Shining light on women in electronic music - actions speak louder than words. Here, Acid Maria, aka Angelika Lepper.

Shining light on women in electronic music – actions speak louder than words. Here, Acid Maria, aka Angelika Lepper.

There’s talking, there’s showing, and there’s doing.

And there’s listening, too – but we’ll get to that in a moment.

When female:pressure put some numbers behind the relative absence of women in festivals, the long-running discussion about the role of females in the scene was accelerated. Suddenly, the entire music press seemed to be talking about the issue again.

There is plenty to debate in terms of female:pressure’s statement and its take on cause, significance, and remedy. Anecdotally, I’ve found that female artists and friends I’ve talked to are strongly divided around those questions and how they wish to be identified. But since the main thrust of the female:pressure’s statement was the need for greater diversity – “gender, age, culture, ethnicity and (dis)ability” – what the network is doing next is important.

They’re putting on their own festival. And that seems exactly what we need more of: we need people not just opining, but acting constructively.

This week in Berlin, female:pressure is hosting two days with an exhaustive (nearly) all-female lineup, in an event that could be meaningful for the community here and beyond. (Correction: Whø? and Turrican are in the list, too, so not entirely all-female – nearly.) First, the lineup itself makes a statement. There are an extraordinary number of exceptional female artists. For anyone who came away from the debate over the last months with the conclusion that there’s a lack of talented female artists in the scene, this is the latest evidence that it simply ain’t so. Included (with some of my favorite visual and musical artists, irrespective of their gender):

Ada (live), Chra (live), Caro C on Delia Derbyshire (presentation + live), Electric Indigo (live), Gudrun Gut (live), Islaja (live), Kritzkom (live), Kyoka (live), Midori Hirano aka MimiCof (live), Pilocka Krach (live), Sonae (live), Tinker (live), Acid Maria (DJ), Chez Mieke (DJ), Chica Paula (DJ), Deneh (DJ), Dependance (DJ), Dj Spoke (DJ), Ipek (DJ), Janoshi (DJ), Kaltès (DJ), Mieko Suzuki (DJ), Sarah Farina (DJ), Silva Rymd (DJ), Sharon Schael (DJ), Turrican (DJ), Uta (DJ), Vinilette (DJ), Whø? (DJ), Aikia (VJ), Elektro Moon (VJ), Kalma (VJ), Mo – (VJ), Tina Z (VJ)

Second, there’s a series of workshops and networking opportunities, a chance for women hungry for more skills and opportunities to take action themselves. Given that the business of being an artist is challenging and competitive, that seems inarguably healthy.

That includes some great-looking workshops by some skilled educators:

NI Traktor workshop by DJ freshfluke
Modul8 workshop by VJ Kalma
Ableton Live 9 workshop by Maya C. Sternel (Ableton Certified Trainer) & Madeleine Bloom
Isadora + Ableton Live workshop by StratoFyzika ( aikia & akkamiau )

Finally, there’s a series of panel discussions and conversations. That even includes some of the bookers and festivals female:pressure had criticized. For instance, there’s an appearance by CTM Festival, a festival with which CDM collaborates, which was also one of the festivals singled out in the statistics released earlier this year. The event promises to be a venue to discuss this openly in person, and not only in blog posts and editorials and the like. It incorporates everything from people studying sociology and culture to more practical, in-the-trenches chatter and networking about bookings and programming. And, perhaps most encouraging , it could be a place for Berlin’s massive community of artists to feel they can be part of the conversation. I’ll be intrigued to see what happens, and we’ll have a follow up after the event.

Event information:

Punk dada electro - or something like that: Pilocka Krach.

Punk dada electro – or something like that: Pilocka Krach.

This is about music, though. So, let’s listen. female:perspectives has posted some 21 sounds (a total of 16 DJ sets), for over twenty-one-plus hours of music, featuring a number of the artists.

