By Baruchi Malewich
I knew this week’s playlist will be a challenge. It’s always interesting to think of a theme and try to approach it from various angles and find music that deals with it, but with an issue so widespread as violence towards women I knew it won’t be an easy task. And perhaps the word ‘widespread’ doesn’t do it justice, really. Violence towards women is an age-old phenomenon, and it happens everywhere. It happens regardless of location, race, religion, education, or socio-economic status. It manifests itself in various forms: from heinous sexual abuse in areas of conflict, to vile acts of harassment in bustling metropolitan areas; it presents itself to us in even the most ‘trivial’ ways, like on a paycheck, or by the ways in which we’re treated on the commute, and yes, also in pop culture. One of the first things I realized when I started looking into this week’s playlist, was perhaps not a surprising find, but still a shocking one: there are more songs which, explicitly or implicitly, encourage violence towards women (or try to paint it in a comical, ‘lighthearted’ light) than those who protest it. This alone, I believe, is a reason to be full of rage, and with this rage in mind, I would like to present the first song on today’s playlist.*
Monika Sex, an Israeli band, is far from being my favorite musical group. In fact, except for a handful of songs, I kind of despise their music. However, the song above—while coated in sweet-sounding rock-n-roll music—is a very bitter protest song. In 1988, a group of eight adolescent boys repeatedly raped a 14-year-old girl in a kibbutz in the north of Israel. Following the court proceedings, all eight were found not-guilty, with the court explaining that the girl never explicitly said ‘no’, that at the age she was already sexually active, and that she was too late to complain about the cases. Following an appeal to the country’s supreme court, four defendants were found guilty. Monika Sex’s song unravels the story of the incident and the trial.
Mashrou Leila (Leila’s Project) is probably the most interesting band in the Arab world today. Based in Beirut, the group not only makes great music, but also causes great controversies due to their social criticism and their open attitude to sexuality and homosexuality. Immi El Jacket, personally my favorite Mashrou Leila song, doesn’t deal with the brutal, physical form of violence towards women, but rather to how women are expected—perhaps demanded—to uphold gender stereotypes. The song is sung from the viewpoint of a man who mistakes a girl for a guy because of the way she is dressed (without make up, wearing a jacket, etc.).
Working in 1970’s Zaire (today’s DRC), Tabu Ley Rochereau was one of the country’s most popular musicians, introducing the genre of African Rumba to the world. A great advocate for women, Rochereau adopts in this song the victim’s point of view, as she laments her life of arranged marriage and domestic abuse. She describes not being able to eat or to sleep, and eventually going back to her home village and to her family’s house.
Maria Nieves Rebolledo Vila, aka Bebe, is a successful Spanish recording artist, Grammy-nominated and winner of the 2005 Latin Grammy Award. One her major hits, Malo, is a protest song against violence towards women. It describes the relationship between the singer and her abusive partner, and in it she asks him not to scream because it might wake up the children, and swears she will have revenge. ‘I am going to come back like a fire,’ she sings, ‘I’m going to burn your fists of steel and the purple of my cheeks will come the courage to cover my wounds’. Incidentally, the song was remixed by Aviici.
This song is probably the biggest musical discovery I had while preparing the playlist for this week. In a very strange way, Anohni writes this as a love song to an abusive lover, told from the angle of one who is abused, but believes that the abuse comes out of love. And yet, and I do believe that the song entails criticism and protest of this abuse. I don’t have much more to say about this song, only that it’s painfully beautiful. Enjoy.
And a few other inspiring numbers
*--I would like to use this opportunity to thank everyone who helped and gave me song ideas for this week’s installment.
Baruchi Malewich is an Israeli expatriate currently residing in the UK. He completed his BA is Government and Diplomacy from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya and his MPhil in International Relations from the University of Cambridge. He was a DJ in the student radio of both schools, and is an avid music fan. He is currently working on PhD applications and on an online publication devoted to researching the role of theory in the