MELANIN AND MUSIC
In the fight against racism, oppression and discrimination of people of color, music is her passion wants to amplify melanated voices, especially those of women and girls. We reached out to a couple of females of color to shine a light on their views on musical role models of color and what representation in music means to them.
"I think music is something that can inspire and move. It’s not gonna unspool institutionalized racism, but it can help us vent and motivate us" - Miriam, 23
#BlackLivesMatter - and so does representation in media, especially in music. For women of color, having musical role models can contribute greatly to feeling confident in their own skin, feeling powerful and proud. We thrive to empower all, but right now, melanated voices need to be heard more loudly than any other. Black culture has contributed greatly to a variety of music genres and communities - but how does musical representation make women of color feel, and why is it so important? We spoke to five strong women to find out.
What does music mean to you?
"My dad was a choir leader and I’ve been singing and making up songs since I was young. Music is the door to my emotions" - Miriam, 23
"Music carries me through life. To every situation, there is the right soundtrack to it. This is how I recover or celebrate" - Theresa, 23
"Music to me means expression of emotions and feelings but also your identity and what you stand for as a person" - Irine, 22
"Music is an imitation of life" - Mindy, 22
"A LOT. It can help you in different ways, like for example during studying or when you are an emotional wreck" - Maureen, 18
Which female artists of color do you look up to? Why?
"Bat for Lashes, Janelle Monáe, Beyoncé, Megan thee Stallion, Missy Elliott, Sho Madjozi, Babes Wodumo, Jemi Alade - They make music I can relate too and dance to. They speak about struggles and happiness in a way that’s similar to how I experience it. They walk a fine line between realism and escapism. They work hard to make amazing art!" - Miriam, 23
"Megan Thee Stallion! She is one of the very few dark-skinned female artists who have been successful without having to lighten her skin"- Mindy, 22
"I look up to: SZA, Solange, Kali Uchis, Megan thee Stallion, Azealia Banks, Janelle Monaé, Mahalia, Ari Lennox, Sade, Victoria Monet and many more. I look up to these women because they are unapologetic about who they are and the music they make. Through their music, they make me feel as if I can be and do anything I want even if society gives me the feeling that I can’t. Especially when it comes to being comfortable and owning your sexuality as a black woman. I also listen to these women because they are vocal about societal and political issues in their countries and are are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in." - Irine, 23
"My mom used to listen to Tracy Chapman, Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone, which had a big impact on me in my childhood. Then of course Missy Elliot, Eve and Destiny's Child were super huge for me and my sisters. Not to forget Beyoncé and especially Rihanna, who had an impact on my identity-finding. In my youth I was a reggae kid and Jamaican women like Jah9 with her conscious message, Tanya Stephens and Sevana with their beautiful emotions and dance hall artists like Spice, Shenseea and JCapri, became super important for me. Not to forget Nneka, who I saw on my very first concert at the age of 11, experiencing her strong willingness in her message. In general artists like FKA Twigs and Janelle Monaé are strongly inspiring in their whole message, performance and expression. Regarding RnB, girls like Summer Walker, Nao, Ella Mai, Teyana Taylor and Jorja Smith often sing out of my speakers. I want to mention Aya Nakamura and Simi, but especially Sho Madjozi, who I think is so important as a female African optimistic voice. In Germany, we have Nura, Rola, Eunique, and a few more, which I think are great rappers / singers and important for the country." - Theresa, 23
"Megan Thee Stallion, Jhene Aiko, Kehlani - they make lovely music that can help people and touch you. For me, it's amazing what they can do by using their voice" - Maureen, 18
What does representation in music mean to you?
"These self-made women, they carry so much power. I can feel that they don´t do it just for themselves, bus for all of us. They really have something to say, which does something to society. In the course of the last years many of them made it into the mainstream, and not without good reason" - Theresa, 23
"Respect in all genres. Not underestimating the wide range WoC have. I know a lot of us love genres like punk and rock too but there aren’t many known WoC in that genre. We have to be seen without question in every genre we chose" - Miriam, 23
"When looking at the R&B and hip hop genre specifically, I noticed that there were a lot gorgeous and talented women but not a lot of them looked like me. It were always the ones that were lighter skinned who would get more attention and were viewed as more desirable. That also had an impact on the beauty standards I had for myself as a child/teenager. Now that I am older and seeing more women in music that look like me, makes me feel that what I am is good enough and if they can do it then I can do it too!" - Irine, 22
"For me, it stands for POWER AND INDEPENDENCE. For them, it's harder to get to the top. To see that they have reached it gives more women of color motivation to do it as well" - Maureen, 18
How do your musical idols make you feel?
"Idols in music make me feel... let's say I don´t know how I felt without them" - Theresa, 23
"Good and understood" - Miriam, 23 "My musical idols can make me feel like it’s okay to do whatever I want with my life, whether it’s love, career, friendships. To feel all the emotions not only happiness and love, but also sadness, anger and depression. My musical idols make songs about situations I can relate to, and that creates a connection for me to the artist" - Irine, 22
What role does music play in fighting racism, injustice and inequality?
"Music of course plays a huge role in fighting racism. It is the shortest way to communicate emotions, to express pain and to make people understand this pain. Music can transport hope and strength and is empowering people from minorities to remember their rights. Music is telling very important stories" - Theresa, 23
"I was at a protest last week and a black woman sang „Revolution“ by Tracy Chapman it was a breathtaking moment. I think music is something that can inspire and that can move. It’s not gonna unspool institutionalized racism, but it can help us vent and motivate us" - Miriam, 23
"Music can have different roles in fighting inequality, injustice and racism. It can be done through songs and lyrics, but what has a greater impact for me is boosting or supporting those artists that may not fit in the European beauty standards but do make great music and have great ideals. Make their voices heard. Not just in the genres: R&B and hip hop for example but also in genres like indie, alternative and rock" - Irine, 22
"Music plays a big role. With music, you can reach people, and through music, you can make a beautiful statement!" - Maureen, 18
"Music can do a lot to fight injustice but unfortunately artists who cover such topics such as J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar are very underrated, as people prefer not to have tough conversations" - Mindy, 21
"My favorite song at the moment for me is '20 Something' by SZA. She sings about how confusing and hard your 20’s can be. There are all these expectations, intrinsic and extrinsic pressure you have to deal with. And it’s okay if you are not at the place in your life where you would want to be right now" - Irine, 22
Music is magical - melanin is, too. Let's keep listening to women of color and amplify their voices. Let us know how music makes you feel, and which black artists you look up to!