Whenever I walk into a newsagent’s in search for a music magazine that appeals to my wide ranging tastes, the wall of white male rock faces always leaves an overwhelming taste of disappointment in my mouth. Is it a long running joke or a seething hatred of all that is different that has resulted in the music industry’s refusal to represent the true diversity of talent in the music scene? That taste of disappointment quickly changes to proactive, forceful questioning of why isn’t there more on offer.
The usual defence thrown back at us is that music magazines that showcase more people of colour, women and trans people do not sell. Of course this is not true, as we have seen through the success of independent magazines that reflect the truly diverse nature of the artists creating our culture.
One such magazine is the free arts and culture magazine, BEAT, founded by DJ, writer and editor extraordinaire, Hanna Hanra. Since its inception in late 2010,BEAT has gone on to feature artists such as Grimes, The xx, Sky Ferreira and Dev Hynes, with Hanra behind the wheel. In an era where it is hard to decipher what music magazines truly stand for, an independent, exciting magazine driven by new artists is most welcome, so I was pleased to take the opportunity to have a chat with Hanna about BEAT‘s longevity and also touch on topics such as her experiences as a DJ and her thoughts on the 1990s grrrl revival…
Sway to the right, sway to the left. Uniform in motion and occasionally in style, the gentle dance that occurs in the pit can be a mesmerising experience, that is until a hurricane of hyper aggression cuts through the room; displacing the good time and good people.
Stage front at the Shacklewell Arms all dayer, despite a great atmosphere, signs promoting ‘Girls to the Front’ and a host of brilliant but un-mosh-inducing bands, by the time US hardcore band Perfect Pussy and noise pop favourites Joanna Gruesome came on, the crowd was in full throbbing mode. JG’s lead singer, Alanna McArdle, made several attempts to calm the crowd but to no avail. Left with the only option to monitor the crowd, McArdle kept a close eye on the pit; her voice filled with emotion and determination, her face steely and focused. The signs seemed like a mere joke afterwards but the good intention was certainly there.
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.
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.
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.