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LW Politics & Music – Part 2: Cassie Agbehenu (Fight Rosa Fight!)

By Kris Smith

The media regularly bemoan a lack of politics in music, compared to a mythic 60s/70s/80s ‘good old days’ – only to salute as an exception the occasional gobby indie-boy band trying to kick-start their career with some token rebellious rhetoric.

Meanwhile, every year there are more fiercely-politicised, intelligently committed, female activists getting busy on the DIY punk scene, far from the plaudits and pitfalls of the spotlight. In this new series of interviews, Loud Women meets these women and asks them some of the questions that the music industry won’t.

#2 Cassie Agbehenu (Fight Rosa Fight!)

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What made you decide to use your songwriting to express political viewpoints?

Music and politics fit together naturally for me. They’re both about expression and belief. I can’t separate the two really. Music has always been such a huge part of my life and I love music that gives a platform to the discussion of current issues. Feminism and punk collided in my life and that’s when Fight Rosa Fight! was born. I realised I had a lot to say and to shout about and to be angry about so why not use music as a medium to express *that*?

Do you use songs as tools to put across prefigured messages – or is it more that you self-express in general through music, with politics just one aspect of that?

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Cassie’s zine about race in the UK DIY Punk scene – get yours from http://www.fightrosafight.bandcamp.com/merch

Yeah I guess the messages and the politics come first for me. I write about things that are on my mind at the time. Usually with a feminist and/or political theme. I’ve been writing a lot about race and feminism for quite a while. I’m moving to write more about personal relationships which is a different path for me. I find that writing about these things is so cathartic. And what’s even more cathartic is screaming about them in a band.

Is the function of politics in music to affirm views within a reciprocal social group, or convert – or at least converse with – a wider public?

Totally both. We talk about this a lot in the band. We play in a brilliant DIY feminist, queer punk scene which is wonderful and supportive. But I can’t help but feel like we’re preaching to the converted. Which is fine in the sense that it’s great being surrounded by like-minded people who are going to cheer when I get on the mic to shout about calling out rape culture, but what are we doing to actually change our wider social culture?

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Listen to Cassie and Bridget’s podcast at https://soundcloud.com/user-535636211/2-activism-recording-radical-softness

We’ve built this amazing space (which still has problems) but we can’t just keep those conversations in DIY spaces. Although it sometimes makes us feel uncomfortable, when I play shows with Fight Rosa Fight to crowds that that perhaps we wouldn’t usually play to, I know we’re doing the right thing. Myself and my friend Bridget Hart have also started a podcast to discuss politics and the DIY punk scene because we feel like we should be talking about this stuff in a more accessible way.

Do you see yourself as part of, and drawing influence from, a tradition of politicised music/art? 

I suppose I didn’t really see myself as part of that tradition to begin with. But there’s something so powerful about deliberately taking up space as a brown woman in what is often a very male dominated space. Particularly now that I also play in hardcore band (Worst Witch) I know that just being there is powerful. The thing is, women (particularly women of colour) have been using politicised art/music/expression as a means to fight for change for decades and if it’s perceived that I have become part of that tradition then I am honoured. I’m inspired by the women, trans and non-binary people that I surround myself with every day and they give me so much strength to believe that my voice is important. And the men in my life who have actively done the work to break down the ways in which they may have been holding up misogynistic ideals or whatever; I feel so lucky to have so many supportive men around me but that should be the norm and not luck. I’ve been told that I’m inspiring to others which is such a weird compliment to take. I just hope others feel empowered enough to push for the change they want to see. When there are lots of women or brown people at the shows I put on/play or whatever, I hope they leave feeling politicised and empowered.

There are various ways that a performer’s politics might not communicate to an audience, but you make a point of speaking between songs to reinforce the message. Did that come naturally, in terms of the confidence needed? Is it to break the ice, to break down barriers with a crowd, or to clarify  – or all of those?  

