Posts tagged ‘culture’

A Woman’s Worth…



(The picture is of Norma Jean Wofford, also known as ‘The Duchess’ – lead guitarist with Bo Diddley from ’62-’66. She doesn’t appear in the book I’m talking about here, but this image goes very well with my blog post title. There were dozens of artists that I could have envisaged in the project. Would I like to see Giving Birth to Sound volume II and III and beyond? Yes.  Also a CD compilation and a dedicated music festival? You bet. I’m dreaming big…)

This post is about the worth and significance of musicians – female ones in particular – our capacity as story-tellers, mediums, healers, visionaries, agitators, collaborators entertainers and communicators. Every week, I am still riding the wave of momentum generated by ‘Giving Birth To Sound’ – the new book by Cologne jazz publisher Buddy’s Knife. With a foreword by legendary jazz pianist Amina Claudine Myers and featuring 48 female musicians – including myself. Over a year ago, I was approached by the editor, Renate da Rin. Would I like to be interviewed for a book about female musicians in jazz and creative music? I was up for it of course, and now suddenly the book has arrived and it’s an absolute dream. I am honoured and happy to be sitting side by side with some of my influences and industry legends. A rich collection of personal histories and records of incredible achievement. The contributions have all been translated into English but each artist tells of a very personal relationship to sound, with a diverse range of nationalities, cultures, languages and instrumentation.

All the artists in the book are receiving our copies at different times and reading the final creation at different paces. Needless to say, with a sense of unfolding wonder and high hopes for further contact and projects. This feels unstoppable! For my part, I feel determined to draw attention to what has been achieved here and why it’s important. Despite distinct differences in age, race, language, education and geography, attitude to music, society and concepts of ‘womanhood’, there are common themes amongst the participants – which speak volumes about the times we are living in. An awareness of injustice, a recognition of global inequality and an economic climate where poverty is being demonised and money worshipped, the natural world being destroyed. A recognition that things are in some ways worse not better. A proud, fearless independence, but love of collaboration. An almost mystical, ecstatic reverie that comes from the creative process. Early exposure not just to musical stimulus, but to the worlds of the imagination. A generous passion and hope for the music above all – often expressed in words that are non-linear, poetic, idiomatic and rhapsodic. The book actually reads like a piece of music itself.

Women and girls have been told so many times that we can’t do stuff – either that we’re weak, incompetent and decorative … or in other periods of history and geography, that we are only good for sex, childcare, menial labour and social scapegoating, physical/emotional punchbags, with no access to self-improvement. I don’t say that lightly. In some areas, women have lower status than a domestic animal. Though happily, neither extreme is my own personal experience – the reality of worldwide abuse of women and girls is now so widely known about, that the concept of  female emancipation can no longer be ridiculed as some special interest feminist minority issue. It’s affecting the gender which is actually the majority. So it brings me joy when I see initiatives that really celebrate women. Our stories need to be heard. Some of them are shocking.

 (Here’s what I wrote to the editors:)

”The more I read of the book, the more I am blown away, with love and inspiration, heart quakes and shakes, tears of solidarity and empathy and also a fair bit of socio-political outrage. Today, reading the story of the musician who was accused as a child of being a liar – (TWICE) as her work was so advanced they didn’t believe it was hers… (this happened to me at school, with a play I wrote.)”  * I remember too, after a performance at the Isle of Wight Jazz festival, being approached by the (drunk) director of another prominent UK jazz festival. He accused me of not being the author of my own songs, which he threatened to  research and expose as classic standards which I had in fact plagiarised. Talk about a compliment and insult at the same time. I later received an apology …

 (I also wrote this to the editors:)

