This week, we continue to pay tribute to the Asian and Pacific Islanders who enrich the feminist music scene. These badass musicians show us the ways music empowers, challenges social norms, and liberates. Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage month!
You can also listen to these songs on Unsweetened: A Playlist for a Feminist Future on Spotify.
Azar Swan, “Broken English”
Zohra Atash with the band Azar Swan grew up in South Carolina, the daughter of Afghan parents. In this hauntingly aggressive remake of Marianne Faithfull’s song “Broken English,” they bring forth the culture and politics of language. “What are you fighting for?”
Fanny, “Charity Ball”
Years before the Runaways or the Go-Gos, two Filipino women, June and Jean Millington, and drummer Alice de Buhr formed the all-girl rock group, “Wild Honey.” When they added Nickey Barclay as a keyboard player the group renamed themselves “Fanny.” The funky, soulful rock band was quite outrageous because of their name, which means “vagina” in the U.K.
Emily’s Sassy Lime, “Transistor No Way”
When the riot grrrl movement formed in the 1990s, Emily’s Sassy Lime, an all-girl group from Southern California, was one of the first bands comprised of all Asian American women.
Shilpa Narayan, “Renegade”
Brought up in the American South, Indian-American Shilpa Narayan has an important message — stay strong, no matter what, and go for your dreams.
WASI, “Pussy Grabs Back”
This electro punk/pop band fronted by Jessie Meehan and Merilou Salazar combines their punk socially conscious lyrics, hip hop production, and infectious pop melodies. “Si Se puede is the motto; The world is just afraid of a different kind of change.”
Shonen Knife, “Twist Barbie”
Shonen Knife is a Japanese pop punk band formed in 1981. They were heavily influenced by 1960s girl groups and they had to keep their band a secret from their families, since it was considered unseemly for women to play rock music. Despite of or maybe because of that repression, Shonen Knife’s music radiates joy.
Aura Bora, “No Good”
Check out this sweet, lo-fi fuzzy, pop punk band from Honolulu, Hawaii. “I was never good at doing what I was told.”
Shilpa Ray, “Burning Bride”
In this bluesy, punk song about the banned Hindu tradition of burning widows alive to demonstrate women’s devotion to their husbands and god, Indian-American Shilpa Ray uses the outdated practice as “an allegory for people today, who continue to be sacrificed for financial profit.”
Deerhoof, “Fight the Power”
This band brings their noisy, sugary, experimental sound to a number of songs you probably know, like Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.” This song appears on a compilation to support Planned Parenthood.
MILCK, “I Don’t Belong to You”
During the 2017 Women’s March on Washington, Korean-American MILCK reminded us that we can’t keep quiet. In her follow up album, she takes on the subject of love: “’Cause it’s liberating; That’s how love should be.”
Listen to the entire playlist here: