Contemporary Feminist Initiatives in the Irish Music Scene
Ireland has witnessed a resurgence of intensified feminist cultural activity in recent years, particularly in the wake of the 1916 centenary and the public debate concerning the downplayed or often overlooked role of women in the Irish War of Independence. Historically women have been excluded or marginalised in public spheres in Irish society, and notably so in music making. While the numbers of women engaged in pursuing professional and public careers in music performance, song-writing and production has increased dramatically since the 1990s, women-identified artists remain underrepresented in festival line-ups, gendered stereotypes persist in relation to the choice of instruments that women are encouraged to learn and women are poorly represented in the realm of music production, to highlight but a few issues. This round table discussion brings together a diverse selection of voices that represent the vanguard of grassroots musical feminist activity in Ireland today, all of whom are engaged in promoting the participation of female-identified individuals in music.
Founded in 2017, Rock Girls Dublin organises summer rock camps for 12-17 year old girls, transgender and non-binary youth with the aim of empowering participants ‘to explore their creative and artistic potential through music creation and performance’. MNÁSOME promotes female performers in popular music through the blog mnasome.com, concert promotion and curating monthly playlists. Fair Plé emerged in 2018 with the aim of promoting women in the folk and traditional Irish sectors through a variety of activities including curating concerts, promoting mentorship of young female musicians and engaging in developing an evidence-based approach to the collection of gender-equality data. Improvised Music Company is a specialist music promoter for jazz and ethnic music in Ireland that strives to achieve gender equality across its programming and developmental activity. And finally, The Gash Collective focus on activities that promote women and LGBTQ+ DJs and music producers through educational initiatives and live events. This roundtable will facilitate a face-to-face dialogue between feminist activists whose paths do not normally cross, permitting a unique opportunity to learn about each others cultural work, to share their experiences and highlight issues that still require attention in the Irish musical context.
Fair Plé – Niamh Ní Charra
Niamh Ní Charra is a musician, composer and archivist and one of the founding members of Fair Plé.
A multiple award winner on both fiddle and concertina, she toured from 1998 to 2006 as a soloist with Riverdance. Her latest album “Cuz”, featuring many top-class guest musicians, received great critical acclaim including “Instrumental Album of the Year” in the Chicago Irish American News’ TIR awards. Her music features on the programme “Ireland in Song” currently airing on Aer Lingus transatlantic flights, and which also featured on PBS. Of the many accolades Niamh has received she was nominated for “Top Solo Performer 2011” in the Irish Music Awards and was awarded “Female Musician of the Year” in 2012 and 2014, in the Live Ireland Music Awards.
Along with touring extensively as a solo artist and with her own band, Niamh has also performed and recorded with The Chieftains, and with Carlos Núñez. and in 2011 released an album “The Basque Irish Connection”, in collaboration with Basque musician Ibon Koteron. She still performs occasionally with Riverdance, most recently for a tour of China, where she took on the additional role of Musical Director. She regularly gives workshops and masterclasses on both fiddle and concertina, has performed for several presidents and members of royalty and has additionally coordinated concerts hosted by the Irish embassy, on behalf of the government. Niamh will be participating not only as a musician who has fronted and managed her own band successfully for over a decade, but also as an archivist experienced in identifying and examining the missing voices of collections, and as a committee member of FairPlé, the organisation addressing and aiming to improve gender balance in Irish Traditional and Folk Music.
Girls Rock Dublin – Rossella Bottone
Girls Rock Dublin founder Rossella Bottone is a live sound engineer and multi-instrumentalist with a soft spot for building pedal effects. Throughout her 15+ year career in music, kicked off with an MA in Music Management, Marketing and Promotion completed in her native Italy, she has worked internationally in music event production, tour booking and management, and music journalism.
Improvised Music Company – Aoife Concannon
Aoife Concannon is the Marketing Manager & Creative Producer of the Improvised Music Company.
Aoife is an Arts Manager with over 15 years experience in marketing, promoting and producing creative events and projects. She has been working with Improvised Music Company (IMC) for over 6 years, promoting jazz and world music concerts and festivals, as well as developing the careers of Irish based musicians and the wider Irish jazz scene. Aoife is also involved in producing and programming with IMC, creating developmental initiatives, including recent work highlighting women in jazz and improvised music under the moniker BAN BAM. Previous to her current role, she worked on a freelance basis for a variety of theatre and film production companies, and in a variety of roles for festivals such as Galway Arts Festival, Edinburgh Fringe festival, PhotoIreland festival, Zanzibar International Film Festival.
Mnásome – Sinéad Furlong
Sinéad Furlong is a singer, blogger and music graduate based in Dublin. She started MNÁSOME in August 2017 after seeing The Punk Singer for the first time, inspired by Kathleen Hanna, her attitude and reaction to the world around her. She noticed a lot of the obstacles she and other women faced in the music industry in the eighties and nineties, women still face today. The documentary really resonated with her as a woman and a musician. She decided she wanted to do something for women in music, so she started MNÁSOME. The aim of MNÁSOME is to celebrate women in music, give them a platform and create a community of women supporting each other. She interviews women working in the industry, organises gigs, reviews releases and curates monthly playlists. All of the acts she features have at least one core member who is a woman.
Blog: www.mnasome.com, @mnasome on Facebook and Instagram and @mnasome_blog on Twitter.
Sounding the Feminists – Karen Power
Karen Power (PhD, SARC) is an active composer, improvisor and educator. In 2017, Karen became founding chair of Sounding the Feminists, a collective seeking equality in music across Ireland. Everyday environments and how we hear everyday sounds lies at the core of Karen Power’s practice with a continued interest in blurring the distinction between what most of us call ‘music’ and all other sound. Her output is diverse – both in its approach and delivery – and recent projects have been presented as orchestral works, sonic installations, chamber music, collaborations between sound and dance, image and experimental film, free improvisations and musical happenings.
Recently Karen has spent time in residency at The Arctic Circle, The Banff Centre, Canada, Galway Music Residency, Music Generation Cork and U.C. Davis, California, USA. Karen’s work has been commissioned by RTÉ, Bozzini Quartet, SCAW, Carin Levine, Sonar Quartet, Ensemble Mosaik, ConTempo, Ultraschall Festival, MikroMusik, Creative Ireland, to name a few.She has been awarded national and international awards and honorary mentions for her work and has represented Ireland internationally on a number of occasions. She released her 1st solo album is it raining while you listen with Farpoint Recordings in 2014.
The Gash Collective – Joni Kelly
Biography to follow…