Punitive Damage, a Pacific Northwest-based hardcore punk band formed in 2018, rips hard. With a raw ferocity and a merciless attack on their instruments, their debut full length, This is the Blackout, which drops on October 14th via Atomic Action Records, rages at our decaying system.
At the center of the Punitive Damage eruption is Seattle bassist and professional skateboarder Kebs, whose passion for skateboarding, music, and social justice adds heat to This is The Blackout‘s meaningful scorch.
A longtime Seattle resident, Kebs first began learning guitar and getting interested in punk music at 12, inspired by her older brother’s collection of Green Day and Nirvana CDs. At the time, she was also starting to skateboard, a sport she says helped nourish her interest in music even further – she always takes a Bluetooth speaker with her to the skatepark, so she can jam while she skates.
“Skateboarding and music are naturally intertwined,” says Kebs, who went pro for Meow Skateboards in October 2020. “People put out skate videos and they’re edited to music… like Modest Mouse or Built to Spill come to mind, being a kid of the Northwest. I learned of a lot of bands through skateboarding.”
Through her teens and early twenties, Kebs continued pursuing her interest in music, learning a variety of instruments, and skating. While she excelled at both, she was also meeting resistance, exclusion, and loneliness as one of the only girls grinding rails or stepping on stage.
“Sometimes I’m skating and… it will pop [into] how some dude was a dick to me at the skatepark when I was a little girl and I’ll say, ‘fuck that’ and try my hardest,” says Kebs. “So, I’m constantly pushing myself to do things that feel scary. To get up on stage in front of people that might be better musicians than me, or play after a band that was fucking killing it that has way more following. I’m reminding myself that I’m strong and can do it.”
The pushback she faced as a young person also motivates Kebs to be a voice for justice and equity in the skating community, which is notoriously dominated by men—not unlike some aspects of the music community. As executive director of the nonprofit Skate Like a Girl, she works to empower girls and trans people through skateboarding. She’s also involved with Consent is Rad, an effort working bring cultures of consent to skate communities around the globe.
“I would say, in punk and hardcore culture, ten years ago people were talking about rape culture and sexual abuse, allyship, and racism. Skateboarding is a little bit slower to pick up on that, so I’ve taken some of the things that I’ve learned from punk and hardcore and brought that to skateboarding,” explains Kebs.
Vice versa, she brings her fight for social equity to the hardcore punk scene and to Punitive Damage, which she joined in 2018 after playing guitar for a band called Lowest Priority.
“Because my work with Skate Like a Girl is about creating space for women and trans and queer people in skateboarding and skateboarding has a big culture of teaching people how to skateboard, I’ve done that in punk as well,” she says, adding that she’s helped teach friends to play instruments.
Since their formation, Punitive Damage—including vocalist Jerkova, guitarist Czecho, drummer Alejandro, and bassist Kebs—has put out a few short EPs, but this month’s 13-track This Is The Blackout marks the band’s first full-length. Sure enough, issues of social equity and inclusion are topics tackled across their releases so far, particularly through the lens of Jerkova, who writes many of the lyrics and is the daughter of immigrants.
This is The Blackout also takes on other aspects of a defunct and unjust system—with roaring, acerbic emotion and a dash of hope. Kebs’ favorite track on the album, “Big Man,” explores how we “can’t afford to live, can’t afford to die” in an expensive and exploitative world. Hard-hitting “Nothing” condemns the complacency of Boomers, and “Pure Bloods/This Is The Sixth Sunrise,” draws comparisons to the present moment and the Nahua creation story in Aztec mythology, which suggests a time of massive tumult may be a beginning, not an end.
As the album drops, Kebs is proud of the entire thing and her commitment to community that made it possible.
“I feel like you could listen to the whole thing and not get bored,” says Kebs. “I think for me, it’s empowerment—and even though shit is fucked up and hard, that collectively, all we have is us. All we have is our friends and communities and the fun we create.”
Follow Punitive Damage on Twitter for ongoing updates.
Joan Osborne has been releasing albums since 1991, showing notable breadth as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist with music ranging from original rock and folk compositions to blues and soul covers. She’s earned seven Grammy nominations along the way, a testament to her prowess. Her tenth studio album, Trouble and Strife (out today), shows her continued growth as an artist, incorporating multiple genres and using her platform to speak out about some of the world’s biggest injustices.
Osborne considers the album a response to the current political climate in the U.S., particularly political corruption. “It’s calling out people who are abusing their power, and it also is trying to uplift people because we all have a lot of work to do to deal with this situation,” she says. “I think it’s important to use music to energize people and to give them a positive frame of mind.”
On “Hands Off,” she simultaneously addresses powerful men who use their status to get away with sexual assault and corporations that are abusing the environment. “Hands off of the fathers/Hands off of the mothers/Hands off of the sisters/Hands off of the brothers/Hands off of the oceans/Hands off of the sky/Hands off of the children/Give them wings to fly,” she sings against pounding bass and wild electric guitar.
On “What’s That You Say,” she speaks out about the country’s treatment of immigrants, collaborating with immigrant advocate Ana Maria Rea, a Texan who came to the U.S. from Mexico to seek safety after her father was kidnapped. Rea opens the song by speaking in Spanish about her plight, then Osborne soulfully sings lyrics she wrote based on interviews with her.
“It seems like we used to celebrate the immigrants who come and work hard and make a life for themselves, and it seems like as a nation, at least a big chunk of the population has forgotten that,” she says. “So I wanted to write a song about a person who has lived that immigration experience and who has made this country better because of coming here.”
The rest of the album ranges from the bluesy, keyboard-heavy “Panama” to the hopeful ballad “Whole Wide World” to the Western-inspired “Trouble and Strife,” where Bob Dylan’s influence comes through in the quirky vignettes of various American lives. In the catchy, classic-rock-esque “Boy Dontcha Know,” she talks about feeling uncomfortable in your gender role, and in “Never Get Tired (Of Loving You),” she lightens the mood with a love song to her daughter.
The album’s depth and range, both musically and topically, belies how quickly it was written: Osborne says she wrote all the songs in three days. “I had booked some musicians to come to my home studio, and I wasn’t sure what we were going to do even a week and even four days beforehand,” she remembers. “I didn’t know exactly what I was going to give them to record, and I just sat down and locked myself in a room, and for three days went through my ideas and my notebooks and my recordings and came up with most of these songs in a big rush.”
She then played the musicians rough demos, and together, they transformed them into sophisticated songs. “What I wanted was for people to feel like they were in that room with these amazing players and just experience these songs in the way I experienced them after giving them to this great band and having them transform it into something so wonderful,” she says.
