Wednesday, May 19, 2010

And now for something completely different!

Hi! Honestly, I'm writing more out of compulsion than having something to say so bear with me. First, I'll feed the beast and give y'all a Peace Corps update. I'm doing well but traveling a LOT, for me. I've been in Panama more in the last week than I have in the last year. The thing is, I've been taking care of my one year med check up and there was also a regional meeting. Plus, I'm trying to coordinate the recycling thing on the Las Tablas end so I've been on the road a little more than I'd like. My health is good. I've got a little ear thing to clear up but when do I NOT have a little ear thing to clear up. I mean, really.

Umm.... story I want to share: Recently a friend/ NGO leader asked me to invite some women from my community to a woman's empowerment meeting. It was focused on domestic abuse but I wasn't comfortable saying that outright. So, one of the women I invited seemed really excited. "Oh yeah! I'd like to go." THEN WHAT DOES SHE DO?!! ASKS HER HUSBAND IF SHE CAN GO! TO A WOMAN'S EMPOWERMENT MEETING! I laughed inside but, really, it's just the way life is. He's got the money so how can she take the bus if he doesn't give her the money to leave. He said she could go but, he seemed a little concerned. We'll see. The thing is people here, male and female, think their significant other will cheat on them if they ever leave the house. The truth is, just like in the US, people cheat... A LOT. It's just that in the campo, everybody hears about it right away. Not everyone is an adulterer but, it does happen, so I understood his concern. It's like they say in Arrested Development, "You gotta lock that down".

Ok, what I really want to talk about is music. Even though I'm working my butt off lately, I still have time to fill my nights with tunes, so I've been a little studious about my rock y roll lately. I've figured out why I can't get into Rock Latino. The stuff I've heard is way too processed. FINALLY! Cased closed. It bothered me that I didn't get it but now I feel better now that I think I know why. Compressed vocals, cymbals that sound like glass, guitars that sound like synths... not for me. I would never dismiss a whole genre but, at heart, I am a punk rock girl, so that belabored studio aesthetic isn't for me. Case closed. On the other hand, I kind of dig reggaeton for the exact same reason I dislike Rock Latino. If you hyper-process dance hall/hip-hop based music, it can sound AWESOME! My friends hipped me to Calle 13, a Puerto Rican group that I recommend to anyone who even remotely likes Latin or Hip Hop and doesn't mind lyrics that may or may not be ironically (or not) sexist/ homophobic. [I'm pretty good at Spanish now but the last thing one learns in a new language is humor and irony].

I've been thinking about what kind of band I'd like to start when I get back to the states. Lately, I've been listening to some classic stuff based in blues. T. Rex, Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Lou Reed, and the Wig in a Box pseudo-soundtrack (not so classic and not so blues but in the same spirit). I want that. That feeling. That SINCERITY. I have no idea what's going on in music these days but when I left, I didn't see any sincerity in Baltimore at least. Even I'm guilty of it. I think I only wrote one sincere song in my old band and I apologize to the boys for that. I think I was trying to rip off the stuff I was listening to at the time and it came out very repressed and awkward. Also, I need to learn how to write riffs.

Messing around on a night much like this one, alone in a hotel room, I stumbled across an interview with Tori Amos about her cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit. I'm not a huge Tori fan but she said something that blew me away. She said that the most political songs have nothing to do with politics. She's right. Teen Spirit is a political song that doesn't want to be. But what really got me thinking was what she said next. She said, more or less, that in her version she wanted to tap into the male anger of the song and make it her own, i.e. express her FEMALE anger.


I can't really think of many female artists who have effectively expressed female anger. Janice Joplin, Billie Holiday, and (of course) Tori Amos, even though she sounds like a cat on a hot tin roof, are key exceptions. In the old days, the breakup songs where written by men and were all about men. For me, and I acknowledge I'm being general and even maybe dismissive, the riot girl thing was mostly about copying men being angry. It was never their own. It was never real. To use examples, You Ain't Nothin' But A Hound Dog done by Willie Mae Thorton (and yes, it was written by men, and later co opted and made famous by a man) is more real than Doll Parts by Hole or I'm Just a Girl by No Doubt. I think female anger is something I'd like to start to attempt to express. I've never been good at breaking new ground but I least I have this idea in my head: tap into anger. Because, rock and roll should be angry or at least express some longing so why not express female longing. Female longing that has nothing to do with men. SCARED YOU DIDN'T I??!!! In other words, instead of writing about looking sexy on the dance floor or how much you want to hit and quit some dude in the club as means to facile empowerment or, alternatively, how all men have done you wrong just because they have a male appendage, maybe you write about love. Maybe you write about how intimidating child birth is. Maybe you write about being a wife. Maybe you write about being alive. You just write. Don't write as a woman, just write and be a woman.

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