I stumbled across a wonderful Alt.Latino post on Jessy Bulbo, musician, cultural instigator, and all around riot grrrl. Her work is subversive, edgy, while paying homage to her Mexican roots. I love artists who can cherish the old, but not fall into the nostalgia trap to make new and refreshing commentary through music and performance.
I then realized that I don’t have much of a background on Latina artists. I can name J-Lo, Charo, and Gloria Estefan, but that’s about it. I know that there is a wealth of amazing Latina talent out there. So to my readers, who are you jamming to? Let me know!
Photo via indie.cl.
This isn’t about what you think it is…
Ok, it is, but not exactly. I am sure you are aware of the grossly sexed-up instrument ads that feature buxom bikini blonds selling you the latest guitar, amp, or pedal FX. Like this ad for example. ‘Cause you know, nothing says this thing is awesome than double DDs in your face. Much like car ads with waify models spread upon them, or beer ads that proclaim you will get laid by this hot babe if you down this particular ale, advertising relies heavily on sexualized and objectified (heterosexual) feminine bodies to persuade you to buy their product. See Gender Ads for a complete work on the subject.
However, this post isn’t exactly about that. It’s about breasts, yes, but about those players who actually have them and play the instrument, not merely are advertising tools.
Anyways, so what do I mean? Well, as a guitar player, who is quite endowed on the top half, just simply playing your guitar can be uncomfortable and require some adjustments. Unless you can literally play your guitar so low that it hits your knees, you probably need to wear your guitar somewhere around your hips to waist. If you have double DDs for example, the guitar strap either has to squeeze right in between your breasts, or over one of them, causing a bit of a squish, if you will. Your breasts then are either extremely obvious with the guitar strap nestled in between them as you play, or, your breast hurts because it is being suffocated as you belt out how much you love rock and roll. It’s tough being a girl, and all we wanna do is have fun. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that.)
Ok, you say. So, why don’t you just play sitting down then? Great question! Similar problem. Consider acoustic guitars for example. You know the classic dreadnought shape, and most are quite sizable. They usually have to be to get rich tone. Sit down with one as a large-breasted woman, and again, adjustments are needed. You can either hold the guitar in front of you, covering your top, but yet again, squishing as you lean over to play, or as I have done before, try to fandangle one breast to sit in the curve of the guitar and the other behind it. Ok, it’s not the most rockstar pose. Frankly it’s weird, annoying, and again, makes playing your instrument while having to worry about how you appear painfully obvious.
It’s bad enough that women as performers have to be constantly aware of their appearance, both sexually and physically, without then having to worry if they can play their instrument without more googley-eyed stares. Looks come before talent in much of our culture, and female artists have to balance between their own personal desires when it comes to their appearance, and what everyone else expects of them to look like. Add on to that, playing your instrument in a somewhat comfortable manner.
We got the beat!
Tom Tom Magazine – A Magazine about Female Drummers Issue 5 is out! Winter 2011 features: Kim Thompson, Yoshimi, Sara Lund, Gaggle, 8Bitch, Allessia Mattalia, Andrea Alvarez and tons more. This LA issue will have two release parties in the city of angels, plus one in the big apple. Here are the facebook event links:
Please see their website for event specifics and subscription/merchandise info.
Turn it up! Grrrl style!
Check out this great new resource for those of you wondering what it is like to be a musician who happens to be female. It starts today with the online features, and on air segments on NPR. NPR asked hundreds of working women from all genres what it is like, and includes the results and other notable pages. I’ve spent about an hour so far just exploring and I am really impressed. The responses are amazing, and telling of what it is like to be a woman in still quite (que James Brown….no wait, Xtina’s version) a man’s world.
I am so excited and I look forward to hearing the on air segments, as well as, further exploring all of the online features. You can contribute your thoughts as well here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The only thing I don’t like about the series is the “woman musician” part in the title. You don’t put “man” in front of musician do you? Nope. I know we are focusing on women, which is the point, which is awesome. But we need to say musicians who are also women, not “woman musicians.” Why? The default meaning for musician should not be gendered. I know that it is, and we need to take active steps in breaking that idea (thus this commentary.)
Musicians can be anyone! When we put “woman musician” and never do the same for “male musician,” you default musician’s meaning as male, and you maintain androcentrism with the notion that woman are not normally musicians. Therefore, women remain the marked gender that is not standard issue. So when they are musicians, they are seen as somehow abnormal, unusual, and the exception, not rule, because you are altering the word with a gendered signifier. And that’s not true, nor cool.
Women have always been musicians, they just haven’t always gotten credit or recognition for their craft. And I hope for those of you who are unconvinced check out this series and understand the awe and inspiring power that women have in their musical voices, hands, minds, and hearts.