The difficulty of being a lady musician

I’m concerned about the lack of women in the local music scene!

The only women I see are the bartenders and if there are any ‘musicians’ that do come, they are ‘singers’ or at best three chord ‘singer songwriters’!  Where are the female drummers, bassists, and guitarists?  Once in a blue moon there are female musicians and I grasp onto them and beg them to stay so much! But they don’t come back!

I’ve tried to think of the many reasons as to why this could be. Maybe female musicians are not too keen to linger around bars with all the dudes. Maybe female musicians do not feel accepted? Maybe they do not have the confidence? These were some of the repercussions I had when I started out.

There are many unspoken troubles a female musician has to face.  For instance, it is so hard to find people to jam with. The dynamic tends to be a close one and guys tend to abuse it. How can a female be comfortable jamming in a room alone with a guy if she has this understandable fear sitting in the back of her mind?

Then there is also the problem of not having enough role models out there.  It’s barricaded by a front line in the music industry- sound engineers, technicians and dj’s who are all men!  Even at the record store and instrument stores most of the sales people are men.  I had a friend who once told me not to go to Steve’s music store because they are not too fond of women and beginners. The music industry is surrounded by men!

To break into this circle to the actual production side of music is quite a feat!  How often have you heard of a record selling female producer?  I can’t even think of one.  Once in a while we hear of a bassist in some band, or a keyboardist, or a violinist, but its not ever equal or remotely close to the number of men!

Ya that blows. But I won’t let it deter me, nor will I use it as an excuse and be lazy with practice. It’s just a mere observation and hopefully things will change, and it slowly has…

Only in Montreal!

I visited Montreal for a week and two rather strange and related incidents occured, one on my first day, and the other on my last.

On my last day I was wandering around Old Montreal trying to find a decent place to eat, killing some time before meeting a friend who was supposed to drive me back. An older man walked towards me from across the street and started talking to me en Francais about constellations, what I should expect to see in the sky tonight and this week. I have no idea what prompted him to share this with me. Maybe because I was the only walking alone these narrow desolate streets and it looked like I had nothing to do? He didn’t seem like he was crazy, he was pretty well groomed and spoke eloquently.

I interrupted his space lecture and asked him where the closest fast food joint was. And he was kind enough to walk me there. This place is too complicated he said. It’s hard to find an affordable meal here as this neighbourhood is inundated with high end restaurants! Highly uncharacteristic of what this place used to be!

He asked about the Mandolin I was carrying and I told him where I was at in music.

When we approached the cafe, he left, just as sporadically he appeared.

On my very first day, I was by a punk rock concert to meet another friend in the thick of a young punk crowd. Another old man comes up to me out of nowhere and says, “Are you Iranian?”

“Uh, yes,”   ?!?!?!?!

He then shared his stories of Iran, how he was crossing the border alone to Pakistan where there is 12 KM of no mans land in between and how he ran out of water along the way.

Then he left as randomly as he appeared.

So random and so strange, but it’s all the charm of Montreal I guess.

Finding my Perfect Medium

I’ve always been very expressive but always had trouble deciding what medium was most suitable- which is one of the many reasons why I pursued a degree in Communication Studies. It gave the opportunity to tap into all these fascinating theories around why we communicate, to whom we communicate, and analyzing how we communicate along with gaining first hand experience in film making, audio production and even new media design. From all this I conclude that sound and print as being the most effective tools for communication.

Sound, particularly music has the deepest impact into the core of our being. Music is the universal language that speaks to the spirit of humanity. All I have to really say to prove my point is Michael Jackson. Can anyone else have made such an impact on Earth from just a few songs?

And why is it easier to listen to a radio, rather than watching completely silent movie?  Why are we affected by the sound of someone’s voice and not their appearance?   The frequencies really hit a deeper nerve I believe!

Print is also a super effective communication tool.  Well, a word is a word. I don’t have to pay a sound guy, rent a fancy camera, or rely on flakes. With story writing I’m judged on story telling and not on my budget. It’s the most democratic and strongest way of telling a story. Words alone can illustrate details very vividly delving deep into your mind. Movies does the imagining and for that it doesn’t pull you into the story as much…

Barging into The Celtic Session scene in Toronto

Black Swan

I decided to finally give it a shot!

Since I could always remember I have always been fascinated with the world of Celtic music! Having recently finished university and being fed up with life in general, there was no other better time to finally bring in my Mandolin to a traditional Celtic Session at the Black Swan! And I must say I have been going religiously every Thursdays since.

The Session is a truly unique music tradition like no other. A welcoming circle of musicians in a pub reel out the Celtic tunes on a weekly on going basis and it has been going on in pubs around the world for years.

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The folks at the Black Swan are really nice, especially the bartender. My first day they all learned my names and were eager to help out in anyway they could! I wasn’t exactly familiar with their repetoire so they didn’t hesitate to tell me the name of each tune after it had been played, and where I would be able to find recordings. The host even took the time to e-mail me a pdf of a list of their commonly played songs along with their scores !

I took some time and memorized a good 20 songs (err… I mean ‘tunes’ ) on the mandolin before coming again. And it was worth it, because there is no other joy than to be able to play these joyous tunes that have been passed down for hundreds of years. Playing with the musicians brings the music to life and I’ve been inspired to learn more and more.

Top 7 absolute favourite tunes so far:

1. A Trip to Pakistan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBsxY-v_YXw

2. Arthur Darley’s http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lfclpu9jGuA

3. Drowsy Maggie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtkKJqmW3Jo&feature=related

4. Over the Moore to Maggie http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtimrcpeWxE

5. Star of Munster http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwJCKDUB48Q

6. Kesh Jig (can be heard on Flogging Molly’s “Salty Dog” track) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsdNl72WVs4

7. Silver Spear http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIcBQAFtkR4&feature=related

There are tons of sessions that go on in Toronto, in fact there is one everyday… the ones I know for sure are

Thursday – Black Swan, Dora Keogh’s

Sunday – Dora Keogh’s

It’s best to call the pub beforehand to make sure as times and place can unexpectedly change!

Here are some helpful links that helped me get started:

http://thesession.org – This site provides a full listing of sessions around the world, the largest database of Celtic tunes with their scores.

http://celticmusic.ca – Your guide to the Celtic music scene in Ontario- festivals, workshops, teachers, musicians, sessions, and more!

and of course http://youtube.com for hosting the millions of videos so that you can hear the songs over and over!

Election Prediction From a Trusted Source

The news uses opinions and polls to forecast the winner, but I have a far better tool… it’s alexa.com!

This website fills you in on the traffic rankings of all websites in the world wide web, and gives the option to compare rankings with other websites in a neat little graph. Traffic rankings don’t exactly equate to voters, but its a precise indicator of popularity.

So how does Hillary and McCain fare on April 3, 2008? Well Obama is clearly more than twice as popular as Hillary and has three times more hits on his site than McCain.