The album is being released through her own record label, Womanly Hips Records, which she started early in her career, believing that no one would offer her a record deal. In response to fans she met while touring who wanted to buy her music, she poured over DIY manuals and figured out how to release records herself, naming the label in the interest of celebrating her own figure. Of course, she would eventually sign to a major to release her breakout LP Relish in 1995, which features her biggest hit to date, the Eric Bazilian-penned song “One of Us.” After releasing its follow up, Righteous Love, via Interscope in 2000, she returned to indie labels, including her own, to put out her releases.
Osborne has always been an activist as well as an artist, with a history of volunteering for Planned Parenthood and raising money for the organization through her concerts; she even promoted them at the women’s music festival the Lilith Fair after being expressly forbidden to do so by the hosting venue. But she considers Trouble and Strife the album to wed her artistry and activism more than any other. “I just feel like we’re the adults in the room right now in this country, and we have a responsibility to do everything we can to try to make the future a livable place for the next generation,” she says.
She hopes that after listening to the album, people see that “it’s possible to make our country and our world a better place with their participation,” she says. “I hope it’s a message of hope and energy, and I’m not lecturing to people — the music should be entertaining and fun to listen to, and you can dance to it as well. I wanted to have music that was fun to listen to and was energizing and uplifting, so I hope that’s what people take away from it: a sense of uplift.”
Follow Joan Osborne via Facebook for ongoing updates.
According to a 2014 study by the League of American Orchestras, less than 2% of musicians in American orchestras are African American, only 4.3% of conductors are black, and composers remain predominantly white as well. Hence, as a classically-trained cellist and person of color (POC), Ebony Miranda’s music career is in itself an act of resistance.
The classical tradition has resisted the influence of black music and perpetuated white supremacy for hundreds of years, and as one of Cornish College of the Art’s only students of color in the classical program, Miranda fought for more diversity in curricula, the student body and staff until their graduation in 2017. Years later, Miranda has also become a vocal organizer within Seattle’s official Black Lives Matter chapter, and their free improvisational solo project on electric cello, Undesirable Body, continues to explore and amplify the effects of racial oppression and the injustices faced by African Americans every day.
Ebony Miranda took some time away from supporting Seattle protesters on the front lines to speak with Playing Seattle about how music can be used as a tool in the fight against racism, their thoughts on the music industry’s blackout on Tuesday, and how allies in the music industry can step up to better support musicians of color in Seattle and beyond.
AF: Tell me about your background and how you go into music. Are you from Seattle?
EM: No, actually, I’m originally from Southern California. I moved up to Seattle seven years ago to attend Cornish. I started playing cello down there, went to a music/arts high school and decided to pursue music for school. I came to Cornish seven years ago, graduated with my degree in music, specifically classical music.
While I was studying classical music I had opportunities to do jazz band and that’s when I got more involved in free improv, in particular. Which is sort of what really set the stage for the music I do now. I never thought I’d be doing any type of improvised music but now it’s almost exclusively what I do and my solo project Undesirable Body is exclusively improv-based.
AF: And you decided to stay in Seattle. Did you feel you had enough of a community here? What prompted you to stay?
EM: Definitely, from a music point of view, yes. I was able to develop a lot of really great connections at my time at Cornish, especially in the improv scene, and really able to connect with a lot of different people, especially with those associated with Cafe Racer and greater than that, [the label] Table & Chairs. So I’ve been able to be part of some really cool things like play in the Seattle Improvised Music Festival and host a few sessions as well. The improv community here, to me, has always been a positive environment and has been a really nurturing space for me to develop and explore new ideas.
AF: What are some of your artistic inspirations?
EM: I will start with some music influences – I mean coming from a classical background, yes, there are a few composers that stick out. Being a cellist, Bach is a huge influence to me especially in terms of like how I think about improv, and I’m a really big fan of using double stops and I think about intervals pretty much constantly when creating my music. Having learned a good amount of the suites there’s a lot of double stop work in there and a lot of chord work. I think that has, one, made my left hand very strong because I really like to push all the limits, try to get all the weird stretched out chords as I can. Bach is definitely an influence, and I’m sure all cellists would say that, just that kind of style of thick chords and things like that. Also, when I was younger, Shostakovich was a great – his concept of melody. He was someone who lived in extremely dark times, under Stalin and horrible government, and was experiencing great pressure in his life and oppression. You can really hear that in his music, so from an emotional standpoint he always stuck out to me.
Sun Ra was a really great musical inspiration for me as well. My music may not be fully reflective of that – as a person and advocate for Black people in music. His love for our community. I’ve also sampled some of his work in some of my pieces as well. And really, a lot of what I’m putting into my music, the energy I’m putting behind it, is usually influenced – it isn’t even always necessarily events in my life, but just whatever I’m feeling in that moment. The overall feelings, my lived experience, if that makes sense.
AF: Once, when I saw you perform, you talked about the tortured relationship you’ve had with the cello. At the time, you talked about how a lot of your music has come out of a desire to untangle cello from the history of white supremacy in classical music. Could you talk a little bit more about that?
EM: So, at that time I had such a complicated relationship with my alma mater, to put it frankly. I had a complicated experience being one of the only black people in my department and knowing there was already a huge lack of representation there and just trying to find my place in the music world. I was really grappling with those feelings and trying to separate myself from the academia side of things and for myself realized what playing cello and music is about. From an early age I knew I was never going to be, you know, in the concert hall as a soloist, but I also knew I loved playing and for some reason people enjoyed hearing me play, so I think I was just trying to discover what was out there and possible for me as a musician.
Over the past few years I’ve gotten more experience, which alone has helped. I also switched to an electric cello and that did a lot for me to expand my sound. Also, [the electric cello] had the potential to be a lot louder, which was something new for me as well. That really opened some doors to explore my instrument, because I was literally playing on a new instrument. I [still do] some gigs where I play classical music or classical adjacent music or chamber music, things like that, but I don’t feel that burden anymore, that complicated relationship. I think I’ve been able to find what I enjoy most and really run with it. So when I do go back it’s like visiting an old friend – not to sound too corny. I am able to approach that style of music on my own terms now.
AF: Can you talk about being one of the only POC at Cornish College of the Arts?
