IWD Concert and Sing-A-Long Artist Profile: Piper Hayes

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By Tara Bursey

 Our IWD artist profiles continue with this moving interview with Toronto-based singer/songwriter Piper Hayes. Learn about how Piper came to be a musician, and how music for her is an important agent for personal change, self-empowerment and transcendence.

 Come see Piper perform at this Saturday’s International Women’s Day Sing-A-Long at Worker’s Arts and Heritage Centre.

Young women are rarely encouraged to pick up a guitar. How did you first start playing one? Who were the earliest women singers/songwriters to inspire you?

IMG_9198-559x372I started playing guitar when I was 12 and 13. It was one of the instruments offered up for us to learn at my alternative middle school in downtown Toronto. I remember learning the basic chords and tons of songs from my parent’s generation. The first song I learned in fact was “Leaving On a Jet Plane.” Once high school hit, I didn’t pick up the guitar again really until I was 23.

I had taken violin as a kid and studied music theory on and off throughout my life and always sang, so my understanding of music was more solid than I realized. When I brought my guitar down to Manhattan, I was completing my last semester of a two-year musical theatre program. I had trouble learning other people’s songs as I only remembered how to play a few chords, so I took it upon myself to write my own. I still had no intention of being a singer-songwriter much less a musician at that point. I had no idea that I might actually be good. For me, at the time, it was therapy.  Continue reading

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IWD Concert and Sing-A-Long Artist Profile: Janice Jo Lee

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by Tara Bursey

Here is the next in our series of artist profiles in advance of SACHA and the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre’s sing-a-long event on Saturday featuring Janice Jo Lee!

Janice Jo Lee is a singer-songwriter, poet, storyteller and community organizer from Kitchener. She sings, speaks and shares stories about love, struggle, and community. She is disarmingly hilarious, off-the-cuff and fearlessly honest. Lee’s new album Sing Hey is a vocal and acoustic showcase with songs themed on feminism, poverty and friendship.

Young women are rarely encouraged to pick up a guitar. How did you first start playing one? Who were the earliest women singers/songwriters to inspire you?

I’ve always been a singer, before I could talk I was singing. It’s difficult to get gigs as a solo vocalist, so out of necessity really I picked up the guitar. My friend taught me the basics and I taught myself from there, having had a background in piano and trumpet. The first women musicians who inspired me were Lauryn Hill, Mariah Carey, TLC. I definitely listened to Mariah’s Daydream album on repeat. Continue reading

LABOUR SONG PIONEER: MALVINA REYNOLDS

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 By Tara Bursey

Last year, the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre held a sing-a-long and concert in our backyard and main gallery featuring the Syracuse punk-folk band, The Malvinas. I have this awesome band to thank for introducing me to the glorious music of their namesake, Malvina Reynolds.

Who is Malvina?

Malvina Reynolds was born Malvina Milder in the year 1900 in San Francisco. She began singing and writing songs later in life, after acquiring a degree in music theory and meeting folk musicians (among them Pete Seeger and Earl Robinson) when she was in her late 40s. She went on to write several popular songs, including “Little Boxes,” recorded by Pete Seeger and others, “What Have They Done to the Rain,” recorded by The Searchers and Joan Baez (about nuclear fallout), “It Isn’t Nice” (a civil rights anthem), and many others. Malvina the magnificent also appeared a number of times on Sesame Street (as a character named Kate) and was a songwriter for the series in the 1970s. Continue reading

Malvinas Bring Rebel Girls To Hamilton

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malvinas posterMalvinas is an art/rock/noise/punk/riot grrrl/jamboree/feminist band from Syracuse, NY. They are based in the work of Malvina Reynolds (b. 1900, USA), a folk singer/songwriter whose intersectional approach to social, political, and environmental justice continues to provide wisdom and inspiration.

Malvinas will be playing a free concert Saturday, August 22nd from 1 – 4pm at the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre at 51 Stuart St. as part of Radiodress‘ summer-long exhibition, Mysterium Tremendum.

Check out the Facebook event – https://www.facebook.com/events/847644862021729/

R: What was the inspiration behind the band, and why was it important for you to participate/contribute/co-create?

LexMal: Initially, I thought connecting to Malvina Reynolds would be a way for people with various music abilities to create together. Malvina Reynolds was wicked smart and funny; her lyrics are great, she connected so many social justice issues. From our first rehearsal we’ve had an energy and collaboration that is better than almost any other creative thing I’ve done. So the group is very important to me. As an artist, I work on how art is related to political change, and I’ve found our band, and music has a stronger connection to audience and politics than I usually experience in visual arts.

DrumMal: I was initially wary about joining a group based in “folk” music as that isn’t really my deal, but I WAS interested in joining, as it was pitched, a “DIY feminist band” and getting to play my drums more often. I knew VoxMal the most, but still only a bit. However, I knew if she was involved, it was a worthy pursuit. In such a short time, the Mals have become a second family tribe. Perhaps because we all feel safe and empowered in the messages we create with each other.

LuluMal: While there were many reasons to initially join the band – simply being part of a band itself was pretty empowering and something I never thought I’d do. Beyond that, it’s fulfilling  to work within the context of talking about the issues of social, economic, labour and gender rights. Also, being a younger member of the band, I get a lot out of listening to and being around people who have seen and lived more than I have.

UkeMal: When Joanna asked me if I would like to be involved in forming a band and playing Malvina Reynolds songs, I had a vague notion of who she was. After I did some research and started playing her music, I have found Malvina Reynolds to be an inspiration for my creative life and in general. I am in my late forties which is when she started writing and singing songs. I really identify with a lot of the things she said about how women are perceived at each stage of our lives and her resistance to being defined by society. This band is a way to use my voice and be in collaboration with others who want to raise up their voices to confront injustice and to support people’s right to self-determination and creative freedom. I also come from a long line of agitators and union organizers. I grew up with union stories about my grandfathers and father. My mother was a community organizer and I have done a lot of work myself in different communities. I grew up with the folk music from my mother and the punk music of generation X, so it is natural that I would find a musical and artistic home with the Malvinas. Continue reading