Walking down the dingy stairwell to the basement at Stockholm’s Marie Laveau bar to meet the female-run music collective Femtastic, I notice the smell of spray-paint fumes from the previous night’s party. Graffiti and beer bottles are everywhere and busboys are sweeping away the remains of the festivities, while the photographer’s crew is setting up for the day’s shoot.
The light at the end of all this chaos comes in the form of the delightful characters that make up Femtastic. The girls are beautiful, mostly dressed in black hoodies and designer Caterpillar boots. They are diverse in height, age, colour and sound, but their unity is obvious and their vibe with each other is cohesive and comfortable.
Observing them as they stand around, laughing over their coffees, getting their make-up done and talking about upcoming projects, I am overwhelmed by how their sisterhood elicits all the feelings of love, support and magic you could want in a working atmosphere. From Femtastic, we have here: Aïssa (Aïssa Diene), Missdj (Jessica Wejhem), Sister Justice (Justine Balagade), Kippshu (Caroline Jansheden), May Dar (Alexandra Shanahan) and Neyney (Vanessa Marko). Vanessa is the founder. She’s a quiet leader, with beautiful, cat-like eyes and a subtle authority, who checks out the clothing the stylist brings, gets the girls coffee, talks to the photographer and says when the interview can start. They got together almost five years ago. Vanessa says, “It all started with me and Cleo hosting an event at a club in Stockholm. We called the event Klubb Femtastic and gathered a lot of female artists and DJs to perform. We wanted to show people that we exist and that we could do great shows with a feminist agenda. It was so successful that we wanted to do it again. In the end we want to create space for women in urban music and create a structural change in a male-dominated sphere.”
Femtastic has gone on to expand its platform globally, creating tutorials, workshops and sessions to promote female entrepreneurship in the music industry. They are all about encouraging others to be earthmovers, essentially filling the clubs and steps they take with good vibrations. The collective are an inspiration for performers eager to create their own shows and sound and make that leap on stage. When I tell her this, Vanessa says, “The biggest lesson I think we are passing on to the youth and future performers is inspiration to create and to claim space. [We’re showing] the benefits and joy of being a collective force, and the importance of staying true to who you are, no matter what your sex or where you come from.”
When I ask the girls to describe their life as performers in one word, they each give a different answer. Caroline says, “Joy”, smiling contently; Aïssa mentions “Happiness”; Alexandra says, “Fun” with a sly grin; and Vanessa responds with, “Traveller.” Looking at the girls sitting together on a black leather rock’n’roll couch, amid the hustle and bustle of a magazine and television crew hard at work preparing to document their every move, the only word I think of is “strong”. Together I believe Femtastic has the strength to move mountains and they are going to do it one beat at a time.
Femtastic are at Marie Leveau, Södermalm Stockholm, every weekend. On Fridays they host Klubb Femtastic, while Saturdays become Sugarcane Saturdays. Do you know any Earthmovers? Go on Instagram and, using the hashtag #earthmovers, tell us who you think we should feature.
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