It's 2018, and we're not sure what’s worse: complaints that women aren’t included in music or the influx of women-empowerment events that lead to nothing more than Instagram photos, subpar handshakes, and the exchange of business cards that don’t list personal phone numbers. Many of these events are supposedly geared toward all women, but they're really for women who belong to certain cliques, have the right number of Instagram followers, or know someone who knows someone who knows someone. Frankly, it’s wack, and women are still stuck in the same place we were last year.
The music industry is still dominated by men. They own record labels, dominate the charts, and headline the biggest festivals nationwide. Honestly, it’s getting just as old as “women can do it too,” because we are doing it too. Miami boasts a handful of women-owned music-based brands, such as Sweat Records, and female-forward collectives, such as Blend the Femme, that take #girlpower more seriously than just a hashtag. And now there's Femme Fest, taking place this Thursday at the Gibson Guitar Showroom in Wywoond.
At first, you probably thought it's just another women’s empowerment event, but cofounders Tania Dorantes and Amber Urena, of Sony Music Latin, and Mario Guini, a Miami native and guitarist, bring more to the table than gathering women to chant “pussy power” together.
Femme Fest is a project with a mission to bring local femme-forward communities together and teach songwriting, performance, and education values. Here, students, music lovers, artists, and girls with fewer than a thousand social media followers can rub elbows with industry-level professionals and access resources now available on the local scene. “Women are shining. We’re seeing female singer-songwriters, producers and DJs, activists, [and] entrepreneurs... It's really incredible,” Urena says. “We had casually discussed the impact we could make as women by joining forces creatively on multiple occasions, but the missing link was a network for something like that to come to fruition.”
It’s crucial that we allow a shift in leadership every now and then. It’s also important to gather like-minded individuals who’ve already started their own femme-forward collectives to share how we can end male domination. “Yes, the industry is male-dominated like many others, but it's becoming much more accepting to the place of the female," Urena says. "It’s fantastic that women are starting to collaborate and be more vocal about their creative visions.” Femme Fest will include a panel discussion featuring female powerhouses from the industry and will end with a showcase of four independent local artists: Brika (New Times' Best Solo Musician of 2017), Manu Manzo, Jahzel Dotel, and past RnBae Collective performer KTLN.
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Each of these artists brings something different — whether it be Latin vibes, contemporary R&B, alternative rock, or pop — to Femme Fest, opening ears to all the genres into which women are dipping their feet. "They hold it down," Urena says. "Femme Fest began as an experiment which we were able to put into play through the first massive female songwriting camp, Sony Secret Sessions." None of the slotted artists had previously released collaborations with the others, and because they come from such different backgrounds, it would be interesting to hear what they sound like together. "The girls created two tracks alongside renowned producers, and it proved that it really doesn't matter whether you are a Latin, Anglo, or indie artist — it all boils down to being open to working in a creative environment and sharing what you have to say."
In actuality, women have been doing their due diligence in the music industry. The talk of those who "can't" and "won't" and the notion of exclusion are exaggerated. Femme Fest is for women and music lovers, and it's meant to foster connections among artists at the local and industry levels. “We're building a network within the city across genres, cultures, and talents, regardless of whether you are a student or established individual in the industry," Urena says. "We want to celebrate our women in music and build a platform where our local femmes can collaborate and elevate each other's crafts.”
Femme Fest. 7 p.m. Thursday, November 8, at 2751 N. Miami Ave., Second Floor, Miami; 305-573-4330. Admission is free with RSVP via eventbrite.com.