Aerin Fogel is the founder of Venus Fest, a feminist music festival in Toronto taking place September 2020. ALL LIISBETH playllists are available on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1A3j8nvDNCWR6KyGVoqeRo?si=a9g5Qh5ZS06QsV0M6qaSrQ
Here are 10 new songs for us to march to on Sunday, March 8, for International Women’s Day. I believe that working towards equality is a balance between doing our own inner work and taking action in the world. We must be able to honour our pain and the learning we still need to do, and also look outwards to see where there is injustice in our communities and step forward proactively.
The artists below are each striving for equality in their own way, using their platforms and voices to help us all learn and grow. We are each here to contribute to that greater purpose. Let this #IWD2020 be an inspiration for us on how we can march forward, and what direction we are heading in.
Bikini Kill, “Girl Soldier”
Bikini Kill, known for pioneering the Riot Grrrl movement, was one of the first all-female bands in punk to speak out against abuse and misogyny. “Girl Soldier,” truly an anthem to march to, points to the irony of men fighting overseas when there is a war happening on our own homes against women, women’s lives, women’s bodies, women’s rights. Seen here in a live video from the early ’90s with “Turn Off Your TV” draped behind them, Bikini Kill inspired a revolution and called us all to action. 2020 sees them reuniting in a world that just might be ready for their message.
Haviah Mighty, “In Women Colour”
Brampton rapper Haviah Mighty made history in 2019 when she became the first female rapper to ever win a Polaris Prize. The opening track to her album, 13th Floor, cuts hard to the truth of how racist and misogynistic our world (let alone the music industry) still is. She tells her powerful story, how none of it could break her, and now as she breaks boundaries with her art, she is changing the landscape for Black women in this country.
Rising Montreal rapper Backxwash identifies as queer and a witch—two communities that have historically been broken through hateful, patriarchal culture. F.R.E.A.K.S is an anthem to all the incredible people existing in the margins of society who are changing our culture by showing up unapologetically. Historical change has always come from queer and marginalized communities, pushing the restricted boundaries of normalcy and redefining identity. Today we celebrate all the amazing freaks.
Riit, a Juno-nominated and rising artist from Nunavut, is an embodiment of the slow but real change beginning to happen in the music industry. Her Inuktitut lyrics and throat singing speak of her experience growing up in the Northern Territories, and the strength she has found as a woman through much of it. “qaumajuapik,” the first video from her 2019 album, landed her on many incredible shows and festival lineups, a massive hurdle for an artist living in such an isolated population. Making space for voices like Riit’s is the reason our individual actions matter.
Tei Shi, “Alone in the Universe”
Colombian-born singer Tei Shi often sings on themes of love and loss but her 2019 anthem “Alone in the Universe” is a song for us to march to. If there is a God, and if she is a woman, she’s dropping the ball, Tei Shi proclaims. She follows it by promising to speak up for the sake of others, where she hasn’t been able to speak up for herself. It’s a powerful reflection on the isolation of being a woman, and the importance of taking action on behalf of ourselves and others.
Lido Pimienta, “Eso Que Tu Haces”
Lido Pimienta returns this April with her first album following her 2017 Polaris Prize win, titled Miss Colombia. “Eso Que Tu Haces” depicts the magnificent colour, warmth, and dance tradition of San Basilio de Palenque, the first place of refuge for those fleeing slavery in the Colonial Americas. Her magnetic voice and storytelling has begged Canada for years now to be accountable to continued racism in the country, and this song is no different as she sets a boundary around what can be considered a “loving action,” and what is false.
Sudan Archives, “Glorious”
This video is Black Girl Magic personified as Brittney Parks imagines her own prayer to God in the style of old oral tradition hymns. Inspired by Aisha al-Fallatiyah, the first woman to ever perform in Sudan, “Glorious” prays for money, a foundation of life in our world. It is a stunning and raw nod to intersectional equality—if we want an equal world, we have to understand that it takes marginalized genders, races, and identities that much more effort to get what they need to survive in it.
Austra, “Risk It”
Austra returns this year with new music after four years when we last heard “Future Politics,” a plea for a more equal, utopian world. “Risk It” is a call to action that can be interpreted in our love lives, our political lives, or both (since there’s really no separation in the end, is there?). As we march to the beat of this song, we can contemplate risk as an essential part of growth and change. There are places where we all need to risk it in our lives in order to see equality grow in the world.
