I trace my love affair with women and electronic music back to one definitively haunting and timeless record, Portishead’s Dummy. From there, I developed a passion for abrasive beats, experimental synths, and the pervasive passion of female vocals. As my taste expanded, I began to get down with the underground world of dance music and noticed a lack of females behind the decks. I dug deeper and discovered many women were behind some of the greatest achievements of electronica and dance music.
The astonishing life and legacy of British electronic music pioneer Daphne Oram has largely been overlooked for the past 50 years. She turned drawings into pure electronic sound through her brilliantly designed Oramics machine, the ancestor of today’s modern synthesizers. Wendy Carlos took the synthesizer and turned it into a legitimate musical instrument when she reconstructed Bach into the first ever platinum-selling classical album. The Black Madonna, as the creative director of Chicago’s legendary Smart Bar, has been paving the way for women in not only DJing, but music production and industry involvement as well. To this day, however, women’s achievements in electronic and dance music continue to be neglected, and it has come down to a matter of access and visibility.
Multiple articles were published this year outlining the sexism in dance music culture. A THUMP article titled The Number One Reason There Aren’t More Female DJs suggested that we stop writing “think pieces” about the dance music industry’s sexism and actively do something about it. Given the opportunity to book a lineup of all female DJs and producers is a way of encouraging people to listen wider, deeper, and tell the stories that aren’t getting told. People should be accepted for their merits and skills, not what is underneath their clothes.
2015 brought many female identified folks to the forefront of electronic and dance music. Collectives like Discwoman (NYC) and Seattle’s own TUF have begun to mobilize women in the industry and push for greater visibility and participation. The #NapGirls movement blew up this year to promote positive messages and girl power through mentorship and die-hard support of female artists. Girls Gone Vinyl is a documentary in production to tell the story of female DJs all across the globe.
With the success of the Discwoman showcase at Re-bar during this year’s Decibel Festival, I saw the potential in having an event like this regularly. I approached the owners of Re-bar about booking a monthly showcase to feature female-identified folks in the electronic music community, and Ouramix was born. Every first Friday will focus on giving recognition to the finest female oriented DJs, electronic musicians, and artists.
Dance music has always been an avant-garde culture which breaks down social barriers. It creates an openness for everyone involved. But the business side of it has turned it into a white, heteronormative industry, ignoring the contributions of not only women, but queer people of color. I encourage all of those involved in electronic and dance music culture to examine the roles they play and consider the ways in which they can better contribute to the engagement and active involvement of those less privileged.
Ouramix is a political statement, not a solution. This party is an opportunity to book women regularly and give exposure to those that are underrepresented, or just want a chance to play some unique and experimental stuff live. This is not meant to be exclusionary, because our identities are rather complicated. It’s important to highlight the inequalities that still exist in dance and electronic music, and use Re-bar as a space for all different kinds of artists to develop and deliver their vision.
This month’s showcase will feature three uniquely powerful women who are no strangers to making tail feathers shake. The tech-house stylings of Miss Shelrawka have brought clubs from NYC, SF, and PDX to their knees. Kristina Childs has spent over 16 years developing deep house sounds on top of elevating the worlds of gaming and design with her independent artistic vision. Kid Amiga is a comical genius and trans* female whom you may recognize from queer-centric parties like BMP/GRND, Kiss Off, and Robogirls Rave. To top it all off, Garlic Man & Chikn will take you down a creature hole with a live performance of their eccentric electro hip hop vibes.
All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Vera Project, a music and arts center run by and for youth, with participants at all levels of music production and community organization.
OURAMIX @ Re-bar (1114 Howell St, Denny Triangle), Friday January 1st, 10pm-2am, $10.