EM: It’s not just the music department – I think in general a lot of POC students at Cornish struggle to find representation not only within Cornish as an institution but also in the curriculum being studied. I think there was a general dissatisfaction with the lack of diversity in the material we were given. I actually formed a People of Color Union at Cornish, a POC Union to help group us together and discuss what the discrepancies were within our departments and within Cornish as a whole. To put it simply, it was just trying to challenge either certain policies that the school had instated, or encourage diversity in curriculum and staff as well. One of our biggest achievements was being able to get a therapist of color on campus, which was a huge thing for us. A lot of universities and colleges, any sort of institution—they could always use a little… input.
AF: You’ve talked about using music to transform and heal. How do you think music can be used as a tool to fight what’s going on in the world right now in terms of racism and unrest?
EM: I feel like this can go so many ways. There’s the literal application of putting your personal political beliefs within music. Either through words, or making it a concept, really stamping on, like, ‘this is my statement.’ Literally using the music to fight back or to encourage change. But I think there are other avenues as well, and part of that is representation. Even if the people on stage may not be giving a political performance, it’s also very encouraging to see people that look like you or who are in your community expressing themselves as well. Someone like me, I make strictly instrumental music for the most part but I still get told that the energy I have behind my music, the values I have as a person are very prevalent. I feel just as much whether you have a verbal effect, you also have an emotional effect as well.
Even if it’s for the purpose of just bringing people together. For example, I hosted a fundraiser a couple years ago when all of the protests were happening at the detention centers. I hosted a fundraiser for Northwest Immigrants Rights Project for when the movement of families belong together was happening. But yeah, I hosted, I performed along with two of my friends and it was great. We definitely had some good messages in between. We had a wonderful host that reminded everyone why they were there. But at the end of the day we didn’t necessarily have anything to do with immigrant rights or detention centers but it was just having music there in that space, that energy present really made an impact for folks.
AF: When did you start considering yourself an activist and getting more involved?
EM: I mainly started getting involved in things when I was around 19 or 20 – really the Black Lives Matter movement as a whole got me more politically involved in things. I remember I hosted a silent protest once, just me and one other person. That was the first time I did a political action, if you will. And I also participated in a lot of the protests that were happening in 2015. That must have been the officer who killed Mike Brown – that was a big, especially here in Seattle. There was a really big explosive impact and was kind of the start of BLM activity in Seattle. That was when the original chapter was started. So I started getting more involved that way and participated in some protests. There I mainly focused on ways I could act within Cornish since that was the context of most of my life – that’s when I created the POC Union and we put together a yearly show for people of color there and that was really great, and I was in a lot of meetings with administration really trying to push for change there. At my last year at Cornish in 2017, I was an organizer for the Women’s March on Seattle, the first one. For me personally it was a big mess, but it made me learn a lot about grassroots organizing, what I like and didn’t like about it, and got me back into getting more involved in the political scene, since I was finishing school at the time.
At the end of 2017, myself and two other individuals founded Black Lives Matter Seattle – King County as the original chapter had been long gone and dissolved by then. Myself and two others founded that at the end of 2017, and we created our board, got incorporated and got all the official business out of the way. We do go by BLM-Seattle too, for short, but in our mission we incorporate all of King County.
AF: I saw you posted on Facebook about protests – I’ve heard that the BLM activists weren’t involved in a lot of the Seattle protests over the weekend, is that true?
EM: It’s about half and half. It’s been hard to decipher information, but essentially there was one protest – well, let’s back up. There was a protest happening on Friday that was organized by local anarchist and leftist groups. There was a demonstration on Saturday at noon that was being put on by a white ally [who] brought in some people from the King County NAACP [to speak]. And then there was another one that happened later that day that was hosted by a black organization called Not This Time, and they’re most known for putting on the campaign to get I-940 passed, that’s what they’re connected with. And then there’s another demonstration happening on June 14th, that claims to be the original BLM “chapter,” but it is an individual who was involved in those movements back then. He essentially hosts the majority of any protest that we’ve seen with Black Lives Matter. You know how they have the Black Lives Matter Friday and things like that? He is hosted those events. He’s an individual, not a chapter. There’s a lot of confusion.
AF: It is really confusing. It all gets muddled on social media too. Can you tell me how the George Floyd protests have affected you, and have you been involved in any of them through BLM or individually? Can you clarify your BLM chapter’s stance on protesting during the pandemic?
EM: It was a pretty tough decision – a lot of events were popping up this past weekend, and as we’ve seen continuing throughout the week, so as an organization our board is not currently hosting any in-person protests for a couple reasons, the main reason being we’re still in the pandemic, COVID-19 is still extremely vicious and prominent within black and brown communities, and as an organization we figured it would not be best to encourage our community to go out and protest. We are a thousand percent behind those who do feel the need to demonstrate and we’re not going to tell people not to protest because we fully understand why people do, but if they’re feeling on the fence about it, we want people to know we are understanding of the fact that we are still in a pandemic. We do care about our community first. In lieu of that, we have mainly been working behind the scenes to provide support for those who are deciding to protest. So, we have created our bail fund which got fully funded, and which I am extremely excited about. We created a protester safety guide that is on our website. It has COVID safety information as well as a lot of different resources for folks that are going to be out there. And then, with the bail fund we are also working on helping bail out protesters who are getting arrested. That’s all happening right now.
It’s such a weird juxtaposition of feelings — there’s so much crisis happening, I’m emotionally exhausted and there’s so much grief happening, but at the same time it has been extremely encouraging to see how much community support we’ve been getting. Our [local] chapter has not gotten this type of attention ever really and we’ve been around almost two years and have been doing a lot of really great work. It’s been really incredible seeing people come out to support us and support the work we do [and] we’re still with our community and still want to support people in any way we can.
AF: What can the music community do to support BLM and more broadly, POC musicians?
EM: I have a lot of different thoughts pop up. I think a really great example is the Seattle Symphony hosting a march, which I was really shocked at! I thought it was really cool. It goes back to my personal experience – there’s still a lot of racism and sexism within music community, especially in the classical music community, and there’s always so many talks about how we create diversity within classical music, whether it be on stage or in the concert hall. How do we do outreach, how do we make this music accessible to people? Performances are going to be on hold for a long time so this is the perfect time to really strategize on how we can make classical music in particular more accessible to marginalized communities, whether it be in education, or performance, or just accessibility to hearing that kind of music. A lot of symphonies and organizations and music unions and educators should be thinking about those things. It’s really reflective of the amount of time that I’ve been criticized because I couldn’t afford lessons, because my mom was working two jobs so I could go to my arts high school. Lack of resources [is something] a lot of young Black and POC kids experience when trying to pursue a field that’s incredibly expensive. I think this is the perfect time to think about that.
