Playlist #2 – Sheroic Songs in English

‘Without music, life would be a blank to me’, said Jane Austen.

And we could not agree more.

Music can soothe us, energise us, transport us and, above all, inspire us. That is why we are curating this Sheroic Playlist. A list that not only brings you songs, but also introduces you to some extremely inspiring female musicians. Women whose music or lives are sheroic and need to be celebrated.

This second round brings you some sheroic songs in English.

You can listen to it on Spotify or on Youtube.

Enjoy!

 

Ibeyi

Ibeyi (pronounced ee-bey-ee) is the Parisian musical duo of two sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Noami Diaz, who meld elements of Afro-Cuban roots music and electro doom soul. Their name means ‘twins’ in Yoruba. They were born in Cuba and sing in English and Yoruban.

‘No Man in the World’ is a song from their last album ‘Ash’. An homage to Michelle Obama’s words ‘the measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls’ – from one of her speeches last year on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton. It was her response to then-candidate Donald Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women in the Access Hollywood tape, and his complete lack of remorse afterward. You can read on here.

Kate Tempest 

Tempest is an English poet, spoken-word artist and playwright, considered one of the brightest talents around at the moment.

Her song ‘Europe is lost’ is a crystallization of the disasters of 2016: ‘from climate change to immigrants to terrorists, the song parodies the list of keywords that news organizations are so fond of using. It doesn’t offer solutions or advice, but that’s what makes its lyrics so accurate. The fear is urgent; the future uncertain. It reproduces the mood of despair lingering over the heads of the youth who feel like their planet is being stolen.’

ANOHNI 

Anohni is an English-born singer, composer, and visual artist. She was formerly known as Antony, the lead singer of the band Antony and the Johnsons.

In 2015, she announced her fifth album Hopelessness, which was her first album to be released under her new name, a name she had been using in her personal life for years. Hopelessness comes as a result of her growing ‘tired of grieving for humanity’ and having realised that she ‘was not being entirely honest by pretending that I am not a part of the problem’. ‘4 Degrees’, the first song of the album, is ‘kind of a brutal attempt to hold myself accountable, not just valorize my intentions but also reflect on the true impact of my behaviors.’

Nina Simone

Nina Simone was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and activist in the Civil Rights Movement; an icon of American music of the twentieth century. She was the consummate musical storyteller, a griot as she would come to learn, who used her remarkable talent to create a legacy of liberation, empowerment, passion, and love through a magnificent body of works.

For years, Nina was reluctant to perform material that was tied to the Civil Rights Movement because she found a lot of it was so simple and unimaginative that it stripped the dignity away from the people it was trying to celebrate. But the Alabama church bombing and the murder of Medgar Evers stopped that argument and with ‘Mississippi Goddam,’ she realized there was no turning back.

Laura Marling

Marling is a British folk singer-songwriter and musician. Despite her saying ‘25 years and nothing to show for it’ on her song ‘Always This Way’ from her last album, she won the Brit Award for Best British Female Solo Artist at the 2011 Brit Awards, and was nominated for the same award at the 2012, 2014 and 2016 Brit Awards. Her sixth record, Semper Femina, is nominated for a Grammy Award in the ‘Best Folk Album’ category. In 2016 she started her podcast Reversal of the Muse as an experiment to begin ‘conversations between friends about female creativity.’ She explained: ‘As a small part of the global conversation about women in the arts, it became an obsession. It occurred to me that in 10 years of making records I had only come across two female engineers working in studios. I wanted to know why progress has been so slow in this area and what effect it would have on music.”

Blues & Billie Holliday, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith

Blues was the most prominent secular genre in early 20th Century black American music. ‘It came to displace sacred music in the everyday lives of black people, it both reflected and helped to construct a new black consciousness.’ Black women, such as Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, were the first to record the blues. Their songs represented love and sexuality in a way that contradicted ‘mainstream ideological assumptions regarding women and being love’. They also challenged the notion that women’s ‘place’ was in the domestic sphere. Such notions were based on the social realities of middle-class white women’s lives, but were incongruously applied to all women, regardless of race or class”, as explains Angela Davis on her book ‘Blues Legacies and Black Feminism’.