All of those things really. I have always had a lot to say but it’s taken time to feel coherent enough to do it on stage. I try to keep it natural and conversational and the most important thing to me is to be honest about how I feel. I have also learned that some things I say are going to make people uncomfortable. Like when I’m challenging a room full of white people on why it might be that I’m the only brown person at the show – I know that might make people feel uncomfortable but in that sense I think when you’re made to feel uncomfortable then you’re probably learning something. The bands I play in have political messages so it would be such a missed opportunity if we didn’t talk about them during the set.

I’ve been given a mic so I should use it to its fullest potential if I can.

Is there a pressure that comes with being known as a political musician? And is there a balance to strike between work on the one hand, and fun and self-care on the other?

15732129_1304721109602000_15215251762937123_oYeah I think there probably is pressure – first and foremost to always be right which is totally not the case. I make mistakes, I will slip up. I have misgendered people at shows. But it’s important that I hold my hands up to that and learn from it. I’m not perfect but I hope the things I say are read as genuine and I’m totally committed to our scene and helping others learn too. My mistake is more hurtful to someone else than it is to me.

Self-care is really important and I’ve found it very difficult in the past. I am learning much better coping strategies to look after my mental health. I read a lot of non-fiction and then write a lot about tough subjects which can take its toll so I have to take time for myself. But regardless of the subject matter, I absolutely love playing in bands and that will always make me happy. I am so lucky to be in bands with the best people.

As with most traditions, what we think of as political or “protest” music has previously been white/male dominated. Have things changed?

The punk scene in all its guises is changing hugely. It’s been 18 years since I went to my first punk show and it’s so different now. We still have work to do but I can’t help but feel really happy about the amazing spaces that we are helping to create. I feel like we (by we I mean, not white, not cis, not men) are not just asking politely, we’re demanding space. And visibly owning it. And that’s really powerful. But I feel like I always want to go further than *that*, it’s about challenging the hierarchies of the scene and enabling the white dudes to feel comfortable to step back and to understand why it’s important that they support this evolution. It’s not about taking things away from people, it’s about being truly inclusive. We talk the talk in this scene but sometimes struggle to walk the walk but it’s getting better all the time. I was talking to a friend the other day about building proper accountability processes within the scene for known abusers; why don’t we have that?? This is totally another separate point but I guess I’m saying we still have work to do and we need to do that together. But I’m excited for what this looks like and to be part of it. It’s an exciting time to be punx.

One interesting aspect of your politics is that they encompass an attack on the Tories and on Austerity-as-class-war. Interestingly you’ve worked as a trade union rep, which is perhaps unusual and something more associated with the traditional Left. In contrast it can appear that class and ideology are missing from the worldview of contemporary musicians. Are people wary of speaking overtly on the subject, or are we going through a period of reaction to Left politics being all about class to the detriment of anything else?

I think the basis of it is that we’ve always been really keen to show that women have ideas about this stuff too – our punk politics aren’t just about being nice to people at shows and creating safe spaces (which of course is important too!) –  we care about the impact of austerity on marginalised groups, and we hate the Tories! We hate what they’re doing to this country and how they’re demonising the poor/Muslims/everyone! Music seemed like a great platform to express this. We care about all the things that impact on people beyond the walls of the venue. We’re a very lefty band and that’s pretty obvious but I think it’s also about making politics accessible. I truly believe in people power, no matter how cheesy that is. The anarcho-punk ideal of not voting/taking part in a broken democratic system is so fucking selfish and I get sick of it. Yes the system is broken, but you’re a privileged fuck if you have the audacity to either believe that politics doesn’t affect you or that you can refuse to participate instead of standing in solidarity with others.

27993226_1800237803383659_8627617246203819600_oI think for us it’s always been about being unapologetically feminist and unapologetically political and that still stands. We’re deliberately brash and open about our views and we hope that we help people understand a little more or go and investigate things. But at the same time it’s like, we know we won’t gain any Tory fans! (Do we want them though!?) I think we’re able to reflect on intersectionality quite a lot and that crosses over into our writing. We might be writing about class, or abortion, or sexual abuse, but behind it all is how those things affect the lives of all different types of people – I guess that’s the message. Yes, I was a union rep (still am!) and worked full time for a trade union for a bit – I’ve never thought about how that influences my writing but it certainly affects my politics and my activism. In fact it’s part of my day to day activism. People spend so much time at work – may as well try and make it as good as possible!


