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[Music Monday]: Ladyfest Mixtape

The performers and organizers from this week's 3rd annual Shanghai Ladyfest share their favorite songs of empowerment.
Feb 29, 2016 | 13:30 Mon
Music Monday is a weekly SmartShanghai column, serving up songs from bands living and making music in China (or coming to China, or thinking about coming to China, or whatever). Copyright holders: if you would like your song removed, please contact us here, and we'll honor your request promptly.

A few of the ladies behind Ladyfest Shanghai

Today is Leap Day and I couldn’t think of a better opportunity to feature one of Shanghai’s best annual events, Ladyfest, which kicks off Friday night at Yuyintang and runs through Saturday at Basement6, LoGO, and Dada. This year’s theme is Evolution and they've put together a series of events featuring performances and workshops that has a little something for everyone.

For some more background about the event, you can check our feature article from the inaugural 2014 edition of Ladyfest. Now let's just get right into the Ladyfest Shanghai 2016 Mission Statement:

"Ladyfest Shanghai is exploring what evolution means to women define through the following categories:

Evolution of Womanhood – The journey from childhood to old age.

Evolution of Feminism – The progression of the feminist movement from the first historical achievement to where the perception of feminism stands today.

Evolution of Gender – The increasingly blurred lines and fluidity of gender identity.

Evolution of Sexuality – The sexploration of expectations, fulfillment, and social taboos in today’s world.

Evolution of Contribution – The development of multiple roles women have played in society and the contrast between women’s contributions from generation to generation while exploring the idealism of a matriarchal society.

Evolution of Communication – The development between men and women and how they communicate, relate, and understand each other within social boundaries."

Ahead of the weekend, I asked a few of the organizers and performers involved with Shanghai Ladyfest to share some songs that have either empowered or been of importance to them. This will be Shanghai's third Ladyfest and I couldn’t be more excited to see what’s in store. Now let’s hear from the ladies themselves.

Note: You'll need a VPN for these trax -- they're all from YouTube.


Jessica Martinelli

Role: Organizer
Song Choice: "My Offense" by Hercules & Love Affair

"I remember listening to this song during the planning of the first edition of Ladyfest. I had just gotten out of a draining and abusive relationship and had recently met the women who are now my best friends. I was doing a project on female nudity and empowerment and was constantly surrounded by these strong empowered women. So much so, that I myself became empowered. I really started embracing who I was, realizing I was full of life and strength. I started thinking of my accomplishments and demanding respect for who I was and what I stood for. In other words, not taking shit from anyone. I felt so free! This song I think was one of the emblems of the time for me."

Hercules & Love Affair - "My Offense" feat. Krystle Warren


Little Punk

Role: Performer
Song Choice: "Here Comes Alice" by Jesus and Mary Chain

"From all the indie rock and twee pop songs I like, including a list of bands and artists such as Morrisey, Jeremy Jay, Beat Happening, Belle and Sebastian, Alfie, Sebadoh... Jesus and Mary Chain has this song called "Here Comes Alice". It relates to my deepest understanding of a common form of love, thirst, yearning, and regret in life. It is something that you want but you know you will never own, someone you love and you know you never will be with, something you so strongly hate but are secretly addicted to.

Something like, 'I know all these thoughts and feelings are right, but man I am such a dickhead and u r so hopeless and we can’t be helped.'"

Jesus Mary Chain – "Here Comes Alice"

VPN required to see videos.


Laeticia Etetebe

Role: Organizer
Song Choice: "Two Weeks" by FKA twigs

"FKA Twigs is an artist who for me represents an enchanting blend of vulnerability and power. The song "Two Weeks" is a mysterious, undeniably sensual and empowering song on female sexuality. This song resonates with me because it showcases a woman who is in complete synchronicity, acceptance and enjoyment of her sexuality; perfectly comfortable with taking the lead and embracing her sensuality and desires.

This song promotes a very open and healthy relationship that each woman should grow to have with her own sexuality. This song illustrates the game of love and sexuality in a way that the woman is fully in power of making the man wait or demanding for him to satisfy her the way that she deserves to be. It is giving a female perspective and a illustrating a sexual fantasy from the eyes of a strong woman who embraces her own wants and needs, and experiences her sexual experience in a way that inherently arouses her.