In terms of the greater music scene, especially when we’re all starting to really feel the effects of COVID-19 in terms of our work, supporting Black and POC musicians, making sure their music is getting played and they’re getting the support they deserve. Again, it just comes back to that – even in mainstream festivals, there’s still a big lack of diversity. So again, how do you make sure you’re curating your venues to really be diverse – not to just tokenize, but truly be diverse. What audiences are you really advertising towards? Who’s your audience and why? What crowds do you want in your establishment? There’s still gatekeeping in that sense. I can very much tell if the space has me in mind or not, whether I’m playing at a venue or attending one.
AF: Speaking of taking advantage of the pause, what do you think about #theshowmustbepaused social media campaign?
EM: It turned into a giant mess. I didn’t even actually know that it was started by the music community. I think people very quickly realized how damaging it could be to fill up a very relevant hashtag with a bunch of blank images. I think people understood the harm that has caused, but to the original purpose of it, what it was meant to be, it wasn’t anyone’s fault that it got misconstrued. That’s just how social media works at times. From what I remember from reading, it was a way for the music community not to promote anything and really pause everything to honor POC.
My personal feelings on actions like that, while I think the visual and yes the more performative aspect of those types of actions can have a lot of impact on people, for someone like myself who’s been doing this work and been involved in this type of environment for a long time, concrete action and consistent concrete action is always the most impactful. I always tell people, any action you do, you can do one really big action but it may not be as worthwhile as even like a smaller but very consistent action. As we always say it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. In two weeks, Black people are still unfortunately at high risk of getting killed by police in this country. These record companies want to take a stand – that’s great, but again, you really need to apply that in all elements of your company. Who you’re signing, payment of your artists, the money they’re able to make from you and feel supported and feel represented as well.
Stay tuned to Ebony Miranda’s website for ongoing updates and new music.
On her catchy new single, Nigerian hip-hop/afro-pop artist Bella Alubo sings about being the “Loneliest Girl in the World” — a position many people under quarantine can relate to right now. But for some people in the midst of the pandemic, loneliness is the least of their worries. That’s why Alubo donated her single to Red Hot, which uses music to raise money for various charities, mainly to raise awareness in the fight against AIDS/HIV and related health and social issues.
Alubo has released two albums since 2017 – her debut EP re-Bella and last year’s Summer’s Over, which feature a wide array of Nigerian guest talent. “Loneliest Girl in the World,” along with four other songs all written and performed by Nigerian women, is part of an EP called Kele•le. Revenue from the project will be used to provide relief for people affected by COVID-19. We talked to Alubo about the importance of the EP, not just for helping victims of the global pandemic but also for shedding light on Nigerian women and their music.
AF: What inspired the song “Loneliest Girl in the World”?
BA: I usually feel lonely, and I’m sure it’s something a lot of people around the world feel, not just creatives. Especially when you have to work on something and you are focused on your dream and things are not looking the best. At that point [I wrote the song], I just started my Masters [in Public Health]. Back then, I was in London. I was living upstairs of my apartment complex, which was quite tiny, and the tiny space forces you to think a lot. I think my bank account then was literally red. I don’t know, I just felt like it wasn’t a good day for me at all.
AF: What does it mean to you to be on the Kele•le EP?
BA: It’s a difficult time for the whole world, and there are some people out there who can’t afford a lot of things. People shouldn’t be in such vulnerable positions in the first place. Really, if we can help in any way, it will go a long way. Right now, the help I have to offer is my music, my talent, my time through sharing what I create. And with COVID-19 coming without anybody expecting it, obviously this help is much needed. Especially in vulnerable societies.
Sometime creatives, like myself, may not be able to contribute financially to a level that would be impactful, but when organizations like Red Hot, who are using something that we can give, like our creativity and music, to help the world around us, I feel like that such is a such a creative avenue for artists to give back. It’s helping me give back in my own way, right now. Before I can become super rich and can do more, hopefully by God’s grace.
AF: Why do you think it’s important to spotlight Nigerian female artists?
BA: Because it’s pretty much affirmative action. The industry, like all other industries, is male-dominated. It would be nice to see women more. Women need visibility. Women need for people to take note of their art. There are a lot of talented women, and the only reason they aren’t making money is because they don’t have visibility. So, projects like the Kele•le EP are not only giving back to society, but it’s contributing to creating visibility for talented women.
AF: How would you like to change people’s perception of Nigerian culture?
BA: Not just changing perception of non-Nigerians but also perceptions of Nigerians. Obviously outside Nigeria, even though we’re known for being smart, creative, and resilient, sometimes we’re also known for not-so-great things. I’d like for people to see more great sides of Nigerians, better representation of our country, more achievements, young people being more innovative and proactive within their fields. Within our country, I’d like us to get rid of negative aspects of our culture. Obviously, patriarchy has to go, as it shouldn’t have existed in the first place. Sexism, tribalism, classism, all of that has to go because it’s unethical. I’m hoping our culture gets more ethical with time.
AF: What battles are Nigerian women in particular fighting right now?
BA: If you follow Nigerian Twitter, there has been a lot of outing of alleged sexual predators, alleged rapists, alleged abusers, alleged harassers; I’m actually so glad we are having this conversation. About a few years ago, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. People would probably feel like they need to be ashamed that things happened to them, if people were raped or sexually harassed.
We need to facilitate a culture where we encourage victims to speak up, as victims don’t always feel they can speak up as we have these conversations. A lot of women have been abused. A lot of women have to bottle it down. It ends up creating issues in their lives, issues with their trust, mental health. Nobody should have to feel like someone can treat them badly and not pay the consequences of their actions.
Younger men are getting educated. Men who have done wrong things in the past are getting educated. Obviously, ignorance is not an excuse, and men or even women who are guilty of such crimes are paying for their crimes; our system really needs to be on that. Someone was telling me a story about a judge asking a lady, “What were you doing at his house at night?” And this is a judge who needs to uphold the law. It’s a lot. It’s really a lot. It’s quite depressing if you think about it. We need to fight, we need to not back down, we need to stand our ground, we need to use our voices because we shouldn’t allow anyone to silence us.
For this week’s Playing Cincinnati, we traveled 20 miles north to Dave Chappelle’s Gem City Shine Benefit Concert in Dayton, Ohio.
Chappelle, who lives in the neighboring Ohio town of Yellow Springs, threw the enormous block party to commemorate the nine lives lost in a recent mass shooting at a local bar that left nine people dead. Over 20,000 people attended the star-studded event to see Stevie Wonder, Chance the Rapper, Teyana Taylor, Jon Stewart, and more.
Throughout Gem City Shine, Chappelle preached unity and resilience.
