Women in Revolt!

Underground Rebellion in British Music – 1977-1985

(Music For Nations, CD, DL, LP)

Collected as a soundtrack to Women in Revolt!, the exhibition at London’s Tate Britain (untill 7 April 2024), Women in Revolt! Underground Rebellion in British Music – 1977-1985 is a compilation album that catapults its listeners to a time of raw energy. No one ever needs an excuse to re-listen to X-Ray Spex’s ‘Identity’ (1977), but to hear Poly Styrene’s vocals scything through one of the UK’s major art galleries – well, that’s something. Tate’s Women in Revolt! focuses on female-led protest art of a period from approximately 1960 to the late 1980s. It’s an important show, not least because it traces a developing political consciousness coming to the fore: practices to do with feminism, anti-racism, anti-nuclear (bombs and families), and LGBTQI+ rights, the personal becoming political.

The 15 songs featured in this compilation capture the sound of female musical protest between 1977, the outburst of punk, and 1985, the end of the miners’ strike. Like many punks, the art school or homegrown art movement links are solid: Linder, whose band, Ludus, is here, with a spiky anti-love song; Cosey Fanni Tutti (present in the form of ‘October (Love Song)’, made with partner Chris Carter), film-maker Gina Birch, in her Mo-Dettes incarnation. Songs such as The Au-Pairs’ ‘You’ (1979) and the Gymslips’ ‘Dear Marje’ (1983) – Marjorie Proops was a famous agony aunt – are not only feminism in action, but also turn-up-the volume joyful. Not scoring X-Ray Spex’s 1977 anthem, ‘Oh Bondage! Up Yours!’ is a sad omission. But full marks for passion otherwise.

Louise Gray

Last Night a Woman Saved My Life

by Dominique Dalcan, featuring Souad Massi, Hend Zouari and Meryem Abouloufa
(Ostinato Records, CD, DL, LP)

Forget the cheesy title: Last Night a Woman Saved My Life is an album of immense subtlety. Through the medium of well-crafted songs, Dominique Dalcan and his stellar cast of singers explore that feeling familiar to exiles everywhere: a sense of a fundamental dislocation. Song and language (the songs are voiced in French, Farsi, and Arabic from across the Middle East and North Africa) are exemplary means of achieving this end.

Born in Beirut, based in Paris, Dalcan is an electronic musician and soundtrack composer embedded in music’s alternative currents that glance across the mainstream in interesting ways. (Vinicius Cantuaria and the late Ryiuchi Sakamoto are two former collaborators.) Last Night began as a multimedia exhibition in Cent Quatre Paris in 2019, a vehicle for bringing in female voices from Dalcan’s native Lebanon to create what he termed a ‘personal folklore’. This album extends the project. The music is mostly Dalcan’s – a mixture of gentle electronic pop beats with virtuoso additions from violinist Amal Guermazi and Tunisian qanun queen, Hend Zouari – but it’s the voices that stand out. On the ten songs, the singers freestyle, and this adds to the fluid emotion conveyed. Algeria’s Souad Massi ‘Loin de ma terre’ (‘Far from My Land’) is a poignant, open track with hints of the mellifluous voice of the great Lebanese diva, Fairouz, while Egyptian singer Dina El Wedidi’s ‘Un lien entre nous’ (‘A Link Between Us’) plays with lush Cairene textures to accentuate a yearning that extends across geographies and time.

Louise Gray