Berlin Perspectives Festival DJs and more [SoundCloud playlist]

Festival organizer and performing artist Electric Indigo (Susanne Kirchmayr) also offers us a mix she made for Austrian radio in celebration of the International Women’s Day Centenary:

Also, I want to single out some music selected by one of the artists playing the festival and on the artist panels, as they’ve been some of the mixes that have inspired me most this summer. German-born, Berlin-based Sarah Farina is especially adept at navigating today’s bass music scene, the fast-evolving global realm of electronic dance connections that has been interwoven in a lot of CDM’s artist discussions of late. As her bio puts it (accurately, I think), that includes DJ sets with “an unpredictable blend of ukg, jungle, juke, hip hop and a hefty dose of bass itself.”

Whether it’s the right fit for all female artists, Sarah Farina’s trajectory has involved building a support network of like-minded musicians, including the wonderful duo Sick Girls and party collective WeBoogie, as well as the “Through My Speakers” collective.

All of these are a reminder that people do need scenes and communities for support. Whatever it is you want to happen, if you want more musical growth, change, and diversity, developing those networks is vital.

And, all of that aside, I generally love Sarah’s sense of taste. Check out two mixes from her from this summer. With Munich-born DJ/producer Ben Mono of Through My Speakers, she has a banging near-hour mixtape dubbed “The Critical Mess Mix”:

1. Shox – Hi Grade (Scratcha DVA Hi Emotions remix)
2. Fisky – Cherry Lotion
3. DJ Bark Lee – Vamp 2012
4. Salva & Brenmar – Let Me Bang
5. Kode9 – Uh
6. Thomas Bangalter – What Do We Do
7. Kry Wolf – Concrete
8. Artifact – Drafty
9. Lil Silva – The Split
10. Strip Steve – Money Trouble Funk (Bambounou Remix)
11. Blawan – Lavender
12. Fantastic Mr. Fox – The Trap
13. Jimmy Edgar – Strike
14. Slammer – Freedom
15. Steve Bug – My Sweet Vital Angel
16. Julio Bashmore & Kowron – Mirror Song
17. John Dimas – State Of Mind
18. Arttu feat. Jerry The Cat – Nuclear Funk
19. Dark Sky – Tremor
20. Walton – Baby
21. Kingdom – Goodies
22. Justin Martin – Ghettos & Gardens

And, with art/fashion/design shop Ucon – in a nice cross-media collab – she built a mixcast full of more similarly-delectable courses:

1. Butch Reid – Prototype Juke
2. Lone feat. Machinedrum – Cthulhu
3. DJ Assault – We Cry Together
4. Dillinja – Art Of Control
5. Machinedrum – Youniverse
6. Africa Hitech – Light The Way
7. Sepalcure – Eternally Yrs
8. Mama Testa – Pasion Morena (Sun People Remix) | Ten Toes Turbo forthcoming
9. Lando Kal – Allthislove
10. Distal – Boca Ratawan
11. DJ Assault – Thunder & Rain

You can also catch Sarah Farina from 6-8pm Berlin time on Red Bull Music Academy radio, along with gudrun gut, Uta, and Chica Paula.

It also goes without saying that a lot of the music here (and in the twenty hours above) is produced by men, but that illustrates why a diverse group of people needs to feel welcome. We rely on one another to spread our music – both from a promotional standpoint, but also in an exchange of musical ideas. The more free that exchange, the more the music can grow and evolve, and the healthier we’ll all be as artists. Of course, that also means we can’t spend all day crafting editorials (not even me, and it’s actually my job). We have to get out there, in person, away from blogs and social networks, and get to know one another and our music.

And that could bring a whole lot more perspective to the music world.

All images courtesy female:perspectives.

  • Random Chance

    How does the stated goal of ‘greater diversity – “gender, age, culture, ethnicity and (dis)ability”’ (curiously, no explicit mention of sexual orientation) fit in with organising a festival with an “all-femal lineup”? Isn’t that just reiterating age-old conceptions of gender? Sorry to be opining instead of acting constructively, I wouldn’t say a word or even raise an eyebrow if this affair wasn’t supposed to have some socio-political dimension. Why can’t people just have fun without having an agenda (a seemingly dated one at that)?