“We’re not just doing this for our city,” Chappelle said. “We’re doing this for every victim of every mass shooting in our country.”
For his efforts, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley also took the stage to deem August 25 as Dave Chappelle Day.
The day began with a Sunday Service lead by Kanye West in Dayton’s RiverScape MetroPark. Rumors had been circulating about what A-listers would attend the evening benefit, including Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, John Legend, and Barack Obama. There were some murmurings about Gaga working the funnel cake booth – however, she did not perform.
DJ Trauma kicked off the event, with performances followed by Thundercat, Talib Kweli, and Teyana Taylor.
Jon Stewart arrived to lead the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to Chappelle, who turned 46 on Saturday, and to introduce Chance the Rapper.
“Dayton, Ohio, you have reclaimed this area with love, with hope, and with resilience,” Stewart said.
Chance turned up with old favorites and new songs off his latest album, The Big Day.
“I appreciate ya’ll so much for showing up as a city, for representing love, to represent healing and to represent community,” Chance said. “I pray that we get some type of protection from this and grow from it.”
Stevie Wonder emerged as Gem City Shine’s headliner, performing hits like “Higher Ground,” “Superstition,” and even singing another round of “Happy Birthday” for Chappelle.
“This is how we really will honor them,” Wonder said of the Dayton victims. “By making sure we change the gun laws of this nation.”
Throughout the event, attendees were encouraged to donate to the victims’ families through the Dayton Oregon District Tragedy Fund and to sign the petition in support of gun control laws in Ohio. Donations are still being accepted online here.
With three very active members in Cincy’s hip-hop community, TRIIIBE always has a lot going on. Aziza Love recently dropped her solo effort Views From The Cut EP, Siri Imani is gearing up to release her debut solo project Therapy project next month, and as a trio they’ve not only been working on new music, but also developing community outreach projects, and credit Cincinnati for stepping up and following them on their musical and philanthropic journey.
After their Bunbury Music Festival set on June 2, members Siri Imani, PXVCE, and Aziza Love opened up about spreading positivity on stage, their individual and group growth, their next album arriving this fall, details on their youth and homeless outreach programs, and the important of investing in their community.
AF: Your set was awesome, really great energy. Siri, I know you have a solo project coming out soon, can you tell me a little bit about it?
Siri: Yeah, it’s called Therapy. It releases on July 19. It definitely just goes into a journey of my life, not only this year, but just everything I’ve been through.
AF: And since it’s your debut solo, how has that been different from your usual group recording?
Siri: It is different. Not too different, because PXVCE is producing pretty much every beat that’s on the project, so it still has the TRIIIBE feel. It has the same vibe and message, but it’s more personal and it’s more specific. Therapy goes into five points and it’s the five stages of healing from PTSD and it goes into different parts of my life that reflect those different stages, leading into the transition of a healthier life and healing.
AF: At your set today, you had everybody repeat: “I love me.” You said, “You are worthy.” You implement that positivity not only into your music, but also in your stage presence. Why are those messages important to you?
Aziza: I feel like healing is its own vibration. Music carries and supports that vibration when we all come together to speak our truths. I think that, in itself, creates the opportunity for community healing. So our music, not only when we perform live, but when we’re in the studio among ourselves performing, we open that space for clear communication and raw expression and that, in itself, can be a release, which supports a healthier state of mind, spirit, and being. So joining with people we’ve never met before in that same space, to invite them to do the same thing, I think is really powerful.
PXVCE: It’s a healing process. It’s a transfer of energy. We are able to get to know the audience [and] the audience is able to get to know us, in a very small amount of time, and it’s a lot of our first impressions for a lot of people, so in order for us to relay our message I think it’s powerful to have it received so easily. Words are very powerful; vibrations are very powerful. With us saying, ‘We love you, we love ourselves,’ I think it is very healing.
AF: Siri, you’ve got a solo project coming out. Aziza, you just released your Views From The Cut EP. Is TRIIIBE recording anything together at the moment?
Siri: Oh yeah. Our last album came out on 10/10, our next album comes out 10/10.
PXVCE: We’re about to make it like a ceremonial thing.
AF: What stage is the project in?
Aziza: We’re in a transformative stage because it’s a mixture of writing, recording, reconnecting. We’re setting our focus to our philanthropic side and all that we do. Especially seeing all what’s been happening in Dayton right now, reconfiguring in general with one how we’re operating in Cincinnati and how we’re operating elsewhere and how we can help on a more grand scale. We’re in a transformative state in our music because it reflects our work in the community as well.
Siri: It reflects the project. III Am What III Am was last year. That was us literally showing who we were. III Am What III Wanna Be is showing what we want to be, that’s musically, physically, in reality and all. It’s all a process and we’re playing with different styles. We all bring different things to the table and us figuring out how to leverage that is the key toward III Am What III Wanna Be.
AF: What philanthropic projects are you currently working on?
Siri: Potluck For The People is for people experiencing displacement, homelessness, and that’s every final Sunday from 12 to 5 [p.m.] and Raising The Barz is every first and third Thursday at the public library. That is an Intro To Hip Hop class for the youth, we’ve got as young as 6-year-olds and as old as 30. We invite local artists and local students to help themselves get better with hip hop or any craft they want to work with.
AF: Most Cincinnati artists I’ve spoken with credit you to bringing togetherness and acceptance in the hip hop scene here.
Aziza: That’s so beautiful.
AF: Do you guys feel a little bit of pressure with that recognition or has this just been your natural progression?
Siri: We curate spaces, but we can curate a space and nobody shows up. The people genuinely wanted to connect and taking the time to do it makes this work. Without anybody supporting, we’d just be three people trying to do something. This is something that the city wants and the city made it happen and it’s not just the credit to us, it’s never just the credit to us. That’s the whole point of TRIIIBE, it’s understanding that we are doing this. It’s one big machine and without any of us playing our part it wouldn’t work out.
PXVCE: When you look at Atlanta or Chicago, who have huge underground scenes, many people can become catalysts for some of those movements, but to take the credit completely, it just doesn’t make sense because if not everyone is participating then you can’t even say that.
AF: It’s a give and take.
Aziza: It’s a unified decision to make change.
Siri: I’m definitely proud to be one of the holders of the idea… but the city and the people are the catalysts of it.
Aziza: We’re not the first. And we’re not the last.
Ivy Jeanne wears many hats. Political femme activist, lead singer of Black Rainbow, muralist, and longtime San Francisco resident, are just a few ways to describe her momentum and dedication to our local community. We chat on Clarion Alley, in front of her very own mural (influenced by the controversial Dropbox soccer field incident in 2014).
