By Geoff Shelton
9 to Know is a bi-monthly list highlighting important stories, music and more from the global, female-identified and non-binary communities in music.
The past couple months have seen some great activism with women striking back at the music industry’s laziness and under representation. Check out these stories of intelligent, powerful women firing back.
After Billboard published an unfortunate article on what they perceived as a scarcity of women music producers, engineer/producer/songwriter/activist Ebonie Smith took it upon herself to call out the real issues. Check out her article which makes a clear argument that the problem is not a lack of female producers, but a lack of industry and music media attention despite their many achievements.
When the president of the Recording Academy, Neil Portnow was asked about the lack of female representation among the winners of this year’s Grammys, he responded that women need to “step up.” These two words sparked outrage from artists and fans alike. Part of that reaction was a great letter put together and signed by six of the top female music executives. Since this letter and other pressure put on the academy, they have developed a “taskforce” to address female advancement in the industry. Something to keep tabs on as it develops…
Women In Jazz Speak Out
Check out this fantastic news story from PBS News Hour highlighting the activism and voices of Grammy-award winning musicians Terri Lyne Carrington and Esperanza Spalding, as well as rising star Sasha Berliner who are all publicly denouncing the sexism they’ve encountered in the jazz world. (Yes, that is Angela Davis making a cameo during their panel discussion)
These three dynamic duos have each released phenomenal, confident, sonically mind-blowing new albums all within a month of each other.
700 Bliss – Spa 700
700 Bliss is the dream-fulfilling collaboration of Philly-based, solo artists DJ Haram and Moor Mother that serves as a perfect example of what happens when the best of both worlds combine to make a new planet all their own. It’s a planet spinning on the axis of Haram’s Discwoman dance floor sensitivity and deep pockets of middle eastern rhythms and samples, while Moor Mother’s poetic, Black Quantum Futurist words keep us grounded in orbit.
Divide and Dissolve – Abomination
This second LP from the Australian, instrumental, doom-metal duet of Takiaya Reed and Sylvie Nehill continues their artistic goals to eradicate white supremacy and the lasting effects of colonization across the world. Their weighty sonic palette of guitar, sax, drums and effects combine to successfully inject the immediacy of their message directly into your nervous system.
Smerz – Have Fun
The Norwegian-Born, Copenhagen-based duet of beat maker/vocalists Henriette Motzfeldt and Catharina Stoltenberg came out bangin with this follow up to their 2017 debut EP “Okey.” While continuing in the so-called “alt-R&B” vibe, “Have Fun” is like dancing in your own bedroom with the lights out and slowly losing your balance. A wonderful mix of the familiar wrapping its arms around you as you feel your way through the unknown.
As we celebrate Women’s History Month this March, I wanted to highlight three books showcasing the deep, wonderful and inspiring talents of some incredible music journalists whose pioneering work and perspectives continue to enrich the conversations around this wonderful medium that we all love.
Out of the Vinyl Deeps: Ellen Willis on Rock Music
In 1968 Ellen Willis became the first pop music writer for the The New Yorker making her one of the first American popular music critics to write for a national audience. One year later she founded the radical feminist group Redstockings in New York. That’s just the beginning of her story. This beautiful collection of her essays and columns on music is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of women in this profession. From there, hopefully you’ll move on to “No More Nice Girls” a collection of her counter-cultural essays.
Legendary music writer Lisa Robinson’s memoir follows her path as a young writer going on tour with the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin at the height of their fame in the 70’s, introducing David Bowie to Lou Reed, helping the Clash and Elvis Costello get signed to their first record deals and on into to her current work writing lengthy pieces in Vanity Fair on stars like Lady Gaga and Eminem. She is a living embodiment of popular music history and she’s still at it.
Contemporary writer Jessica Hopper started writing professionally for SPIN magazine at 19 years old after four years of writing her own fanzine ‘Hit it or Quit it.’ She has since written for dozens of publications, ran a music publicity company, worked as the music editor for Rookie, Editor in Chief of the Pitchfork Review, Sr. Editor of Pitchfork, wrote ‘The Girl’s Guide to Rocking’, rebooted MTV News and is now working on a book about women’s music history. She is a true voice of our generation and this collection includes some of the best contemporary music writing of our time.