'Believe the stories of female musicians'

Updated: Mar 12, 2019, 09:53 IST | Shunashir Sen

A UK-based collective of women DJs will talk about how equal representation is of utmost importance in the music industry, ahead of their gig in Mumbai

'Believe the stories of female musicians'
Jessica Farley (in black) and Eliza Rose (in green) at a workshop

If you take a look at pop music over the years, you'll find that women have mostly held their own. Right from the time of doo-wop groups like The Chordettes in the 1950s to Madonna to Adele or Taylor Swift, female pop stars have gone on to become household names across the world. Rock music, too, has had a Janice Joplin or Grace Slick being given similar credit as Bob Dylan or Lou Reed.

Even jazz and soul have boasted the likes of Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald. But here's a toughie: name an electronic female artiste who's enjoyed the same level of success as, say, Daft Punk or Calvin Harris. Go on. Take your time. And if you're still struggling, it's because of the simple reason that electronica has largely been considered to be the preserve of male DJs.

Rhythm Sister members and Perera Elsewhere (extreme right) at a talk in Delhi. Pics/Dolly Devi
Rhythm Sister members and Perera Elsewhere (extreme right) at a talk in Delhi. Pics/Dolly Devi

But Rhythm Sister is a UK-based collective that seeks to shift the conversation more towards not just women DJs, but also those who identify themselves as non-binary people. They have held regular workshops and club nights in England where the focus has been on promoting female producers. And now, they have brought that same endeavour to India, as part of a travelling workshop called The Selector Pro: Women in Electronic Music, and a new gig series called Inspiration Tours. We catch up with Jessica Farley and Eliza Rose of Rhythm Sister over email ahead of their performance in the city. Edited excerpts from an interview.

What are some reactions to your collective from the music community that truly got your goat?
We've had a wholly positive experience, which is great. But at times, we have felt that our activism has been used as a gimmick because we are pushing women's rights alongside our music.

How have you found the issues that you address to be even more relevant in a country like India?
It's such an up-and-coming music scene, and hopefully, our work with building confidence in women will increase representation within the industry. Some injustices surrounding women's safety here makes this even more important, since changing the society's perception of women and having more role models massively impacts the gender imbalance/inequality.

How do you think the music industry on the whole can together work towards creating more equality in electronic music?
Here are a few pointers. 1) Listen to women/non-binary people and believe their stories; make spaces safer for them so that they feel entitled to be there. 2) Condemn any form of sexism within the scene, no excuses. 3) Encourage women/non-binary artistes to perform, and encourage them to collaborate. 4) Ensure that there are women/non-binary people in your workplaces, and always book them for your parties/radio shows/events.

What are some of the things that you are going to talk about at the discussion before your gig in Mumbai?
In Mumbai, [Berlin-based producer] Perera Elsewhere will be the one talking to people before the show. The subjects of the talk include digital marketing, branding, building confidence and the importance of networking.

ON: March 15, 9.30 pm
AT: Khar Social, Rohan Plaza, Khar West.
CALL: 7506394243

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