Jeanne talks about her experiences touring and organizing activist work around a central ideal that “THIS CITY IS NOT FOR SALE.” Much like the message of her mural, Ivy Jeanne’s art fights for folks who stand up against gentrification. In recent years, Jeanne has also participated as an artist and coordinator in collaboration with Rebecca Solnit, Erick Lyle, Sarah Schulman and more to release Streetopia, an anthology detailing a vision for the future of San Francisco.
Check out our interview with her below to hear more about her.
Sometimes, these columns are damn hard to spit out. It’s not always easy to remain enthralled with the music world, especially when the real world seems to be crumbling around us. We don’t have to pretend. 2017 has been a fucking nightmare. We’ve witnessed the inauguration of Donald J. Trump, North Korea launching a missile over Japan, devastating floods in Houston and South Asia, and rallies filled with actual Nazis, just to name few lows.
I’m not a religious person, but I’m starting to expect widespread plague and a swarm of locusts any minute now. Just visiting The Guardian’s World News webpage fills me with terror – especially when the top headline reads: “Armageddon. Scientists calculate how stars can nudge comets to strike Earth.” What the fuck?! I’m a dyed-in-the-wool atheist, but you know what? Maybe there is someone up there, ready to just take us all out with a flaming space rock, because we clearly can’t keep things together down here.
“Um…what does this have to do with music?” you ask.
Here’s the thing: being a music journalist is pretty great. I love it more than any non-human in my life. However, when the world seems to be blazing in what Evangelicals would call “hellfire,” it’s hard to feel motivated to write about anything but serious shit. Rolling out a “think piece” on hidden messages in Taylor Swift’s new video feels like you’re stuffing your soul into a manila envelope and shipping it off to Satan for safekeeping. Even if you understand that it isn’t wrong to write about the VMAs, one still gets the sense that they are ignoring a towering elephant that is not only in the room, he’s bending the baseboards and demolishing furniture.
Of course, when I say “you” and “one,” I ultimately mean “me.” I cannot speak for other music writers. Though I can assume that many of my colleagues, who are intelligent, compassionate people, must feel some of this weight. It’s not possible that I’m the only person who suffers nauseating guilt reporting on Panorama Festival the same weekend journalists discover that North Korean missile tests have the capacity to reach New York.
So what does “one” do? Writing about art and pop culture in frightening times is a delicate matter. To say nothing of the floods, the violence, or the fear seems grossly irresponsible. To mention it only to alleviate one’s own guilt is possibly worse. I would never say making art in times of strife is a waste of time – I will always argue the opposite. I will even go so far as to say that it’s impossible to stall creativity in dire times, as conflict is one of art’s great muses. Critiquing art amidst global devastation, however, can be a task colored with shame. The question often clanging in my head being, “Does it even fucking matter?”
I don’t know. I am unfit to answer the question. Here is what I do know. This is my job. My dream job, really. Artists and the music they make are kind of like my religion (or as close as this godless writer comes to it). Even on the worst of days, when my personal and family misfortunes could inspire an entire season of All My Children, I can still be brought to my knees by the beauty of a song. I know it’s corny. I also know that a song won’t drain the waters in Houston, or rewire the brains of white supremacists (if they have anything to rewire, that is). A song can’t do much when it all comes down to it, let alone a writer writing about a song – but artists can.
While I’ve been distraught by this year’s cruel newsreel, the artists who have leveraged their platforms for good causes have given me some sense of pride in humanity. 2017’s first cry from outspoken celebrities occurred at the Women’s March on Washington (and its sister marches around the world), where the likes of Madonna, Alicia Keys, The Indigo Girls, and Janelle Monáe either performed or gave impassioned speeches denouncing Trump’s election. That same month, Canadian electro-pop group Austra released their third LP Future Politics. The album is revelatory and filled with political insight, proving that pop music doesn’t have to be sugarcoated.
In 2017 there have been countless benefit concerts for organizations like Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and CAIR-New York (Counsel On American-Islamic Relations), to name but a few. Now the charitable hands of artists will extend to Houston. Solange has planned a benefit show later this month in Boston where 100% of proceeds will go to victims of Hurricane Harvey and its destructive floods. Fall Out Boy and rapper Bun B have planned separate but similar benefit shows, and numerous celebrities have either already given money to relief organizations (like $500,000 from Miley Cyrus and the $25,000 DJ Khaled shelled out) or promised to do so in the near future (like Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Demi Lovato, and DNCE).
Many of the aforementioned performers are ones I don’t artistically care for that much, but these days I’m elated they’re around. It seems that with their immense command of the public interest and disposable income, artists have taken on responsibilities that our government should have the answers and funds for. It’s a sad and beautiful truth. That these seemingly “frivolous” celebrities go above and beyond their job title in times of crisis is noble; that they even need to in the first place is appalling.
So coming back to that initial question: what does “one” do? Let’s practice some simple logic. Things are bad right now. Things are really bad; and yet, artists both famous and obscure continue to defy the idea that humans are selfish, no-good creatures. If “you” are a music writer – why not write about those artists and their honorable efforts? It’s the least, and sometimes the most “you” can do.
After the site announced it would donate its share(about 12%) of all purchases last Friday, music fans bought about $1,000,000 worth of music. According to Bandcamp, that’s “550% more than a normal Friday (already our biggest sales day of the week).” Combined with the many artists and labels that promised their 88% of profits would also go to the ACLU, the actual figure being donated is close to $100,000. Good job, music fans. And it’s not too late to donate! If you want to get some music out of it, check out the Our First100 Days compilation:
Market Hotel Offers Coworking Space, Hopefully Shows Soon
On 2/7, the venue tweeted that “All citations related to the October ‘gotcha’ raid on Market Hotel, particularly the ‘warehousing’ summons, have been dismissed!” The DIY space was forced to relocate shows in Fall 2016 after what many deemed an unfair police raid, around the time they were applying for a permanent liquor license. No official word on when the space will begin hosting shows again, but in the meantime, it’s being used as a coworking space.
Is Indie Rock Dead? Um, Probably Not
Yes, another debate about the life of a genre was started last night between David Longstreth (Dirty Projectors) and Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes) on Instagram, for some reason. Longstreth wondered if the genre has come to be “boujee in the word’s negative sense: refined and effete, well removed from the raindrops and drop tops of lived, earned experience,” while Pecknold’s thoughts on the matter included nuggets such as “Also don’t rly know what counts as ‘indie rock’ these days… like, Whitney, Mac DeMarco, Angel Olsen, Car Seat Headrest? Idk if any of that has ‘cutting edge’ written into the M.O., even if it’s fun to listen to.” The rest of the conversation is mostly indecipherable, but maybe you want to take a stab at it.
