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Stories from the spotlight: Surviving the music industry as a woman of color (part two)

Sidney Madden is a music and culture journalist at NPR and co-hosted the podcast “Louder Than a Riot” that laid the blueprint for Black podcasters, like our own Myra Flynn.
Photo: Sandra McCurdy/ Mike Morgan
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Image: Elodie Reed
Sidney Madden is a music and culture journalist at NPR and co-hosted the podcast “Louder Than a Riot” that laid the blueprint for Black podcasters, like our own Myra Flynn.

In part two of “Stories from the spotlight,” we continue our deep dive into the problematic nature of the music industry, the roots of misogyny in hip-hop, and unpack what it takes to stay safe, healthy and true to yourself as a female musician of color.

This is the latest episode of Homegoings, a podcast that features fearless conversations about race, and YOU are welcome here. Follow the series here.

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It’s interesting how so much of the abuse, misogyny and corruption in the music industry does not live in the shadows. You could almost argue that it’s flaunted. The power dynamics are evident. The horror stories are obvious. The perpetrators have names. And yet, Chris Brown, who physically assaulted Rhianna in 2009 — is currently touring across three countries and has 35 shows on the tour. R. Kelly’s album sales reportedly grew by 500% after his conviction. And well, Michael Jackson — I mean, I’ll admit: I still catch a groove when one of his songs comes on. So, we gotta ask ourselves, why don’t we stop supporting these problematic artists? What’s our skin in this artistic game?

In part two of “Stories from the spotlight,” we talk with NPR music and culture journalist Sidney Madden to unearth the roots of misogyny in hip-hop, and the modern-day dilemma of being an artist in the age of the internet. We also chat with drummer, producer and activist Kiran “Madame” Gandhi about what it takes to stay safe, healthy and true to yourself as a female musician of color.

“This is living in a way that pushes me forward rather than feeling stuck in depression. Usually for me, when I get my mind right, the rest follows quite naturally.” - Kiran “Madame” Gandhi
Lindsey Byrnes
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Courtesy
“This is living in a way that pushes me forward rather than feeling stuck in depression. Usually for me, when I get my mind right, the rest follows quite naturally.” - Kiran “Madame” Gandhi
“Most of these things are about ourselves. Our favorite artists are illuminating something that resonates inside of us, for us to step into. That's why they're our favorite artists. And so when we give permission to other people to authentically be who they are, we're giving ourselves that same permission.”  — Kiran “Madame” Gandhi

Part Two

This is part two of a two-part episode, so if you haven’t listened to part one, I highly recommend you go back and do that. This is a massive, messy, mercurial topic that deserves as much context, and frankly — compassion, as possible. In part one, we talk about some very sensitive topics. I come clean about my sexual assault experience as a 16-year-old in the New York City music industry. We also unpack the other fallouts of fame with artist Res, as together we discuss the impossible puzzle of sustainability as an artist, and if it’s even worth it — to keep the show going on. So, if you haven’t listened to part one yet, here’s your chance.

Part One

Deep listen

Madame Gandhi - Waiting For Me

Waiting For Me - Madame Gandhi
Kiran Kyrie Gandhi / David Myles Lewis

"I'm not every day tryna to turn up to the
Sound of my own oppression, you feel me?"

"We always assume our own powerlessness
But never our own power."

"Stigma is one of the most effective forms
Of oppression, because it denies us the vocabulary
To talk comfortably and confidently about our own bodies."

When I wake up in the morning
Hit space bar and start recording
My mom says that she'll adore me
The earth is still waiting for me

Waiting for me Waiting for me

I won't take in what they feed us
Run away in my Adidas
Brown girls of the world they need us
Truth is love and love will free us

Love will free us Love will free us

I've been livin in the wild now
When you taste freedom you're not tryna get tied down
Hear it in the words I say and the way I walk
I'm not part of their lies now

"I don't want our identity to be defined
According to how oppressed we are."

Dim our minds with drugs and liquor
Knowing that we'll die off quicker
All our people getting sicker
Can't afford organic stickers

Sorrow makes their wallets thicker
We must see the bigger picture

Woman who have come before us
Mothers, sisters, non-conformists
All the things that they've done for us
The earth is still waiting for us

Waiting for us Waiting for us

If we're strong they can't ignore us
The earth is still waiting for us!
If we're loud they can't ignore us
The earth is still waiting for us!
If we're one they can't ignore us
The earth is still waiting for us!
If we're true they can't ignore us
The earth is still waiting for us!

I've been livin in the wild now
When you taste freedom you're not tryna get tied down
See it in the way I think and the food I eat
I'm not part of their lies now

Credits

If you or someone you know is facing the trauma of sexual abuse, you do not have to navigate it alone. Help is available.

This episode was reported and mixed by Myra Flynn, with help from associate producer James Stewart and edited by Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr. The music was composed by Myra Flynn and Kiran “Madame” Gandhi. Other music by Jay Green and Blue Dot Sessions. Elodie Reed is the graphic artist behind this episode’s Homegoings artist portrait.

See you in two weeks for the next episode of Homegoings. As always, you are welcome here.

To continue to be part of the Homegoings family:

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Myra Flynn joined Vermont Public in March 2021 and is the DEIB Advisor, Host and Executive Producer of Homegoings. Raised in Vermont, Myra Flynn is an accomplished musician who has come to know the lay of dirt-road land that much more intimately through touring both well-known and obscure stages all around the state and beyond. She also has experience as a teaching artist and wore many hats at the Burlington Free Press, including features reporter and correspondent, before her pursuits took her deep into the arts world. Prior to joining Vermont Public, Myra spent eight years in the Los Angeles music industry.