NAMM has come and gone. There were guitars, keyboards, technology, panels, speeches, 110,000 people, probably as many gallons of beer and wine, and countless performances. But one of the most exciting events at NAMM this year was actually down the street at the Anaheim House of Blues, the She Rocks Awards, presented by the Women’s International Music Network. I was isolated in the balcony shooting video, but a friend, BINX, was at a table on the floor of the HOB in the thick of the glittering crowd (she is pretty glittering herself). A 25-year old singer/songwriter from South Africa who just moved to LA after two years in the New York music scene, BINX agreed to write a view of the She Rocks Awards through the eyes of a young woman just coming up in the music industry.
Day 1 at my first time at NAMM I was in the Media Center with Music Friday Live and began chatting to a woman across the table who told me about a magazine she started a couple of years earlier that highlighted women who played guitars. Being a guitar player myself, I decided to draw her out. I learned that since launching the magazine, people kept asking her, “Do women play guitar?” Having played guitar since I was ten years old and knew of so many women who played guitar I was shocked. After all, this is 2018!
The next evening, I was at the 2018 She Rocks Awards and was awed to see the same woman to walk on stage to accept The Vison Award. It was Fabi Reyna, founder of She Shreds Magazine.
In her acceptance speech she pointed out that half of guitar buyers last year were women. I was proud and humbled that I had met someone who not only was celebrating women playing what used to be mostly a man’s instrument, but they were driving the guitar market. But most of all I was honored to have met a woman who had a dream and turned it into a reality. And I was honored to be in a huge venue full of people who were proud of their gender whether they’re straight or gay, fat or skinny, young or old and were recognizing her for her accomplishment and contribution to music. Everyone was there for the same reason – to celebrate goals being met and being a woman. And I was one of them.
A couple hours earlier, while standing in a line I chatted with a man in a purple jacket who reminded me of Prince. Turns out he is one of the engineers of the band Fanny, which was also honored with an award. I am too young to have heard of Fanny, but I soon learned how much of an impact they had made on the music industry. Later I was interviewed by a TV crew for the Fanny Documentary and to share my experiences as a female in today’s modern society and music industry.
Back in my seat with a bottle of melon-infused Hint water, I was enthralled with the glittering performances and awards. And I was so happy I dressed in my sequins and heels and fit right into the crowd who wore the sparkliest of sequins, the highest of heels, pink fluff, devil-red lipstick and jackets with pride embroidered on them. Self-expression was oozing through every corner of the room and , although I am a native of South Arica who just arrived in LA, I felt at home. That feeling was enhanced by Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson of the B-52’s. From their beehive hairdos, love of thrift store fashions and feisty personas, I could relate to their charismatic, ballsy creativity.
I was so struck by Awardees like Vanessa Mering, Kristy Porter, Exene Cervenka, Dawn Birr, Candace Stewart, Melissa Etheridge, Amberley Crouse-Knox who owned the stage and spoke out forcefully and emotionally. I will never forget some of their advice: “You’re not being selfish by staying in to write songs,” and “Never be afraid to wig.”
I was disappointed that one of my idols Pat Benatar was home with the flu and could not make the Awards. However, I was lucky enough to have spent time backstage with her in New York at one of her concerts and it was wonderful to see her being recognized.
Never have I ever been more proud to be a woman after the experience I had at the She Rocks Awards. After the feel-good performances like “Just a Girl” and the slightly awkward but goosebumps-generating closing finale of Aretha Franklin’s RESPECT which included all the night’s previous performers I realized more than ever how important it is to be a woman in today’s industry and how we are paving the way of a new generation of talent and hardworking individuals.
When I think back to high school and still today, how some jealous women choose to tear other women down, make them feel worthless or incapable and compare that to the support and appreciation people were giving each other tonight, I am inspired, encouraged and determined. When a room is lit with ambition and support, you never want to leave.
Being a woman who plays guitar and wears a beehive wig, I now more than ever want to take on the world and prove how being female — or any human being, regardless of age, race, socio economic background or gender — we are all equal and should be proud of ourselves for setting dreams and achieving them. Spreading love makes the world a better place and for me The She Rocks Awards night was a step toward a world will be a much, much more beautiful place.
As BINX says, the She Rocks Awards are a step toward a better world. The context for this is the study released by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative the day of the Awards that over the past 5 years 90% of all Grammy nominations went to men, 98% of all the music producing Grammys went to men and that over the past 6 years, 9 men were responsible for over 20% of all songwriting awards. Clearly something has to change, and BINX is part of the generation that will make that change.