On Guitar Goddesses

5 Oct

I want to write something celebratory about women musicians. First of all, let me preface this celebration with some thoughts and ideas:

I am learning how to play the guitar. It has been a 5 year work in progress, where I learn two chords or some ditty, put the guitar down, and my fingertips become soft again. However, I am staying focused this time around. I take pride in it and am completely unashamed whenever I tell people over and over that I have learned how to play a new song. It makes me feel powerful as both a musician and woman that I am able to teach myself a skill that will never go away. I have been influenced by a plethora of female musicians (Tegan and Sara, Kaki King, Leslie Feist, Cat Power, Kimya Dawson, Jenny Lewis, and Laura Veirs to name a few), and appreciate their presence in my life. However, it seems shocking to people whenever I tell them of this feat that I am undertaking. Perhaps the real shock is how often I mention it, but alas, where do gender roles fit into the music biz (more specifically, the rock music biz)?

Kaki King was recently named the first woman on Rolling Stone’s “guitar gods” list. I read a segment of text that described her talent well: “Jaw-dropping virtuosity meets a guitar technique that truly stands out”. Well, YEAH. No kidding. (She was that little kid’s hands in that movie, August Rush, dontyaknow?)  (see KK in action: http://www.ted.com/talks/kaki_king_rocks_out_to_pink_noise.html)

I am not exactly sure why the path is so much harder for women guitarists in the business, but it is. Why isn’t there a “guitar goddesses” section in Rolling Stone (there should be!)? Why don’t more girls learn how to play the guitar? Why did I, as a young adult, opt out of playing a more “masculine” instrument that I was actually good at (clarinet) to play the flute (oh, so much more “feminine”)?

A little excerpt from a website on women in rock: “Why has music been so male?? I can only assume that most rock bands come from sweaty pubs and clubs, bastions of maleness and of paying the traditional dues. Where you learnt your licks on a never ending treadmill of Chuck Berry and 12 bar. Where you shagged your woman got drunk took drugs and moved on to the next town girl etc etc. Where your manager (male) would take you on tour with a bigger band (male). Being a woman musician meant not  competing on male terms of musicianship but as a novelty act not to be taken seriously.” (http://www.punk77.co.uk/groups/womeninrockpart1.htm)  Interesting, no? But it definitely sheds some light on why there may have been few outlets for women that wanted to rock out.

I think we need to have another Riot Grrrl movement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riot_Grrrl), where chicks have guitars, amps, sweat, and things to say.

I’m happy for the strides women have made in rock, punk, folk, alt, country, and every other genre of music in between. Like Kaki King, many other women guitarists deserve to be featured in popular media. Although this article was geared more towards women who play guitar…female singers, songwriters, bassists, pianists and drummers all deserve to be celebrated. So, thank you, women musicians (whatever you may play)…you are role models and are worthy of praise, and we celebrate you.

Ladies, for those about to rock, we salute you. Carrie Brownstein: Sleater-KinneyLovingly,

Kristen Pate, Your Events Coordinator

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