Melbourne Music Week kicked off last Friday night with Her Sound Her Story, an all-female show celebrating women in music.
Running alongside the exhibition of the same name, the collaborative project saw some of our best local talents – including Julia Stone, Montaigne, Ella Hooper, Ecca Vandal, Elizabeth Rose, Mojo Juju, Sampa the Great, Vera Blue, Airling and Mama Kin – come together and cover songs from Australia’s musical history.
Curated by Michelle Grace Hunder and Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore, Her Sound, Her Story explores the history of Australian women in the industry and celebrates the diversity of our female talents.
Tell us about how Her Sound, Her Story came about.
Michelle: Looking at a previous project I'd worked on, I realised I'd worked with 180 people over two years, and 10 of them were female. There were a lot conversations happening about the [gender] split across all genres in music, as well as behind the scenes. I wanted to explore that further from an artistic point of view. I thought that just having portraits wouldn't do that [exploration] justice, and I really wanted to give a voice to the women. I asked Claudia, who’s an incredible filmmaker to come on board to do some interviews, and that's where it all started.
What can guests to the exhibition expect?
M: The photographs, for me, are incredibly individual and personal. Each session was completely collaborative and the artist had a big say in how they wanted to be represented visually. I feel you get a real insight into their personalities.
Claudia: The installation is fitted with speakers playing excerpts from the interviews, with some of the artists playing on loop. This sets the tone for the audience, as they are looking at the portraits to be able to connect with the themes, messages and stories of these women.
Why do you think it's important to showcase female talent in Australia?
M: For a couple of reasons. I think it’s such an important time to be celebrating women full stop. I keep seeing festival lineups with hardly any females. The argument is that there aren’t that many women making music and I think that’s bullshit. They are out there. Here’s a list for festival organisers, let's get these girls the light they deserve because they are just as talented as anyone out there.
C: The female talent coming out of Australia is world class, it was time to shine some proper light on these women. I can tell you this is just the beginning. The ladies coming through now are unstoppable.
How did the idea for mixing female talent with Australia’s music history develop?
C: In all storytelling, it’s important to acknowledge those that came before us and paved the way. More than anything, this project was about celebrating the rise of the new but within that, it was imperative to talk the pioneers. Gender disparity is alive and real in all creatives fields and has been that way for some time now. Naturally, we are looking at the progression throughout history. Where did this begin? What has changed? And where are we now?
The conversation extends outside of the music industry. This is about telling female narratives that are relevant to all of us and presenting that on a large scale, as a joint collective, so the messages are strong.
Women’s voices need to be herd and listened to in the world, now more than ever. That is crucial to a richer future and a state of wellbeing for all of us.
Tell us about the Her Sound, Her Story gig.
M: Claudia and I always had a dream of putting on a concert in support of everything we are trying to do with this project. We felt it was the perfect way to launch the whole project. It just helps with promoting the whole idea.
C: We tried to think of as many creative ways as possible to get all the content we have out and experienced. At the end of the day, with these women as our subjects, this project is about music. They are the very artists that have created the soundtracks to so many of our lives. So the intention of Her Sound, Her Story wouldn't be complete if we didn't bring it back to that simple exchange between an audience and a live performance. This space also created some long-visioned performance collaborations that Michelle and I had hoped for. Things like new duets, artists covering each other’s songs and an all-female house band.
What role do you think these ladies have in shaping the future of Australia’s music landscape?
M: I think all female performing artists are inspiring a future generation of girls to make music. The Her Sound, Her Story project really tried to document a vast array of women from different backgrounds, shapes and sizes, and sexual orientations, to make it as inclusive as possible. It only helps other women if they see women like themselves represented.
What’s your favourite song by an Australian artist?
‘F.E.M.A.L.E’ by Sampa the Great has been our theme song for this whole project! It's definitely a favourite!
What is next for you after MMW?
We hope to tour the exhibition and concert in the near future and aspire to keep bringing women together, building the mob.
You can check out Her Sound, Her Story: Exhibition at Melbourne Music Week until November 19. For session times, click here.
Photography: Amelia Dowd @ Sync Production and Management
Stylists: Karinda Mutabazi @ Style by Us and Them and Simone Farrugia
Hair and makeup: Shella Martin