”I have to say, a book, (so much more than just a ‘book’) of this nature could not have happened at this time in the UK. We’re beset here with a governmental drive towards austerity that is unbelievable. But there are valiant pockets of rebellion and creativity resourcefulness, generosity and people-power all the more amazing, as we are operating against the odds here. A common theme amongst some of the contributors seems to be the increasing punishment of the poor and of poverty by government and media, affecting all artists – so maybe this economic trend is worldwide. BUT I am so thankful to you creative jazz loving folks at Buddys Knife – for your intellectual courage, determination and artistic integrity in doing this project.
Each one of these 48 contributors is not just a musical creator, but leader, visionary and dare I say it – shaman/sorcerer/witch/wizard/world-bridger and changer of epic proportions. Each with her own networks of international creativity. There are some global possibilities here. As with all creations – a mixture of strong desire/intent and a trust and ALLOWING… the inevitability and momentum of dreams coming to fruit : ) Thinking big. Loving large. Powering the imagination. Women are rising again.”

Here is the intro on the back cover, which says it beautifully. Here’s why you need to read this book! Please order it and buy copies for your friends, libraries, schools, jazz cafes. By doing so you will be helping to support the next stage of our journey – you too will be ‘giving birth to sound!’

”Giving Birth to Sound is about Her-story as told by some of the most brilliant and creative women musicians in the world. Individual thinkers and movers who have been brave enough to devote their lives to the making of music the way they hear it. They were not afraid to sing and speak in the name of sound, showing us that they are a family of unique individuals, separate but united. Read their words and listen to their music whenever you can – it will take you even closer to the great mystery called life.”
   How to buy the book:
   Available on and
Thank you for reading!





Women, Music and Revolution.


(Khadijatou DoynehFaye Patton and band onstage Trafalgar Sq. 8th March 2014. Photo credit, Frederique Rapier)

What’s the connection between women, music and revolution?

Voice is both physical vocal power and a metaphor for wider expression, soul signature and identity, contribution, creation, comment, analysis and dissent within the arena of public and private life. There is a political voice/authorial voice as well as the ability to speak or sing. At any given time across the world, women’s voices are not heard, or are actively suppressed and silenced. Sexual/reproductive, economic, educative, domestic, religious and social agency are all ‘voices’ that get maimed, shattered and squashed in girls and women across the world. Those voices that do rise up and escape – both to express  the original impulse – and to report the injustice of suppression, do so at enormous risk.

A woman’s voice is clearly a tool of awesome power.

As someone who sings professionally and has taught both singing and self-defence/martial arts to groups of women, I have a perspective on the power of speech and song. I have seen over and over again that moment when an individual opens the floodgates and releases her unique voice. Sometimes accompanied by tears, laughter or sheer bewilderment. It never ceases to humble and inspire me.  The first thing I teach any aspiring singer or fighter, is the same thing – how to yell – really yell, long and loud, repeatedly. It’s a vital ‘first port of call’ in boundary definition. People are amazed at the discovery that if done in a relaxed way, this is no effort, indeed, it energises and sustains. If you can yell, you can sing. Sound travelling on the breath, sustained by the body, is a magical act. Do with it what you will. Change will occur! No wonder it makes our suppressors nervous and no wonder so many women find their own power hard to handle at first.

On March 8th, I was proud to be involved again with the Million Women Rise march and rally in Trafalgar Square, London, UK. Thanks to titanic, steady hard work, both behind and in front of the scenes, this  movement is becoming, year after year, an organic phenomenon. A uniquely diverse, grassroots forum for female activism and expression from across the globe. Songs, speeches, celebration and hope, anger and outrage, dancing, drumming, reportage and courageous testimony. Information and exchange, strategy and solidarity, friendship and extended kinship. Right in the very the heart of this planet’s most imperialistic country and city. (Ironic, no?)

This movement now has its own collective ‘voice’. Let’s celebrate that voice. It’s here to stay.



Official Million Women Rise Site.

For more amazing shots of the day’s march and rally, click here. Site of official event photographer is Frederique Rapier Photography

There is a situation going on in the UK which is a national disgrace. Female asylum seekers fleeing situations of gender persecution, (including but not limited to: war/rape, female genital mutilation, and homophobic violence) only to end up incarcerated in UK detention centres. One group that does great work to support lesbian/gay asylum seekers from African countries is Movement for Justice.


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