All this new stuff they call rock ’n’ roll, why, I’ve been playing that for years now… Ninety percent of rock-and-roll artists came out of the church, their foundation is the church. SISTER ROSETTA THARPE (The pioneer)
MC: You guys are super proactive about your feminism and gender equality in the industry—what progress and pitfalls have you observed since you guys got your start?
AJ: “I remember once—we’re both really tall, like 5’ 9"—and we were wearing super high heels and a guy we used to work with was like, "Uh, I don’t think you should wear heels because it can be pretty offensive for a man when you’re taller than them.” So, the day after we put on even higher heels. It was shocking. There were also other people we used to work who were like, “We’d love to style you, but think you’d look better in less clothes.” And it’s stuff like that makes you feel nauseous. We don’t do music because of how we look, we want people to love our music and feel it.“
"THERE WERE ALSO OTHER PEOPLE WE USED TO WORK WHO WERE LIKE, ‘WE’D LOVE TO STYLE YOU, BUT THINK YOU’D LOOK BETTER IN LESS CLOTHES.’ AND IT’S STUFF LIKE THAT MAKES YOU FEEL NAUSEOUS.”
Caroline Hjelt: “And if we want to be naked, we want to do it because we want to be naked. We think it’s beautiful to be naked sometimes, but we want to choose that moment and be the ones deciding why we’re doing it. One frustration in the industry is that people do things like it’s always been done. They say "Oh, this is terrible, but this is how we’ve always done it.” Or this is how we did it with so and so artist back in the day. When you play at festivals, it’s still very much male dominated if you look at the headliners. There still needs to be change for the better, but now there are so many amazing female producers, instrumentalists, and engineers, and that’s something that’s happening more and more because it’s becoming more accepted.“
AJ: "It also feels like when girls play live, it’s like "Are you singing for real?” or “Are you really playing that instrument?” They ask us questions that really make us angry. It’s like you have to be twice as good as the guys to get on the same level.“
I’m sorry to inform you of this, but the three Mexican sisters who make up The Warning are already way more metal than you, and they’re not even old enough to drive a car. 14-year-old guitarist/vocalist Daniela, 12-year-old bassist Paulina and 9-year-old drummer Alejandra all look like adorable young ladies, but from the way they shred through Metallica’s 'Enter Sandman,’ you just know that beneath those sweet exteriors, lie things dark and unknowable. And not just because they’re teens/tweens.
They’re about one-third of the way toward raising the $30K they need to attend the Berklee College of Music’s summer program, though I’m not sure they need the help. Here are some of their other songs.”
Bare breasted girls dancing around a censer and playing the kithara, from the base of a nuptial lebes (4th century B.C), (Trachones, from the Geroulanos collection)
Note that the woman might have not been bare-breasted initially. In many cases a whiter pigment used for ribbons and clothes- probably a base for colour- can be seen fading and leaving only a faint impression. Since there are some little details in relief, the nakedness might be a draft to aid a subsequent rendering of the female anatomy in relief as well. Under close inspection the woman rather seems to be wearing a type of vest.
One day we are going to have a special about ancient women partying hard.
“Fabi Reyna began playing guitar when she was nine years old. She was living in Austin, Texas and, thanks to maybe the coolest mom in the world, she was enrolled in Rock ‘n Roll Camp For Girls in Portland when she was 13.
“Before then I don’t even think I knew that women were so prevalent in music—I definitely didn’t see it in the Guitar World magazines I picked up,” says Fabi, the out founder and Editor-in-Chief ofShe Shredsmagazine.
The question is one you’ve possibly heard before, and one Fabi was hearing too regularly: “How come there aren’t as many women who play guitar as men?” The response to this false conundrum felt like a light switch, because the bigger question should be, “How come women guitarists aren’t recognized in the same ways men are?”
Instinctively, and actively, Fabi began to create meaningful relationships and conversation with her favorite guitarists/bass players. She became acquainted with Tom Tom magazine, “the only magazine in the world dedicated to drummer girls and female drummers.” Fabi knew she wanted to create something very similar within her own wheelhouse—or, in this case, shredhouse. So in 2011, Fabi put together a 12-band festival in Portland called Shred Fest. The event raised money for their first issue ever, and with that, She Shreds magazine was born.