Fight Rosa Fight! are playing their last ever shows next month,

Sunday 11th March - Matinee show, Smokey Joe's in Cheltenham
https://www.facebook.com/events/165944360704941/?ti=cl

Sunday 11th March - Hydra Books in Bristol

Find Fight Rosa Fight! on Facebook and look out for Cassie's new band, Worst Witch

LOUD WOMEN: Volume One compilation CD available to pre-order NOW!


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LOUD WOMEN – Volume One will be released on CD on 18 March 2017, featuring tracks by 21 of the UK’s most hotly-tipped female artists:

  • Dream Nails: DIY04-dream-nails
  • Bratakus: Pollution Evolution
  • Petrol Girls: Touch Me Again
  • Dolls: Audrey
  • The Empty Page: Deeply Unlovable
  • The Ethical Debating Society: Poor Liam
  • Gladiators Are You Ready?: I Want to Love You
  • deux furieuses: Out of My System
  • Fight Rosa Fight!: Sick of You
  • GUTTFULL: Keyboard Warrior
  • Little Fists: Tyler is Not a Feminist
  • The Potentials: Moloch14188231_1107551255999096_1587132143501267403_o
  • Nervous Twitch: Something Wrong With Me
  • IDestroy: IDestroy
  • Madame So: Black is Beautiful
  • Fightmilk: Chaperone
  • Bugeye: Hey You
  • Argonaut: Not Rich
  • The Wimmins’ Institute: Nando’s
  • Lilith Ai: Riot
  • Janine Booth: Real Rape

All artists have played at the LOUD WOMEN monthly live music nights or the annual festival.
Organiser and musician Cassie Fox says: “It’s 2017 and women are still struggling to get their voices heard in all arenas. LOUD WOMEN is about putting women centre-stage and turning up the volume. There are hoardes of massively talented female artists out there, hopefully this CD can bring a few of them to a wider audience.”

The album will be officially launched on 18 March with a special all-day gig at the Sound Lounge in Tooting, featuring live performances from 12 of the artists on the CD.

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LOUD WOMEN: Volume One – Preorder now!

Out on 18 March 2017 – a compilation album of 21 of the loudest women who’ve played our shows! All profits from the sale of the CD going to Women’s Aid.

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21 track CD with zine

£10 (plus £1.50 p&p)

Pre-order now!

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  • Dream Nails: DIY
  • Bratakus: Pollution Evolution
  • Petrol Girls: Touch Me Again
  • Dolls: Audrey
  • The Empty Page: Deeply Unlovable
  • The Ethical Debating Society: Poor Liam
  • Gladiators Are You Ready?: I Want to Love You
  • deux furieuses: Out of My System
  • Fight Rosa Fight!: Sick of You
  • GUTTFULL: Keyboard Warrior
  • Little Fists: Tyler is Not a Feminist
  • The Potentials: Moloch
  • Nervous Twitch: Something Wrong With Me
  • IDestroy: IDestroy
  • Madame So: Black is Beautiful
  • Fightmilk: Chaperone
  • Bugeye: Hey You
  • Argonaut: Not Rich
  • The Wimmins’ Institute: Nando’s
  • Lilith Ai: Riot
  • Janine Booth: Real Rape