Anyway, guys: no kind of music is dead (except maybe disco). This is 2017! The internet is a super useful tool when it comes to looking for great bands of all genres, or for realizing that genres can be meaningless labels. Better yet, get off the internet and go see a show this weekend.
We’re big fans of Kiran Gandhi, aka Madame Gandhi, over here at AudioFemme. Between her globally-recognized activism, including free-bleeding as she ran the London Marathon last year for period awareness, playing benefits such as Fuck Rape Culture, and doing everything in her power to make the world a better place for young women, she is an endless source of inspiration in an often cynical industry.
On top of all that, Gandhi has somehow managed to commence a killer musical project in there to boot. Madame Gandhi melds her eclectic drum style with synths, looped melodies, and delicious licks of piano, flute, bass, or whatever she feels tickled by at the moment.
Fortunately, Gandhi doesn’t have to compartmentalize her passions, as she sees each discipline flowing into and informing the next. Her Harvard education helps her approach the world of activism more strategically; her music helps give color and voice to the political issues most dear to her, and her proximity to forward-thinking musicians allows her to lead a life that is constantly inspired.
I met up with Gandhi for a coffee earlier this month, to chat about her love of the drums, her upcoming musical projects, and the eternal wisdom of Spiderman.
Audiofemme: What inspires you? What moves you to write music and what do you hope to achieve with the project?
Kiran Gandhi: When I watch other people whose music I like the best, they make it look so effortless, and I think something that’s effortless comes from a really pure place; from a place that’s existed the longest, so it can’t be faked. When I watch artists who are doing so well right now because of that effortlessness, artists like Drake, Kalela, Tuneyards, Alt J… some of my biggest influences are those who really make their music so effortless.
…You’re there, your’e just moving through the song quickly, you know what needs to go where and it’s coming from this very pure place. So, in terms of the actual music creation process and what inspires me, it’s when I feel like my most authentic self is being represented with music.
And then in terms of my message, of course, my message is to make the world a better place for young women. To empower, to elevate and celebrate the female voice. I do really think that we live in a world where young people – young women especially – are taught that their value comes from their looks, and I want young people’s value to come from wherever they choose for it to come, in the same way boys are encouraged: “Oh, you want to be a carpenter? Ok, go be the best carpenter.” Or, “Yo, you wanna be a drummer? Go be the best drummer.”
I still think girls are taught: “Ok, you can be a drummer, but make sure you look hot while doing it,” and that can be distracting. We only have 24 hours in a day. Imagine if three-four hours have to be used to make sure that you have makeup on and you’re skinny. It takes away from our passion.
Can you talk about your relationship with the drums? What do you hope to inspire in future drummers, male or female?
With the drums, a lot of times because it’s not a melodic instrument, it doesn’t have a,b,c,d,e,f,g, we all think that the drums are just to provide a beat for somebody else to shine and that it’s a very personality-less instrument. But actually the drums are the oldest instrument of all time! And the instrument that has changed the least in the history of the world. Imagine; the drums we have today, which is just a skin stretched over a cylinder is exactly how drums were made hundreds of thousands of years ago. It’s the language of communication. And for that reason, my goal is to inspire other people, all genders, to find their voice on the drums, and that there’s no right or wrong answer when you’re playing an instrument.
When I sit at the drums, I mount things differently, I sometimes put the ride on the left side of my kit, even though traditionally it’s always supposed be on the right side. I’ll mount cowbells, I’ll mount bongos…I bought a bunch of drums from India and I inverted them sideways and put them on American snare drum mounts, and that’s actually part of why I got the gig with M.I.A., because my kit was so eclectic and drew from my own inspirations.
So, what makes me happy about the drums is that it’s been this huge tool for self-expression, it’s a place of comfort, a place of power, a place of control.
I also heard that Zildjian is the oldest company in the world.
That would make sense. The Istanbul families in general were the first to make the best cymbals. Right now I’m sponsored by Istanbul Agop. They’re just a phenomenal, phenomenal brand, they take care of their artists. Their cymbals sound like little fairies. Their L.A. distribution center is like three blocks from my house, so I go and visit them a lot.
I’d love for you to talk about your entrée into the world of feminism.
I think, informally, when I was really young, I used to gravitate toward male characters because I thought they were cooler. Like, Aladdin was on the carpet, you know? And Jasmine was always the object, things were done to her. And even in women’s history, the way male stories are told, they’re very in control of their own destiny. Whereas, any time female stories are told, they’re always the object of somebody else’s story.
In Hollywood, and most sitcoms, time and time again you see that the girl is the sidepiece or she’s the victim in his larger story, or in order for him to prove himself to be the hero he rescues the girl from the villain, and she’s never in control of her own story, which is not a reality. We as women are not objects of other people’s lives. We have our own narratives and our own stories.
My entry point into feminism was really identifying this intuitively at a young age. I didn’t have the vocabulary to explain what was wrong, but my feminism came from a very earnest place of being four or five years old and identifying with the male characters and not the female characters.
I loved working with Grlcvlt. I loved feeling this positive nostalgia from the ‘90s where there was a lot of organization around women’s rights. I felt happy to be in 2016 seeing young women organize around women’s issues to take care of each other. It was good that we had so many powerful women performing and singing. I thought what was missing and what I tried my best to bring to the table was more people on the mic speaking about what it actually means to live in a rape culture. And, where the actual problems lie, and what some of the solutions are to put forward to make the world better.
Systemic. What are the systemic problems? Why is this currently an issue? What does it actually look like to be sexually assaulted? I think people imagine someone beating somebody, or someone pinning someone down against their will and forcing themselves on the victim. Most rape cases don’t actually look like that… it’s far more subtle, and that’s why they get overlooked, because we do live in a society that privileges men, and so when things are nebulous we will air on the side of the assailant as opposed to the side of the victim.
I think my only criticism of the event was that I wanted more people on the mic who were either experts in their field when it comes to this topic, or have experienced types of sexual assault themselves and speak freely about this. I obviously had a lot of respect for Rose McGowan for getting on the mic and being so vulnerable in such a public space with so much press in the room, but I was hoping there would be more talk about these events that I could also be learning something.
I’ve heard you speak a lot about how you’ve applied your classic business education to music and the music industry and how you advise the music industry. How do you apply that same education to activism?