Black Belt Eagle Scout, “Indians Never Die”
This song is a beautifully haunting comment on our Earth and the Indigenous communities that have cared for it over many generations. Colonial violence is still painfully active and destructive in the 21st century, and we are each responsible for our part in ensuring that the land we live on and the individuals who continue to care for it do not waste away. Perhaps the physical earth can be part of our vision for equality, too.
Vagabon, “Every Woman”
Do not be deceived by the gentle strum of this song. In the lyrics lives a war cry, a proclamation that Laetitia Tamko is not afraid of the battle that women face every day to exist and be free. There is a solidarity in her lyrics as we understand the importance of every woman coming together in the name of equality. We may be tired, but there’s a ways to go still before we sit down.
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The Canadian music landscape has never sounded so exciting. Issues of gender, race, sexuality, identity and ability still require a tremendous amount of learning, and have yet to be truly considered in many important music spaces. But it’s also a time when those issues are starting to crack through the foundation of old structures that have protected some, and kept others bound from self-expression and support in their journey. Real change, if we are to get there, involves every level of the industry including media, audience, grant jurors, labels, booking agents, promoters, and festivals to be on board. In my heart I feel that this change is starting, but it is just the beginning. We have never had so much access to such a rich tapestry of lyrics, melodies, instruments, and languages, shared with us through the many identities that are drawn to expression through music. It is a truly exciting time to witness (and hear), and I look forward to seeing the deeper, more long-term possibilities these changes will open up. The following artists represent the complexity and powerful range of voices in a (mostly) Canadian landscape. Hear them live at Venus Fest this year, September 20-22 at The Opera House, in Toronto. Tei Shi – Keep Running
Colombian-born Valerie Teicher is the force behind Tei Shi, emerging into the music industry only a few years ago with the distinct sound of her emotive voice over carefully hung grooves. Music fans with a stunningly far reach have been following her ever since, and awaiting her second LP which is due this fall. She is an inspiration to women and women of colour, and approaches her career with the commitment and integrity of a true artist.
Charlotte Cardin – Main Girl
No one could have anticipated the immediate and overwhelming response to Charlotte’s handful of singles and EPs in the last few years, although it’s not surprising when you hear her music. Filled with honesty, the depth of a woman’s experience, and the subdued cool of an August night, Charlotte Cardin has found her way into the heart of every Canadian music fan, and earned a place on some of the biggest festival stages in the country.
Han Han – World Gong Crazy (ft. Datu & Hataw)
Celebrated as one of Toronto’s most talented rappers in the game right now, Han Han raps predominantly in Filipino and is known for her live performances incorporating stunning movement pieces by Flipino-Canadian dance troupe Hataw. Haniely also works as a nurse, and is an involved activist and member of the local community. It’s been a few years since she released her last album, so fans are on the edge of their seats awaiting her new album due this fall.
TRP.P – Love, Calm Down
Originally known as 1/4 of Toronto rap collective, The Sorority, and independent producer and beatmaker Truss, Phoenix and Truss are now TRP.P – one of the hottest up and coming R&B groups in Toronto who are about to release their debut album. Their lyrics speak of caring and reciprocal love that uplifts around them, over deep grooves that pay homage to nostalgia-tinged legends like Ashanti.
Riit – Qaumajuapik
Riit, hailing from the beautiful and icy Panniqtuuq, Nunavut, brings a warmth and elegance to her songs that has her poised to shake up pop music in North America. Incorporating throat singing and Inuttitut lyrics alongside skillfully crafted synth pop, Riit’s highly anticipated debut album brings the listener on a deeply honest journey through her experience in Nunavut of intergenerational trauma, residential schools, sexual abuse, and isolation. But there is hope in her words as well, a hope possibly carried through her own career as an emerging young musician and the possibility of what lies ahead.
Too Attached – GratefulToo Attached is a project between Canadian writer, professor, model, and musician Vivek Shraya, and her wildly talented beatboxer/producer brother, Shamik Bilgi. The pair’s debut album, “Angry,” was critically acclaimed as one of Canada’s most radical, boundary-pushing and important albums, and was later nominated for the Polaris Prize. Like Shraya’s writing, the album is a boldly stark exposure of the hypocrisy behind many ‘inclusive’ spaces, and an honest perspective on what it would actually entail to create such places.
