This past weekend of fundraising for the Roots of Music was a gorgeous celebration of art and education. The Soul Rebels were on hand, filling the air with joyful horns and the Roots of Music Band treated us to multiple performances at The Orpheum and the New Orleans Jazz Market.
The energy was undeniable, infectious and thrillingly female. When Tarriona “Tank” Ball, frontwoman of the Grammy nominated New Orleans band Tank and the Bangas got up on stage with Kam Franklin, queen of the Houston-based band The Suffers and covered the Erykah Badu song, “Danger” I found myself dancing and singing loudly along, swept up in a sea of passionate, outspoken, well-dressed women there to support the music, the kids and each other.
While the Friday fundraiser, Support Your Roots, featured Tank and Kam and a short, heartfelt “Thank You” from Roots of Music executive director Morgan Stewart, Sunday’s event, Babefest: For the Love of NOLA, was packed to the brim with smart, influential women.
Civil rights activist Valarie Kaur spoke to us about Revolutionary Love, her mission to move towards a future where love is a force for justice. She emphasized the importance of loving those who need it the most, even our enemies and ourselves. ”We love ourselves when we breathe through the fire of pain and refuse to let it harden into hate.”
The topic of the panel that followed was dance and community. Tulane professor, Ausettua AmorAmenkum said, “”Dance does communication that words cannot do. The English language is problematic and restrictive. Dance is not.” Rapper/performance artist, Boyfriend, spoke of the restrictions that her hometown put on expression and of the enormous shift in perspective moving to New Orleans made for her. “When you make something forbidden, put it on the other side of the gate, it adopts a darkness that it doesn’t really have. When I came to New Orleans, the world [of dance] opened up!”
Régine Chassagne of Arcade Fire said, “dance is the expression of the music you hear in your head or it is the communication of your body with the music.” While Dianne “Gumbo Marie” Honoré said, “I pretty much grew up in a bar and restaurant here. Music [and dance], to me, is almost like church. It’s an organic representation of what you’re feeling.” When the panel moderator stated, “no one dances in a vacuum,” Régine responded, “I dance with a vacuum” and there was a collective giggle of, “I do that too!”
Afterwards, Ausettua AmorAmenkum lead us in a uniquely New Orleanean prayer that beautifully summed up the panel and the event: “We [as women] need more safe space so we can be in dialogue with one another. We have a rich, complicated history that needs to be dissected. We pray for more of these spaces and we ask that you please answer our prayer, especially because the Saints won the game today.”
When there was almost no more room for inspiration gathering, Tif “Teddy” Lamson of the Givers sat down in conversation with Ani DiFranco to discuss the importance of giving back to the community, the value of making music, the topics of her recent memoir and thoughts behind the “No Walls Mixtape,” a re-recording, re-imagining and re-release of many of Ani’s most influential songs.
“300 pages is just a drop in the bucket of a life.” Ani said about the process of writing her memoir. About producing, as an artist: “There’s a balance between painful art and painful silence.” And, last, about existence itself, she said, “You are healing yourself by becoming yourself”
Then Ani and Tif walked over to their instruments. Tif energetically drummed in her rainbow striped socks. Ani wielded her axe. A few songs in, Princess Shaw joined them with wise words and, one by one, women from the audience jumped in to add their voices to a freeform rendition of Ani’s “Which Side Are You On?” which goes, “Feminism ain’t about women. No, that’s not who it is for. It’s about a shifting consciousness that’ll bring an end to war. So listen up you fathers, listen up you sons and tell me which side are you on now? Which side are you on?”
If you missed the weekend’s events, there are still many ways you can donate or get involved with the Roots of Music. You can also catch Tank with her band The Bangas and Kam with The Suffers when they perform A Tanks-Giving Weekend Bash at Tipitinas, this Saturday, November 30 and if you’re really ambitious, you can book a flight and get funky in Cuba with the Soul Rebels and Tank and the Bangas and Cuban funk master Cimafunk.