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LOUD WOMEN’s top 20 tracks of the year

by Kris Smith, LOUD WOMEN’s Music Editor

LOUD WOMEN YouTube playlist here

  1. Petrol Girls – Touch Me Again 
  2. The Tuts – Con Man  
  3. Slotface – Sponge State  
  4. Witching Waves – The Threat
  5. Crumbs – On Tiptoes 
  6. Actual Crimes – I Don’t Want To See  
  7. Fight Rosa Fight – This Scene, This Scene
  8. Colour Me Wednesday – In Your Shoes  
  9. Dream Nails – Bully Girl  
  10. Big Joanie – Crooked Room  
  11. Molar – Javier
  12. Charla Fantasma – Late For Work
  13. No Ditching – Emo  
  14. Dolls – Audrey  
  15. Muertos – Ballroom Spritzer  
  16. Good Throb – The Queen Sucks Nazi Cock  
  17. NOTS – Entertain me 
  18. LIINES – Disappear  
  19. Los Cripis – Restaurant  
  20. Prime Time – Fallen Out

LOUD WOMEN’s not-so secret plans for world domination in 2017

Yep, we’re taking over.

The patriarchy has had his chance to run things, and he’s just made a complete dog’s breakfast of it, 2016 being case in fucking point. Time for revolution woman-style … and here’s how the LOUD WOMEN are planning on doing their bit.

Step 1: The LOUD WOMEN compilation album – out in March!
We’re putting together a CD featuring some of the amazing acts that have played LW nights so far, and we’re going to be selling it far and wide to help spread the word, and music. All profits from the CD will go to Women’s Aid. And I can now exclusively reveal that the artists contributing to the CD will be:
Argonaut | Bratakus | Bugeye | Deux Furieuses | Dolls | Dream Nails | Fightmilk | Fight Rosa Fight | Gladiators Are You Ready | Grace Petrie | GUTTFULL | Janine Booth | IDestroy | Lilith Ai | Little Fists | Nervous Twitch | The Empty Page | The Potentials | The Wimmins’ Institute

Step 2: Friends of LOUD WOMEN 
Sharing is caring, so we’re teaming up with awesome friends to curate our regular London gigs, keeping the nights varied and bringing along new friends on the way. See the gigs list for details of gigs coming up with Parallel MagazineAbigail’sParties and Who Run the World.

Step 3: LOUD WOMEN on tour
With London gigs rocking away nicely, it’s time to turn our attention elsewhere. We’re going to be holding gigs in major towns and cities around the UK throughout the Spring. Dates and locations coming soon … but if you would like to get involved and help put on a LOUD WOMEN show in your home town, drop us line at loudwomen@yahoo.com

introducing: Fight Rosa Fight!

by tim forster

Cheltenham-based Fight Rosa Fight! formed in April 2014 and describe themselves as ‘messy Riot Grrrl/DIY punk’. Within six months of forming, Lindsay, Cassie and Emily had released their first EP Step One: Start A Band following it a year later with a second EP Rotten. Their songs deal with a variety of subjects including inequality, class and mental health.

why did you get together?
Cassie and Linz met through a feminist group Cassie had started. Linz and Emily had played in bands together whilst at school and afterwards. Cassie and Linz were at a meeting and just generally chatting about music, when they decided to try putting a riot grrrl band together. After their first rehearsal, Linz suggested asking Emily to join and Fight Rosa Fight! was born. From the beginning the music and the message went hand in hand. We knew we wanted to make music that had a direct, strong, intersectional feminist message.

your name … rosa parks, rosa luxemburg, or another rosa … ?
Both of the Rosa’s of course! We wanted the name to be bold and empowering, directly referencing feminist action.

is there a particular scene that you feel part of?
The Queer and DIY Punk scenes have been incredibly welcoming to us. NANA DIY at Althorpe Studios in Leamington Spa were especially welcoming to us very early on in our journey when Linz and Cassie were still learning to play their instruments – giving us a support slot for their Martha gig. Sheffield LaDIYFest gave us a chance when we were still a new band, and from playing there we met Petrol Girls who have been supportive and inspirational. Surprise AttacksDIY Punk night in Worcester was a turning point for us – the organisers and audience were really supportive and helped us to grow in confidence as a band. Jenn Hart of Cookie Cut [and Viva Zapata!] in Bristol gave us our first headline show, which developed our confidence further. Playing Nottingham Queer Fest in 2015 was a very special and emotional gig for us, with one of the best and loveliest crowds we have ever seen.