One of the most effective forms of silencing the voice of activists is to say that they’re just “being radical.” They’re not “intelligent. They’re not being strategic. They’re not being helpful. They’re just rebels to society. They’re causing problems with the status quo and not actually doing anything.” That’s how people have undermined most activist movements since the dawn of time, whether it’s Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter.
Using my degree helps in two ways:
One, is that for better or for worse, having a degree that’s rooted in certifiable academia and intelligence gives me this credibility that when I say something people maybe give it a second listen.
And secondly, it prevents them from undermining my work and the people who I work with as being radicals and instead they give it perhaps more attention than they might. And because I’m so aware of this dynamic, I very intentionally try to be more strategic, try to choose which lever I’m pulling at different times, whether it’s the radical activism or more academic piece of paper or a speech. When I’m choosing which audience I want to influence.
Coming out of HBS [/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Harvard Business School] specifically, they really teach you how to have a voice, how to clearly articulate your thoughts and viewpoint and why you believe one thing is right over the other thing. That’s been so helpful when trying to speak about gender equality because the more you can appeal to someone’s empathy and intelligence when it comes to a political issue, the more successful you’ll be.
It’s like a classical Greek debate; there’s Logos, Pathos, Ethos…
That’s it!!! Yes, exactly.
I’m talking a lot about activism but I think it’s something that makes you very special as an artist-
Could you talk about the importance of artists talking about ethical issues, and what you think the role art plays in activism is?
My thought on that is twofold. The first is that even when I was young I was far more influenced by art and MTV and watching music videos than I was by listening to a political speech. Probably because I didn’t understand the political speech, or I thought it was boring or not visually engaging. And so, artists have such a power because they influence their communities subliminally, and they influence with their visuals, with the emotions, which set into someone’s psyche far more powerfully than a superficial conversation or a talk.
Secondly, art lives so many lightyears beyond where society is. It usually represents where we’re going, because the artists are the forward-thinkers. And, in being the forward-thinkers, they have this power. People take politicians and lawmakers more seriously than they take artists, and I always find that so ironic because in reducing, in thinking that artists are just artists and they’re not that important and not that powerful or influential, you actually give artists more power because they have more free reign to say whatever without being as censored as politicians and lawmakers are.
So then they actually influence far more quickly than politicians and lawmakers. It’s this duality that works in art’s favor. And then, to quote Spiderman: “with great power comes great responsibility.” So, to this day I always feel brokenhearted that the majority of what’s there on the airwaves is very denigrating to women, and does put women in an objectified position as opposed to a wonderful and upheld position.
I want to use my art and the power that comes with it, to offset that and to tell authentic and empowering stories about women that I know.
What’s up next for you? Are you currently putting a full-length album together?
I’m waiting to release my EP, which will be out this year sometime. After that I’ll be working on a full-length album with different collaborators who are in my life who inspire me. I think one of the fun things about being an artist is that sometimes you make one-off pieces of music. Like last night I was in the studio until 3 a.m. in Brooklyn and I made this really fucking cool song…just inspired music. It felt really good to make it, so when I make things like this, I think they’re the kind of thing that I’ll just do one-offs. I was there on the Ableton push just making a bunch of different drum beats and drum rhythms, kind of almost live DJing with drums. And then, adding in bass lines and then a friend jumped in and he added in this really jazz piano riff, and then I did vocals and we sampled vocals and I really want to finish that song.
When you’re an artist, there are songs that are right for the album-to be considered in a complete body of work that have a theme. And then there are other songs that are just moments of inspiration, with no organization to them whatsoever but they still sound beautiful and I wanna put some of those out to keep the fans interested.
In the midst of crisis we assume those who suffer go unheard. And certainly that is how the victim of the Stanford Rape Case must have felt when her assailant Brock Turner was sentenced to a mere six months of prison after leaving her violated and battered behind a dumpster. The culprit for such unwarranted mercy was none other than Judge Aaron Persky, though the organizers of last Monday’s fundraiser at Baby’s All Right would assert the culprit was also the rape culture we live in. “Fuck Rape Culture,” the event put on by NYC’s GIRLCVLT directly donated its proceeds to the campaign striving to recall Judge Persky’s position. Even after the Brock Turner case Persky has been found unfit to rule, as he has sentenced Ming Hsuan Chiang-the man who pleaded no contest to a severe domestic violence felony that left his fiancé beaten to a pulp-to weekend jail. Persky, after his insolently lenient sentence, then bent over backwards to make sure Chiang would be able to get to work on time each Monday.
Fronting the recall campaign is Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor, sociologist and activist. Dauber was present throughout the Turner case and took to the Baby’s stage last Monday, relaying how in court Persky “paid a lot of attention to Turner’s pain, Turner’s injury, and treated him as if his reputational injury was the injury that really mattered. And we really are here today to say enough is enough. Women and other survivors of sexual violence ― because it’s not only women ― have fought too hard and too long to be treated as if we do not matter.”
The evening was peppered with some remarkable acts including The Skins and The New Tarot. Amber Tamblyn offered an impassioned poetry reading while actress and rape survivor Rose McGowan gave an admirably vulnerable speech. Though the performer that stole my heart for the night was Kiran Gandhi, whose musical project Madame Gandhi finished off the evening with lingering beats and the appropriate amount of optimism to ignite the crowd even more.
I’d just seen Gandhi at the Girl Power Fest last weekend, and while she never short-changes a crowd, she did seem to have phantom drum set while performing for the small Hester Street Fair. At Baby’s however, Gandhi was fully rigged with her kit, expert lighting, and badass “Ableton Queen” Alexia Riner. Gandhi, who will release her debut EP later this year and a full-length record to follow, interspersed tracks like “Moon In The Sky,” “The Future Is Female,” and “Keep Her Close” (a total banger), with informed discourse on “Herstory.” “I just have a bit of trivia, some Herstory,” said Gandhi. “If you have the answer just raise your hand and we have some merch for the person with the right answer.”
“Who was the first female millionaire?”
(Madam C.J. Walker)
“In the entire history of civilization, how many female world leaders have there been?”
I admit my hand stayed by my side the whole time. It seemed that the overarching point of this portion of her set was to shine a light on how shamefully little we are taught about women in history.
During her performance, Gandhi read from the Feminist Utopia Project, articulating a vision for the future of girlhood that equips young ladies with tools of strength and wisdom as opposed to focusing solely on their aesthetic traits.
Gandhi’s sets are multidisciplinary experiences, like the performer herself. She sings, speaks with the cadence of a great orator, conducts readings, drums wildly, beat-boxes, and engages with the crowd in ways I rarely see. She is in control while remaining warm and inviting. She is a great hope for the future of music and activism. And that future is female.