Coming up the stairs into the UnConference space, we are greeted by the Seattle Fandango Project in full swing, roquera activists, musicians, and theorists fully activating the audience! Michelle Habell-Pallan is there on the jarana with Sonnet Retman, the two lead conference organizers. Mil gracias!
The conversation begins with a blessing by Christina Guiaocalling on the ancestors — spiritual and musical — Mahalia Jackson, Jimmy Hendrix, MLK, and all others who have blessed and graced the space of Seatlle’s Washington Hall. We call on the energy that lives in all of us; crying out for the healing and transformative love needed to take all of us onto higher ground with music bringing tremendous power and intention: all music and all sound reverberates throughout space long after the initial sound. Let us remember not just to be the sound, the action, but also the body that receives and carries forth these vibrations of love and healing to inspire and transform us. To seal this blessing, let us all say thank you three times together.
Music and cultural studies scholar Sherry Tucker then took the stage to offer her perspective on the conference theme of vibrations of love: referenced a sad song about longing and love, ending on the note that some time we might get an opportunity to embrace love vibrations. Thank you to the Women Who Rock conference organizers to create forum for us to engage in vibrations of love — as reconceived by Audre Lorde — the capacity for joy in the way that my body stretches and opens to joy — the way the body opens to become a bridge for sharing and lessens the threat of difference. The vibrations of love also sparked in the work of Chela Sandoval. The unabashed, unapologetic work of the roquera theorists that Tiffany Ana Lopez talked about last year in her identification of women who rock as creating a space for speaking out and calling forward of others into a circle of bearing witness. Tucker emphasized the ways we perceive sound ways: through the body, not just through hearing and listening. The vibrations in the auditory cortext just one way of perceiving sounds. Cristine Zann Kim is a deaf sound artist, a women who rocks, who teaches us much about sound. Most of the sounds we perceive are discarded. Even the sounds we share have different accoustical reference points. Women Who Rock are experts in perceiving the discarded vibrations and transforming them into vibrations of love. Paulina Oliveras has developed many useful exercises that are dedicated to this very goal. A brief one to share: if you are speaking, you are sending; but are you receiving what you send? Tucker urged us to repeat the mantra from one of Oliveros’ exercises. “With each breath, I send and receive sound.”
Lara Davis and her crew ChiChi then took the stage and blasted sounds full throttle, drums, electric guitar, bass, creating a soundscape that permeated the entire body (the vibrations are buzzing into my fingertips as I type this now!). The sound is aggressive and commanding, the vocals weaving poetry, signaling the ying and yang. The second song references the punk aesthetic, the drums hammering a steady beat, the vocals screaming out and screaming out.
Monica Rojas de Cajon Project is then up. The Cajon Project uses music, arts, and dance to educate about the cultural presence in Peru and its history of slavery, the goal to fight against racism and discrimination. Cajon is a drum that wasn’t used by women, who were not allowed to play the instrument, but is now the prime force for her own music and collaborations. They play their music today for the conference to begin the day by getting on its feet to dance. Monica begins to play out beats on the cajon, a box-shaped drum which is played by her sitting on it and hammering out beats on a box. (The sound and style reminds me of the street-style performance on found plastic containers.) The sound she creates is multi-layered and dynamic One of the Fandango Project members joins in and steps onto the stage adding her own rhythmn patterns, answering the invitation, freeing Monica to lead our dancing. Everyone is now on their feet; the hall is throbbing with the conference participants dancing together at 10 am on a Saturday morning! Vaya! And with that, there is a line dance out into the workshop sessions. Look for the next post on the first of the workshop sessions.