  • “We would like to give big thanks to all the musicians who were especially helpful and supportive, not just by letting us use their gear, but also offering us advice and showing us how to use amps in our early days.”

your lyrics explore some really interesting politcal subjects; other songs seem more personal. do your songs deliberately reflect those two sides of concept and experience?
Arguably all the personal things we write about are political and reflect both concepts of feminism and identity, as well as our own experiences. Our experiences are often politicised whether we choose them to be or not. For example, ‘Do What You Want’ at first listen may seem more of a ‘fun’ song but it is just as overtly political as ‘Everyday is Political’. Both songs call out to all those whose lives are political whether they want them to be or not, both songs reflect that some identities are politicised just by being ‘othered’ by society, by being pushed out of the mainstream and being treated oppressively.
  • “Mental health has long been ignored, vilified and underfunded by our government and society.”

‘We Scream in Silence’ is based on personal mental health experiences but is a love song to anyone who is hurting; it is a song both of support and kinship.

what bands and writers have you been inspired/excited by lately?
Everybody should check out Amygdala from Texas. We played with them at JT Soar in Nottingham and are quite frankly still reeling. Bianca Monique (singer/songwriter) is beautiful, strong and wonderful in so many ways; we were utterly moved and compelled by their presence and performance. Articles by journalist and editor Stephanie Phillips (also of Big Joanie) on race, gender, punk and politics are important and vital. Stephanie’s recent article ‘Are all bands who use female names alienating women in music?’ is available here. ‘Treading Water’ by Petrol Girls could not be more apt, important and necessary in light of recent events in the UK. We also love The Ethical Debating SocietySpook School and DirtyGirl. Cassie put together a zine called ‘Intersectional Politics for Punx’, the first issue dealing specifically with race in the UK DIY Punk scene; Linz and Emily would like to very strongly recommend this zine! Finally, we are very, very excited to be releasing a split 7” record with the awesome Little Fists. We are over the moon to be touring with them throughout the UK in August. Their tracks sound amazing!


Fight Rosa Fight!
 are playing at LOUD WOMEN Fest on 3 Sept.

Thanks to Tim Forster for letting us use this abridged version of his interview. You can read the full version on his blog here.

20 recommended recents

by kris smith

Deux Furieuses
Tracks of Wire
LP (May 2016)

Fight Rosa Fight /
Little Fists
Split EP (Aug 2016)
Charla Fantasma
No Excuses, Baby!
EP (Aug 2016)

Actual Crimes
Ceramic Cat Traces
LP (Aug 2016)

Towel
Wipe Me Dry
EP (April 2016)

Peach Club
The Bitch Diaries
EP (April 2016)

As Ondas
Marés
LP (June 2016)

 

She Makes War
Direction of Travel
LP (April 2016)

Twistettes
Jilt the Jive
LP (April 2016)

 

Quaaludes
Are the Winners Always Losers?
EP (July 2016)

September Girls
Age of Indignation
LP (April 2016)

 

Bratakus
Gigantopithecus
EP (May 2016)

Prime Time
Going Places
EP (May 2016)

 

¡Ay Carmela!
Working Weeks
LP (July 2016)

White Lung
Paradise
LP (May 2016)
Nervous Twitch
Don’t Take My TV
LP (Feb 2016)

Neurotic Fiction
Demo
EP (Jan 2016)

Alimony Hustle
All Strikes No Gutters
EP (Mar 2016)

Skating Polly
The Big Fit
LP (Mar 2016)
Otoboke Beaver
Okoshiyasu!
LP (Mar 2016)

 

and look out for these …

The Tuts Update Your Brain LP (Sept)

Skinny Girl Diet Heavy Flow LP (Sept)

NOTS  Cosmetic LP  (Sept)

Las Kellies  Friends and Lovers LP (Oct)