Women’s History Month 2020
Written by katehazeldine on 31st March 2020
Today marks the first day of Women’s History Month and damn, don’t we have a lot to thank womxn for? Here at Melodic Distraction, we’re doing a social media takeover to celebrate them. Each day of the month we’ll be platforming inspirational womxn of music, past and present, inclusive of all non-conforming gender groups and women of colour, across all areas of the musical spectrum.
Although conversations about the gender gap are becoming more and more frequent, there’s still a lot to be done. Women In Music collected the following stats from across the globe, which proves one thing we already know: women are still hugely underrepresented in the music industry. The gender divide across all regions is roughly 70% male to 30% female – 15% of label members are majority owned by women and only 6% of recognised producers are women. A mere 7% identify as having a role within sales/business development, while 50% of freelance women earn less than £10k annually and across the participating countries’ collecting societies, women represent 20% or less of registered composers and songwriters.
So, how can we help close the gap? Pioneering music programmes such as ReBalance are helping to pave the way for aspiring female musicians, producers and sound engineers. In partnership with Festival Republic and PRS Foundation, it offers three years of mentoring and opportunities that may otherwise be difficult for females to obtain.
There’s also PRS Foundation’s Keychange scheme, which encourages international festivals to meet a 50/50 gender split target by 2022. Over 100 festivals have already joined the pledge, including our very own Africa Oyé, Liverpool International Music Festival and Liverpool Sound City.
On International Women’s Day, which is on Sunday 8th March, we’ll be doing an IWD radio broadcast featuring soundbites and selections from influential women across the North West & beyond. Tune in from 7-9pm at www.melodicdistraction.com/radio, followed by an IWD guest mix from Noods & Balamii resident NIKS.
Check out the folks we’re celebrating this month down below. We’ll be adding to the post everyday, so check back during the month of March for your daily music history lesson.
To kick off our social media takeover, we’re beginning with English musician and composer of electronic music, Delia Derbyshire. She carried out pioneering work with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop during the 1960s, including her electronic arrangement of the theme music for British science-fiction TV series ‘Doctor Who’.
Heard WondaGurl‘s tunes? Yes, you have! She’s the “quiet hustler behind rap’s loudest beats” She co-produced Jay’z’s ‘Crown’ at the tender age of 16, before going on to work with Drake, Lil Uzi Vert, Mariah Carey and others. She’s produced some of the biggest tunes of the last few years – Rhianna’s Bitch Better Have My Money being one of them.
Mandy Parnell is one of the best in the game, and is the mastering engineer behind Aphex Twin, Björk, Jamie XX & Chemical Brothers. A former homeless runaway turned her life around to head up her own studio Black Saloon Studio and pocket a Grammy winner. Her success is testament to the power of graft, grift and raw talent.
SOPHIE is a musical force known for her hyperkinetic pop and breathtakingly punchy production. She’s also produced for Madonna, Charli XCX & Vince Staples. When speaking out about being a trans woman in the music industry she said “we are well on our way to seeing more successful, signed trans artists thanks to the gender-bending work of those who came before.”
Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy has so many strings to her bow! Purveyor of all things cosmic disco and beyond, she’s an exceptional broadcaster, DJ, remixer, label owner, co-founder of Lucky Cloud Soundsystem, founder of Classic Album Sundays and the true heir to Mancuso and the Loft sound.
Donna Williams, writer, singer, song-writer and artist, was assessed as psychotic in 1965 and later on as autistic. She then went on to be an inspirational force for other creatives working with learning difficulties, having a long and illustrious career overcoming her obstacles and is a role model to many.
A collective formed of artists and producers Shygirl, Coucou Chloe and Oklou, they’ve been upending club music and making some of the fiercest bangers of the year. Fed up with being pigeon-holed for gigs that didn’t match their sound, they took the reins in crafting their own musical world. Studio favourites here at MDR.
Visionary writer, producer, artist, thinker, speaker and label owner, Terre Thaemlitz aka DJ Sprinkles aka Terre’s Neu Wuss Fusion aka Miss Take aka K-S.H.E is a force of nature. Crafting politically-informed deep house and ambient, and having a singular view on the ethics and politic of production, a day spent delving into Terre’s interviews or writings is a day very well spent indeed.
Janelle Monáe’s captivating blend of psychedelic soul and crafted pop has truly made them a global sensation, with just a modest eight Grammy nomination’s under their belt. Their outspoken support for the LBGTQI++ community is an example we could all live by more.
Doña Arca is a Venezulan-born multi-talented singer, songwriter, DJ, producer, mixing engineer and performance artist whose debut album Xen took the world by storm. Her bracing productions and her wild audio-scapes have a special place in our hear. Check the new single @@@@@ for a taste of the future.
