Her Story Her Sound | Brunswick Picture House | 11 October
The underrepresentation of women in the music industry – from festival lineups to management – has been in the media of late calling attention to the barriers and challenges women artists face in finding parity with their male colleagues. Her Sound Her Story is a documentary that celebrates women in Australian music through conversations with more than 45 artists spanning six decades of Australian music. The film unveils the personal, historical and social legacies of these women as they carve a space in what has been, and what continues to be, a male-dominated industry.
The film was inspired by a conversation about gender inequality in the music industry by Melbourne artists and storytellers Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore and Michelle Grace Hunder.
‘The initial idea came from Michelle after doing a photography project where she documented the history of hip-hop in Australia,’ says Claudia. ‘She took 180 portraits, and only eight were women; that rang alarm bells for her. She asked Why is this? Is it only applicable to hip-hop?’
‘At the same time there were similar things being asked about Triple J’s Hottest 100 and the lack of women on festival lineups. So she thought Whatever I do I want to shine the light on women musicians.’
The project started modestly back in 2014 with Michelle taking photos of women artists for Rolling Stone and Claudia coming along to do the interviews.
As the documentary started to take shape so did the Me Too movement, which seemed to give the film a louder voice in the public arena.
‘People were ready for this conversation to be had,’ says Claudia, who admits that even seasoned performers like Kate Ceberano were shocked by some of the statistics once she saw the film in its entirety.
While the film strives to represent women artists who are diverse in the sonic field, in age, ethnicity, and genre of music, it seemed that some of the key sentiments of the contributors remained the same.
‘The main theme over and over regardless of age was this idea that women lack confidence and self-belief’ says Claudia. ‘They will never be the ones who put their hands up first in a situation. For them it’s still a constant battle. The documentary covers sexism and racism and ageism, and the act of becoming a mother and juggling all that with a career, and of course the competition that women then face with each other.
‘Mama Kin speaks about the moment when Banjo her daughter asked her, “You know, Mum, why don’t you sing like Papa sings”, and she turned around and growled, “Because I’m your mum; I am too busy being your mum.” She says that in that moment she realised that she was handing down this narrative to her daughter to be a mum you have to choose that or a career. She thought you have to unpack that – it’s a beautiful moment in the film and one that really resonates with women in the audience.
‘Ochery speaks of the self-doubt when it comes to releasing music. A presenter on Playschool, she regularly receives mail from young fans, and on the eve of releasing she received a letter from a mum saying she was one of her daughter’s favourite presenters on Playschool. Her daughter had said that she has a smile like me and hair like me, and Okenyo realised it was important for her to be in the public space, as a role model and as a queer woman of colour…’
Tina Arena also talks about being asked to leave the industry… because of her age.
‘She has people trying to tell her to stop making music. She draws attention to how absurd this is; no-one would ever ask a man to step down from his career.’
Her Story Her Sound is screening at the Brunswick Picture House on Thursday 11 October at 7pm, With a Q&A to follow.