    • Peter Kirn

      Now, of course, they were setting broad goals for the festival community and you can’t necessarily hit all of those at the same time. But I think that’s a reasonable question to ask; even a question people should ask. (I expect some people will ask it at the event this week / in the discussions!) And I can tell you that I’ve heard from female artists who told me they wouldn’t want to be part of this kind of event, because they don’t want to identify themselves in this way. This is not something about which everyone feels the same way, clearly, and that deserves to be recognized.

      But I think ultimately that doesn’t mean this festival is a bad idea. This was not an exclusionary event; they still had far more people wanting to be presented than they could present. So, I think it is okay for people to band together and present themselves in this way. Age-old conceptions of gender may indeed be dated, but they’re also enduring. And so that means that if this kind of event can change the way some female artists are perceived and how they perceive themselves, then I think that’s a positive addition to our scene.

      That said, since you bring up categorization, I feel pretty strongly that it’s time to add transgender or intersex to the discussion, if we’re going to talk about gender. It’s not a small number of people in our community who don’t fit traditional male / female roles. I would hope that the music community I’m part of makes people feel comfortable in however they identify themselves, that we try to make people feel able to be included and expressive in whatever ways we can, because that feeling is what has drawn a lot of us to music making. (I’ve said this before, and was even corrected when I used the wrong term – really, this is something we’re not talking about enough. I feel fairly ignorant.)

      I hope it comes up in the discussions this week. It’s doubly relevant in Germany right now because Germany finally has a legal framework emerging; Europe has a long way to go on this.

      Not everyone can headline festivals. (I, uh, sure don’t.) But I think it’s important for everyone to feel supported in what we do and in finding audiences. And we all know from experience that people don’t always feel that way, don’t always feel comfortable – white guys included.

      It seems to me that sometimes that may mean addressing a specific group, or a specific group getting together to celebrate what they do. It might even just be one of us getting together with a couple of friends. Sometimes that’ll have a socio-political dimension, and sometimes it won’t. Just so long as people do keep doing something, and we keep discussions open and humble.

      Oh, and opining is important, too – just to the point that it doesn’t exclude other things. 😉 So carry on!

    • Local Android

      I think that idea of this festival is fantastic. I think a lot of females do not get into this field because it isn’t something that is traditionally ‘meant’ for them. Festivals like this only go to show that electronic music can be and is something meant for all and it will hopefully go to breaking down some social constitutions and barriers setup up by societies super-ego.

    • dylan digits

      “Why can’t people just have fun without having an agenda (a seemingly dated one at that)?”

      Not having an agenda? Everyone has an agenda, even if it means not examining or questioning the status quo.

      As a transgender woman, my experience navigating through and performing in the electronic music scenes is complex and requires constant re-examination of how and if I want to engage the community. My identity isn’t separable from who I am, but it can be a hinderance to making the connections and getting the opportunities it takes to be successful in the scene.

      Representation matters. Networking matters. Supportive spaces matter. That’s what this sort of event is about. It’s nice to think gender (and other aspects of identity) doesn’t matter anymore, but that’s simply not the case for many of us who experience it as part of our lives. This is one way for us to come together and offer shared support.

    • Peter Kirn

      Well, and that’s a good point, too – I think networking and support matter so much, that you really can’t have too much of them. You can have female-specific events and *still* hopefully have events that are geared for everyone that are more inclusive. You can run out of venues and create new venues. You can keep going into you run out of musicians, and that never seems to be a problem.

    • Electric Indigo

      It is not an all female line-up, though. Whø? and Turrican will play.

    • Peter Kirn

      Okay, made a correction there!

  • scifisol

    Perspectives Festival is partially about EXPOSURE and getting super talented artists a venue to be heard….whereas otherwise they might just be buried in time. This festival is creating diversity in the electronic music world because it’s helping to make people aware of just how many different types of artists are out there making music relevant to these genres.

    Sometimes guerrilla tactics are necessary if the status quo is to be disrupted for the better!