The Vaselines – Son Of A Gun
The Vaselines hail from a period in the music industry where women on stage were painfully sparse, even more so than today, and especially in the punk and grunge scenes. Known as Kurt Kobain’s favourite band (and singer Frances McKee as the namesake of his and Courtney Love’s daughter), The Vaselines were widely under-appreciated at the time of their initial emergence. Fast forward to 2019 and hear how the group has sustained an incredible and impactful career that has lasted more than three decades. They continue to be an inspiration for women in alternative, edgy music communities, and hold a special place in the heart of every grown up punk.
The Weather Station – Thirty
The video for “Thirty” depicts The Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman baring her deeply emotional lyrics before a nondescript and indifferent crowd of men. It proves to be a highly universal and relatable symbol for the experience of women everywhere, as well as a nod to the reality that women in music work ten times as hard to get half as far as men. But the lyrics also reveal a cyclical nature to our experience, and offer the possibility of hope for something new as the years pass.
Dorothea Paas – Container
Every time I hear Dorothea Paas sing I immediately think “voice of an angel,” and it’s not hard to see why. She represents the strength and incredible talent of the DIY music community in Toronto, and as such, the power of underrepresented voices who are slowly carving out space where they can. Dorothea’s songs speak of a vulnerability that is hard for most to admit, leaving the listener haunted by soft, arching melodies.
Fiver – Hair Of The Dead
Simone Schmidt (the storyteller behind Fiver) spent two years pouring over case files of people incarcerated at The Rockwood Asylum for the Criminally Insane between 1856-1881. “Audible Songs From Rockwood” is the result of their research; 11 songs that imagine fictional field recordings from that time. Schmidt is no stranger to this approach in their work, as they have been at the forefront of several of Canada’s best folk projects over the last two decades, and with each one they give voice to the silent and forgotten ones who live in the margins of society and are cast aside. This, to me, is the true spirit of folk music and a tradition that Schmidt carries well.
Playlist curator: Aerin Fogel, founder of Venus Fest. Did you enjoy this playlist? Consider making a small contribution so we can bring you more in the coming months! [direct-stripe value=”ds1554685140411″]
September is here, an ambivalent time of the year for many. Summer is winding down, along with its warmth, weekend getaways, and all the friendships and romances that emerged from the woodworks in those expansive months. But September, in this annual cycle, has always been a time to dig in. We come back to our initiatives, our priorities, and we reconnect with the people in our lives who are part of our structures and commitments. We land back into our communities and routines.
For the team at Venus Fest, September is the culmination of our work. We’ve worked on structures and priorities that we can be proud to land back into and that support a feminist, intersectional, and thriving ecosystem for our social future. This is how we will repair a lost sense of connection in our communities and a more welcoming space for everyone.
The following is a playlist of songs from artists that are showcasing at Venus Fest this year, artists who are repairing these connections and sharing a vision of feminism with their followings and communities.
Zola Jesus, “Siphon”
This song is a beautiful call to life. Zola Jesus sings of remembering the light in someone’s eyes and insists that “we won’t let you bleed out.” The lyrics are like a redemptive poem that speak of our ability to find connection, to remain connected, and to lift each other up through this connection.
Vallens have delivered twisted grunge rock to Toronto’s music scene for several years. Singer Robyn Phillips brings moving themes to her lyrics with commentary on consent, the male gaze, and in the case of “Devour,” she’s given us a beautiful contemplation on cultural concepts of beauty that time might devour as we mature.
Maylee Todd, “Downtown”
Maylee Todd has been a pillar of Toronto’s music community for over a decade now, from her lush disco soundscapes, to her Ableton Live workshops geared towards women and artists of colour, to her virtual womb installations and much more. “Downtown” is a perfect showcase of Maylee’s style: shimmering melodies over a fully costumed scene with a healthy dose of the bizarre.
Brooklyn natives OSHUN, named after the goddess of water, have been making soulful music for years but recently released their first LP to well-deserved reception. The video shows the duo continuing to elevate and honour their goddess nature even when confronted by the confusion of others.