Debbie and Simone aka Feenix 13 & Sim Simmer were 2/3 of the original Spiral Tribe. Infamous roaming free party sound system (and best known for their involvement in the Castlemorton Common Festival), the pair are an example of the riotous spirit of the UK 90’s free party movement.
Continuing with our tidbits of history, we’re highlighting DJ Storm. One of the most influential D&B figures and one of the founders of Metalheadz. A true pioneer and has totally earned her title of First Lady of Drum & Bass. Her early career started in a duo with Kemistry. Rest In Power.
You know we love our radio folks! Annie Nightingale was the first female presenter on BBC Radio 1, and their longest-serving presenter to date. She started out on a Sunday evening show, before moving to the Old Grey Whistle Test, and then in the 90’s she moved to a dance show on a Wednesday evening. She’s played new wave, punk, breakbeat and has also had a hand in popularising Trap in the UK.
This woman needs no introduction. A truly timeless & pioneering songwriter, producer & performer of her time. The first female to achieve a UK No.1 with an original song (at just 19) & the first female to top the UK album charts. It is, of course, KATE. BUSH.
Next up is Chuquimamani-Condori – previously known by the name Elysia Crampton – a Bolivian American experimental electronic producer & trans activist. They are a strident Aymara activist, a Native American tribe in Bolivia, as well as one of the most interesting producers working today. “My body was this beacon, this good omen.”
This next one goes out to our lovely local OR:LA. With her signature breaks-infused sound and that Boiler Room under her belt, she burst onto the scene to become one of the biggest in the game today. She founded labels Céad & Deep Sea Frequency, as well as putting out her own releases on Hotflush Recordings. And not to mention the raucous Meine Nacht parties she co-ran in Liverpool with Breakwave. You can find her residing at WHP MCR & bimonthly on NTS.
Ana Roxanne’s release ‘~~~’ was one of our favourite releases of last year, making it into our 2019 End of Year List. She’s an intersex Southeast Asian musician based in L.A and her background in devotional choral practices and classical Hindustani singing has formed into one of the most assured works we’ve heard released recently. A true breath of fresh air in a world of noise.
The “Queen of House Music”. Screamin’ Rachael is an award-winning artist, songwriter, producer, DJ & label entrepreneur. She co-founded the iconic Trax Records & collaborated on club classics incl. ‘Can You Feel It’, causing the Chicago House scene to explode.
No list of pioneers could be complete without mentioning Pauline Oliveros. She was a key figure in the the development of experimental music in the 60’s and found new theories that shape the way we listen to music today, including her concepts of ‘deep listening’ and ‘sonic awareness’ (riffing off of John Berger’s contemporary art theories detailed in Ways of Seeing). Her seminal work Deep Listening was recorded 14 feet underground, and her work speaks to resonant reverb lovers everywhere.
Mary Anne Hobbs is a radio broadcaster & key figure in bringing dubstep to the forefront of public attention. She fronted the Radio 1 Rock Show & created the the experimental/electronic show ‘The Breezeblock’, and managed to sneak an altogether more experimental sound right into the forefront of the BBC’s broadcasting output. A true heir to John Peel’s curatorial sound. She curates the dubstep stage at Sonar fest.
Le Pulp was a club founded by a group of working-class Parisian lesbians in ’97. Often musical histories forget that womxn are founders, project starters & owners – not just performers. A rotating cast kept Le Pulp raucous, rowdy and political for 10 years.
Not just a booking roster! have completely changed the game for how womxn in dance music can get platformed, heard and paid for their craft. Formed by UMFANG, Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson & Christine McCharen-Tran, they’re a collective, DJ roster, event series, mix series and all-round standard bearers for good taste and fair treatment. We could go on at length here, but we’re keeping it short, so just go check out the work they do.
There are a lot of firsts in recording engineer Leslie Ann Jones’s life! She was the first female engineer at both ABC Studios, LA and Automatt Studios, San Francisco. Oh, plus she’s only gone and won 4 Grammies, including Best Chamber Music & Best Jazz Vocal Album. No biggie.
Josey Rebelle is a true DJs DJ and unsung hero of the UK scene. Her Rinse shows are a staple of our week, and her ability to smelt down any genre at will always leaves us with our jaws on the floor.
We’re rounding off our Women’s History Month with the queen, Missy Elliot. She hardly needs announcing but not only is she perhaps the defining face behind women in hiphop and a supremely talented performer and dancer to boot, she’s also produced or written some of the biggest hits of the last twenty years. She’s written for Aaliyah, Mariah Carey, Timbaland and so many more.