I think that overall the slight mystery and darkness paired with the raw and powerful female sensuality and sexiness makes this song one of the most empowering, mind-blowing and addictive tunes I have heard in the past 5 years."

FKA twigs – "Two Weeks"



Role: Perfomer
Song Choice: "Tawarguit" by Thundersouls

"Thundersouls is a Moroccan band currently based in China. Six years ago, the four ladies founded the band back home after a little jam that revealed the musical chemistry between them. After a couple years, their paths came to a point where they had to choose whether to stick together and fulfill their dream or let destiny separate them to follow their individual paths.

The choice wasn’t hard to make, since our passion for music and adventure was the same which led us to China, the Philippines and Indonesia. That’s how our first original song, "Tawarguit" which means Dream in Berber language was born. "Tawarguit" defines the main chapter of Thundersoul’s journey, which started back home and after believing in it with all our guts is now becoming our daily reality."

Tawarguit – "Thundersouls"


Joanna Palmowska

Role: Organizer
Song Choice: "Rebel Girl" by Bikini Kill

"This song always gives me a lot of energy. It is about looking up to another strong and powerful woman and reminds me of my friends. It is also related to a beautiful memory from our first Ladyfest in 2014, when after the event we had to carry some boxes back home. Physically we were running on fumes but the energy we were exposed to the whole day was so inspiring that we sang that song out loud in the street. There are so many "rebel girls" in this city, I love all of them!

Bikini Kill – "Rebel Girl"


Kelly Scott aka KoKo

Role: Performer / Organizer
Song Choice: "Bad Girls" by M.I.A.

"This song pushes no real "feminist agenda" as such, but if I ever want to feel like I'm looking good and feeling good -- whether getting ready to go out, meeting deadlines, driving my car, or on the metro -- this song gives me some energy and life.

I am really interested in this whole "good girl, bad girl" idea. It seems being a good girl is awfully restrictive and repressed. Heaven forbid I want to do what's right for me. If being a bad girl means I get things done, I live an adventurous life, I see the world, and experience new things, unapologetically, and assertively, then I will pick bad girl any day."

M.I.A. - Bad Girls


Jennifer Childs

Role: Organizer
Song Choice: "I’m Hungry" by the Sugarcubes

"I remember listening to this album on my 15th Birthday. It was a present from my boyfriend at the time. He knew I was into Bjork's new solo album Post and that I would dig the Sugarcubes. I had heard them before on MTV but did not really pay that much attention before that day. Then I heard the entire album and this song, "I'm hungry" just cut right through all the bullshit. I loved how powerful Bjork's amazing voice sounded singing about something that I could relate to completely.

There was no fear, no reason other than just her own desire to live her life. That stuck with me. That pushed me to discover, to look deeper, to try new things, not to accept no for an answer, to believe that I could have all the surprises, all the experiences, see all the places, and do all the things that had not been done before, for no other reason than for me. I DID just that and never looked back."

The Sugarcubes – "I’m Hungry"


Zoe Seiter

Role: Performer
Song Choice: "Pavlov's Bell" by Aimee Mann

"Aimee Mann is an amazing female singer/ songwriter. She got her start in the punk rock band Til' Tuesday and later left to do more folk rock as a solo artist. She's a woman who is utterly unafraid. Her songs have themes that are uncommon in music. "Pavlov's Bell" is about feeling out of control of a situation and falling back on predictable patterns despite better judgement. It's about the human tendency to justify actions."

Aimee Mann - "Pavlov's Bell"


Thanks so much for sharing, ladies. I want to see everyone down at the Shanghai 2016 Ladyfest!! Here's the times and details for all this year's Ladyfest events:

Friday, March 4 @ Yuyintang: Opening night with local and international bands from 8pm-12.30am.

Saturday, March 5 @ Basement 6 & LoGO: All day free event from 12-8pm, feat. live performances, workshops, and more.

Saturday, March 5 @ Dada: Free after-party by Punani rocks from 9pm-late.


This column is written by DJ Sacco, who runs Uptown Records, Shanghai's dedicated vinyl shop. Ironically, they don't sell Mp3s or dabble in anything digital, instead they have 7" and 12", EPs and LPs from rock to electronic, rare pressings, DJ equipment and band merchandise. Find them in an old bomb shelter at 115 Pingwu Lu.


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