Solange

With her last album ‘A Seat at the Table’, Solange Knowles ‘wanted (…) to have those moments of grief, and being able to be angry and express rage, and trying to figure out how to cope in those moments. I also wanted it to make people feel empowered and [that] in the midst of all of this we can still dream, and uplift, and laugh like we always have.’ The album is an homage to the #blacklivesmatter movement with extremely inspiring interludes by her parents. Our favorite: Tina Knowles saying ‘there’s so much beauty in being black. And that’s the thing that I guess I get emotional about (…) it really saddens me when we are not allowed to express that pride in being black. And that if you do it’s considered anti-white, no, you are just pro-black (…) Because you celebrate black culture does not mean you don’t like white culture (…)’

Tune Yards

Tune Yards is the music project of New England native Merrill Garbus. Her  2011 album Whokill was ranked the number one album of that year in The Village Voice’s annual Pazz and Jop critic’s poll. Whokill is concerned with ‘power struggles that arise from inequity and lead to further cruelty and injustice,’ stemming from issues of privilege around race, gender and class. Its opening song ‘My Country’ is ‘a love-hate anthem’ about America, which abases the patriotic song ‘My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.’

The original title of the album was Women Who Kill, but Garbus decided to change it as an expression of modern dissonance. As she said, it’s incorrectness represents ‘what we get from texting and e-mailing all the time, when nothing is ever exactly right.’

Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba also known as Mama Africa was a South African singer, actor, United Nations goodwill ambassador, and civil rights activist. Associated with musical genres including Afropop, jazz, and world music, she was an advocate against apartheid and white-minority government in South Africa’. Born in Johannesburg in 1932 to Swazi and Xhosa parents, her childhood and adolescence were marked by racial discrimination. Makeba’s career flourished in the United States, and she released several albums and songs, her most popular being ‘Pata Pata’ (1967). She became the first black woman to receive a Grammy along with Harry Belafonte for her 1966 album An Evening with Belafonte/Makeba,. She also made popular several songs critical of apartheid, like ‘Soweto Blues’ (1977) about the Soweto uprising. Upon her death, former South African President Nelson Mandela said that ‘her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us.’

PJ Harvey

Polly Jean Harvey MBE, aka PJ Harvey, is an English musician, singer-songwriter, writer, poet, and composer. Even if Harvey doesn’t align herself with the feminist movement, there is a great dose of highly woman-positive lyrics in her songs. Such as ‘Me-Jane’ – a thumping track decrying overpowering masculine forces that drown out Jane’s voice, erase her self-determination, and cause her harm. Even when she’s calling Tarzan by his first name — a sure sign of familiarity and equality — he doesn’t seem to recognize her. This song is a demand for acknowledgement. Or ’50ft Queenie’, a gender-bending, raw, and brash two-and-half minutes of playfully teasing the typical male posturing we hear so much about in music. Harvey undermines this fight for male dominance by asserting herself as queen and a king. Throughout the song, she jokes about her metaphorical endowment, her prowess, and her superiority. You can read on here.

Björk

Björk Guðmundsdóttir is an Icelandic singer, songwriter, actress, record producer, and DJ. She was only 12 years old when her first recorded album ‘Bjork’ came out that got her attention from the record labels. So far, Björk has won five BRIT Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, one MOJO Award, three UK Music Video Awards, 21 Icelandic Music Awards and, in 2010, the Polar Music Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in recognition of her ‘deeply personal music and lyrics, her precise arrangements and her unique voice.’ She has also been nominated for 14 Grammy Awards, one Academy Award, and two Golden Globe Awards. In 2015, she was included in Time Magazine‘s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She won the Best Actress Award at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival for her performance in the film Dancer in the Dark.  And on top of all incontestable success in the flm and music industries, she is strongly supportive of numerous liberation movements across the globe, including support for independence for Kosovo, as well as an environmental activist.

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‘When I go, I am gonna know that I left something for my people to build on, that is my reward. You got your money, your house, and your easy living, my folks got nothing and they need inspiration 24 hours a day and that is why I am here for’ (Nina Simone)

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