Moor Mother, “By The Light”
Moor Mother has had a long history in her career of powerful rap music built with an earthy feel and a deconstructed honesty. I imagine “By The Light” to be a connecting piece between the binding chains and ancestral pain in the song and the light that still exists within each person, a light that keeps us going and connects us all.
Bully, “Guess There”
This is a video about your average lonely, suburban snail. “I guess there could be something I’m missing,” sings frontwoman Alicia Bognanno in a nod to the isolation and lack of connection inherent in Western culture. It’s an honest look at the monotony of routines that we can get trapped in and the disconnect it causes.
Partner, “Play The Field”
If there’s a Canadian band right now that brings connection to every show it plays, it’s Partner. They have an amazing ability to relate to their audience and as a result, their music brings a lot of warmth to listeners and the community that gathers at their shows. Here’s a funny song about a cute woman that makes them want to “play the field.”
Ora Cogan, “Moonbeam”
Ora Cogan’s “Moonbeam” video seems to be the perfect visual representation of her unique sound: ethereal and soul stirring with a sense of longing and a wash of darkness. Ora has been building her craft over several years and has created a healthy handful of albums with a true DIY spirit that pioneers her path in music and her relationship to her audiences.
TiKA, “All Day All Night ft. HMLT”
This powerful song by Toronto/Montreal artist TiKA is a prayer to freedom in the face of a constant threat against Black lives. “All day all night, I have to fight to keep my balance but I’m right here,” she sings, answering to a world where oppression still exists all day and all night, alongside the truth of her personal freedom.
Isla Craig, “Gregory (Live)”
You may recognize Isla Craig’s soaring voice from having graced the albums of Jennifer Castle, US Girls, and many more. Her own music has always been a treasured, albeit rare presence in the Toronto scene. However, Isla has returned this year with her album The Becoming, a testament to the strength of a local artist who has built community and connection around her music, and can re-emerge after several years with something entirely fresh and inspired.
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Once a year for over a century, we’ve had International Women’s Day (IWD), a recognition and celebration of women’s rights. In many ways it is also a signpost that there are still gaps in our awareness and collective understanding if we still need just one day a year to remember the rights of women the world over.
International Women’s Day can be a day that we remember to remember, every day. The women on the front lines fighting for justice and equality, the women who have changed the laws of labour, the women in unsafe places who haven’t yet found safety, the trans women and non-binary people who continue to fight for space and peace, the young girls still awakening to the world, our elders who have paved the way with courage, and to the particular and astounding quality of strength that lives in all women, everywhere, no matter their circumstance.
Today can also be a day to remember that the labour movement is part of a capitalist economy that has left many vulnerable members of our communities in the shadows, and has been built on the land of the First Nations. How can we move forward from here, continuing to take clear measured steps towards true equality on all levels?
Dolly Parton, “9 To 5”
This song might as well be the soundtrack to women’s labour rights. The beauty of International Women’s Day is that it lets us look back over the different generations that have taken up this torch, see what has changed, what has yet to change, and the women who have shared their voices at each point along the way.
Buffy Sainte Marie, “My Country Tis Of Thy People You’re Dying”
Buffy Sainte Marie has been sharing protest music and poetry since long before I was even alive. Though this song was written decades ago, it continues to be a moving reminder of how Canadian history has been built on stolen land from First Nations communities. It seems impossible to consider the progress of labour rights without this foundation.
Valerie June, “Workin’ Woman Blues”
This is a stunning dedication to the sacrifice many women have made to join the labour forces. It often meant the loss of other life joys, just as many women had previously not had the joy to choose to work a traditional job.
U.S. Girls, “Woman’s Work”
While Valerie June sings about a choice between roles, Meg Remy pays an eerie homage to the women who tried to do it all. The very pressure of perfection and the expectation that women can be everything to everyone becomes a source of undoing for so many, and how easy it is to forget that we all came from the warmth of someone’s womb.
Austra, “Future Politics”
The title track off Austra’s last record, Future Politics, is a commitment to something yet to be. We’ve come a long way but the only way to move forward from here is with a political landscape that can truly account for the lives of every individual working to thrive together.
Charlotte Day Wilson, “Work”
I love the flexibility of this track, which could just as easily be understood in context of an intimate relationship as it could in the context of our world. The beautiful video captures women and gender-fluid people of all ages and sings of the possibility for us to make things work together.
