8 Mar 2020

Loud and proud: women's voices

From Pick and Mix, 12:00 pm on 8 March 2020

In 1970 Helen Reddy wrote I am Woman – the song that would become an anthem for feminism. The words came to her from heaven: “It came to me and it wouldn't leave me, 'I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman.' And I thought, well, this has to be a song." Capitol didn’t want to know but eventually "I Am Woman" hit the top of the charts and Reddy thanked God: "Because she makes everything possible."


Mahinārangi Tocker was one of our best: a brave songwriter, a powerful performer, owner of an incredible voice, a role model for the gay and lesbian community and an icon for Maori. The tenth anniversary of her death at the age of 52 was marked by a 2018 concert Love Me As I Am: The Music of Mahinārangi Tocker.

Mahinārangi Tocker

Mahinārangi Tocker Photo: Robert Catto


Nina Simone wrote  the ultimate female black emancipation song To Be Young, Gifted and Black" in 1969.  She wrote it in memory of her friend Lorraine Hansberry who had recently died; she was the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway. The song became an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement. It's also been recorded by many others including Aretha Franklin. 


Aretha Franklin recorded the anthem ‘Respect’ in 1967 at a time when initiatives for women’s rights were gaining momentum on a global scale. With the song Franklin demanded that all women receive the respect they had been denied for so long, and sorely deserved, and she wasn’t just talking about equal pay.


Sharon Jones also demanded Respect. Like so many other soul singers Sharon Jones grew up singing in church and listening to James Brown and Aretha Franklin. She earned her living working as a prison officer until she met the soul revivalists who would become her backing band, the Dap-Kings. She recorded several albums with the Dap Kings before her premature death from pancreatic cancer in 2016.  


Peruvian singer Susana Baca has been a key woman in the revival of Afro-Peruvian music; she founded an institute in Peru dedicated to the preservation of black folklore and music. In 2011 Susana was asked to take on the job of Minister for Culture becoming the first black member of the Peruvian cabinet.


Danish musician Agnes Obel is the one of the young women at the forefront of new music in Europe today.  She lives in Berlin and has a big following online, with more than 200 thousand YouTube subscribers and her songs have been used in TV and movies, including the theme music for the Canadian series Cardinal. 

Agnes Obel

Agnes Obel Photo: Alex Bruel Flagstad


Western Saharan musician and activist Aziza Brahim was brought up in a refugee camp in the Algerian desert, and has lived exile for more than two decades. Her  music is dedicated to raising awareness of the lack of a homeland for her people. Her song Julud is dedicated to her mother but is also a symbol of her love and admiration for her people.


Tuuletar is a Finnish female vocal folk hop quartet; their name means “Goddess of the Wind”. Their music reflects Finnish culture but supported by today’s technology, like a refined version of hip hop overlaid by luxuriant harmonics.  Tuuletar is unusual because its success has mostly been happened outside Finland - one of their songs featured on the German trailer for the seventh Game of Thrones season and on the Aussie drama Wentworth. Tuuletar will perform at WOMAD 2020 in Taranaki this month.  


Music Details;

REDDY / BURTON: I Am Woman - Helen Reddy (CAPITOL 746490)
TOCKER: Kei Hea Koe - Mahinarangi Tocker (JAYREM CDJAY 379)
TOCKER: When I Grow Up - Mahinarangi Tocker (JAYREM CDJAY 378)
HAZELWOOD: These Boots Are Made for Walkin' - Nancy Sinatra (RAVEN 100008)
SIMONE/  IRVINE: To be Young, Gifted and Black - Nina Simone (RCA 793890)
REDDING: Respect - Aretha Franklin & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (UNIVERSAL PROMOBRAND)
The Dap-Kings / Binky Griptite: 100 Days 1000 Nights - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings (DAPTONE 340050)
LAZO: De los Amores - Susana Baca (LUAKABOP 848912)
Baca, Nicola, Vallejo: Heces (Sediment) - Susana Baca (LUAKABOP 680899002714)
ERNESTO LECUONA: Danza Lucumi - Camerata Romeu (Bis Record CDBIS-231)
AGNES OBEL: Broken Sleep - Agnes Obel (DG 00289 483 7175)
AZIZA BRAHIM: Julud - Aziza Brahim (GLITTERBEAT 336009)
TUULETAR: Kohma - Tuuletar (Nordic Notes NN084)
TUULETAR: Soua - Tuuletar (Nordic Notes NN084)