MARIA DOYLE KENNEDY
(Siren: Instrument used in acoustic experiments or for making loud sound for information, warning etc. by revolution of perforated disc over jet of compressed air or steam. Any of several women, or creatures half woman and half bird, living on rocky isle to which they lured unwary seafarers with enchanting singing.)
Sirens is the title of an 18-song anthology that brings together some of the most original and independent female artists currently operating against the consensus of mainstream music: Patti Smith, Sinead O Connor, Stina Nordenstam, PJ Harvey, Margaret Healy, Lucinda Williams, Beth Orton, Lisa Germano, Tanya Donelly, Gemma Hayes, Kristin Hersh, Nina Hynes, Ani Di Franco, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Katell Keineg, Maria McKee, Amy Rigby and Neneh Cherry . . . its an impressive array of voices all too rarely heard on city radio or television.
The album is the brainchild of Irish singer, songwriter, actress, activist and all round renaissance woman Maria Doyle Kennedy, When asked about the impulses that drove her to assemble the Sirens line up, Maria had this to say:
“Its a little bit dangerous making a compilation thats all women; Im really not interested in ending up in some sort of girls ghetto for music cos I dont think its about girls music and boys music - its all music. But one of the things was that I started gigging, and Margaret Healy came with me on a lot of the gigs, and the energy of having another woman around was so great that I just thought it would be amazing to do something with a load of women, to do some celebrating. And putting it all together on the album seemed to be a way to work towards doing some gigs.”
The artists were decided on by process of instinct rather than aesthetic - when the dowsing rod twitched in the direction of artists who took Marias fancy, she sought them out.
“I guess the first thing is that its music that I really love and that I have found inspiring always, particularly Patti, shes always been like a beacon, that you could make whatever kind of music you wanted on your own terms. And a lot of people, like Lisa Germano for example, I stumbled on by accident. I guess it is all a little left of Centre. All the women on this have really walked their own roads.”
Its an old Hollywood grumble - there are no good parts for actresses over 30. Likewise, the music industry doesnt quite know what to do with women who dont conform to the notion of female artists as either candy-coated jailbait, or market targeted plastic punks, or designed-by-committee divas. Sirens offers plenty of evidence that theres life beyond the stereotypes. Patti Smith made her first album at 29. Debbie Harry was pushing 30 when Blondie started to break.
“Things are going further away from that certainly“, says Maria. “I think its more like a confidence gene thats more difficult if youre a girl. Its like if youre doing something really simple like a soundcheck, and youre having problems, if youre not happy with your sound you cross the line much more quickly than a guy would into being awkward as opposed to being an artist or a perfectionist. Women are often expected to be more amiable or more pleasing or more submissive than men generally. I think one theme in a lot of the songs is that theyre about self: Happiness by Lisa Germano, Joyful Girl by Ani DiFranco, shes really explaining why she does it or what music does for her, a statement of self-strength or independence. But you can do it yourself. You can really make your own music.”