Nina Simone, “Four Women (Cover by Berklee Black Lives Matter)”
This is a beautiful version of Nina Simone’s moving song, “Four Women,” told from the perspective of four different women though the generations, living in varied forms of enslavement. Women have not and continue to not be equal between races, and it is essential for us to hold racial equality with the preciousness of gender parity.
Sleater-Kinney, “Modern Girl”
One of my favourite Sleater-Kinney songs questions what it means to be a “modern girl” and the Westernized concept of happiness that leaves out the beautiful stormy complexity of what many women really experience.
Fiver, “Rage Of Plastics”
Simone Schmidt of Fiver has had many music projects through her long-standing career, and she has always been devoted to telling the stories of the underbelly of our culture. “Rage Of Plastics” is a song from the refinery floor, where “making this living just brings about dying,” and where the dedication of labour workers runs to the pockets of a “narcissus fund.”
Emel Mathlouthi, “Kelmti Horra (My Word Is Free)”
Good luck trying to watch this without ugly crying by the end. An absolutely stunning rendition of a prayer for all beings, everywhere, to be free.
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Each January, the start of a new calendar year is an opportunity to reflect on new beginnings (or endings) in our own lives. Sometimes we can use it as an opportunity to start something we’ve been waiting to start, create change, create stability, or shake things up if that’s what we need. Sometimes it’s a moment of letting go, of old patterns or relationships that might not serve us in the coming year. Ultimately the new year is a bridge, from one moment in time to another. Here are 10 songs that inspire me right now and honour something new, whether it is a beginning or an ending, and can bridge us into the new year.
The notion of a utopia seems even more distant after 2017’s painful politics. But if there’s any artist creating work that still holds hope for humanity, it’s Björk. Her embrace of beauty through music and art has created a refuge for so many people. What might a utopia look like in 2018?
Ora Cogan, “Sea People”
Ora Cogan has been making spider web–like folk on the west coast for years, and has recently relocated to Montreal alongside the release of her new album. New beginnings from every angle are here for the new year!
Luna Li, “Opal Angel”
One of my favourite “new beginnings” is the wave of new art that emerges from the youth in a local scene. Luna Li are at the forefront of Toronto’s young music community and if their recent work is any indication, they will be around for some time.
A Tribe Called Red, “The Light II (feat. Lido Pimienta)”
One of the best collaborations of the year between Tribe and Lido, this video frames a beautiful song in an anti-colonial framework. “From the beginning for you,” Lido sings, “I’ll do it all again for you.” To me, this is a reminder for the year that even in the wake of a destructive culture we can keep starting again, keep finding a way to build something new.
TOKiMONSTA, “Don’t Call Me (feat. Yuna)”
A Yuna feature on a TOKi record is guaranteed to be a banger. This song also nods to the new year being as much of an ending of things that no longer serve us as it is a beginning for others.
Fever Ray, “Mustn’t Hurry”
Nearly 10 years since her first release as Fever Ray, Karin Dreijer returns with Plunge, an urgent and raw development in her ever-evolving sound. “Need some time but mustn’t hurry” will be my new year’s resolution, a reminder to take time to just be (even when that seems impossible) in a world that hurries through everything.
a l l i e, “Bad Habits (prod. Birthday Boy)”
a l l i e released her first LP, Nightshade,this past year and it’s been one of the best debuts I’ve heard in a long time. I hope 2018 continues to see a well-deserved rise in her career.
Maylee Todd, “Downtown”
This is a new song (and record) from a Toronto artist who has been solidly building her legacy for at least a decade, an artist who is still pushing the boundaries of her sound and craft amidst a long-standing career. That is truly something special.
I hope 2018 is the year of Nezzy and their candid honesty, graphic pop, and ’90s nostalgia riffs. Their lyrics seem to speak for an entire generation in need of a new emotional landscape.
Vivek Shraya, “I Take All The Blame (Tegan and Sara cover)”
The year of 2017 was the beginning of the Tegan and Sara Foundation, which will surely create a long-standing and powerful pillar of support for the LGBTQ community. They subsequently released The Con X: Covers, a cover record with an incredible lineup of musicians celebrating a decade since the original record’s release. Vivek Shraya sings my favourite track on Covers in her heartfelt cadence.