Part of their mission statement states quite simply what this magazine is all about: “Although She Shreds is inspired by and created for women, it is our hope that our impact reaches far beyond boundaries of gender to encourage radicalism, respect and revolution.” As of July 2, the magazine just realized their eighth issue, featuring Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki on the cover, plus interviews with Kate Nash, Girlpool, and an interview between Marissa Patermoster of Screaming Females and Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney. Tell me, does it get any better than that? In their Issue Seven, Bibi McGill made the cover with the header: “Not Just Beyonce’s Guitarist.” In just a few choice words—such an eye-catching cover seems to sum up She Shreds gorgeously.”
“Members of bands that routinely become the subject of petitions to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Fox and Gordon represent just two of hundreds of women bass players, many thumping away in obscurity and no small number achieving success in indie, punk, metal, and jazz bands, as solo artists, or as sessions musicians. Gordon’s low end helped drive the sound of nineties alt-rock (see her with Sonic Youth at the top), and Fox’s basslines underscored seventies hard rock (with the Runaways above).
Before either of them picked up the instrument, another hugely influential bassist, Carol Kaye, played on thousands of hits as a member of L.A.’s top flight session musicians, the Wrecking Crew. A trained jazz guitarist, Kaye’s discography includes Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made for Walking,” the Beach Boy’s “California Girls,” the Monkees “I’m a Believer,” Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright”… and that’s just a tiny sampling. (See Kaye give Kiss’s Gene Simmons a bass lesson, above, and don’t miss a lengthy interview with her here.)
No list of classic female bass players will ever be complete—there’s always one more name to add, one more bass riff to savor, one more argument to be had over who is over- and underrated. But it should provoke no argument whatsoever to point toward Meshell Ndegeocello as not only one of the most talented bass players, but one of the most talented musicians period of her generation.
Again, this is only the briefest, smallest sampling of excellent female bass players—in rock, jazz, soul, etc. An expanded list would include players like Melissa Auf der Maur, Esperanza Spalding, and many more names you may or may not have heard before.”
See the full list including a number of videos here
The International Sweethearts of Rhythm was the first integrated all-female band in the United States. During the 1940s, the 16-piece band featured some of the best female musicians of the day. Click here to view the trailer for a 1986 documentary about the Sweethearts.
Top photo: International Sweethearts of Rhythm, trombone section and part of saxophone section. Photographer unknown. Club Plantation, Culver City, CA, May, 1944.
Bottom photo: Newspaper clippings from The Louisville Defender, June 22, 1940. “Sweethearts of Rhythm”
International Sweethearts of Rhythm Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
This article by Syrian novelist Nihad Sirees includes info on “the banat ishreh — women who form intense, intimate relationships with other women and who meet in groups in order to sing, dance and socialize. The atmosphere at those soirees was rife with coquettishness, jealousy and love. Each woman would sit next to her particular friend and, in turn, would sing her a song. ….
"I had heard of two banat ishreh who lived together, and I wanted to meet them, so I called them and set up an appointment….
”The younger woman, whom I’ll call Ahlam for her protection, was a dark-eyed beauty. I’ll call her friend Hameed — she had given herself a man’s name, one that reminded me of the burly heroes of Egyptian movies from the 1960s. Hameed had a boyish haircut and a mannish way of sitting and smoking cigarettes. She acted as if she were the husband of Ahlam, and had even purchased a hair salon in Ahlam’s name in case something bad happened and she was no longer able to take care of her.
“Hameed was also a famous wedding singer who was known all over town, and wedding halls would fill to the brim with women who had come to hear her sing — and behave — like a man. They would clamber up onstage with her as she sang to the newlyweds, dancing and writhing around her.
"I loved those two women, and began to visit them whenever I could, soaking up Hameed’s stories about the banat ishreh … . ”
Like Japan’s Takarazuka, like the cross-dressing English music hall performers … Wonderful to see an example out of Syria! A moving article about what the war has done to music, and to these people in particular.May there be peace. And music, soon.