Archive | April, 2012

The Advent Calendar Aftermath or Mea Culpa

22 Apr


So some of you might have read on facebook that I made a little bet with my old friend Henrike Dessaules in December of last year. She was mocking me about my plan to post 24 good German songs in the days leading up to Christmas. I told her, if she likes less than half of them I’d buy her a glass of wine. She hasn’t told me the result yet but last weekend I got a message from her that said: “So much already, the lousy women’s quota of less than 20 % won’t get you a cookie.”

Okay, first off Henrike, after you mentioned that, I went back and counted. And you are wrong; it is most definitely over 20 %. If you just go by bands with female members, they are represented with 25 % percent. If you are only counting front people, it is still just over 20 %. With that out of the way, I have to admit, before you mentioned it, I never even noticed. Now, I can blame the patriarchy for the fact that there are simply less female recording artists than male ones, which explains the bias in my calendar.

But what I have to admit to is my utter ignorance of this fact. It never really crossed my mind. Now, this is even more interesting, considering the fact that I am a female musician myself. In all my bands I was usually the only woman. At the most there was one other woman, usually playing an instrument like saxophone or violin. It kind of looked like this:


Of course I noticed that most of my bandmates through the years were guys, but I just attributed that to the fact that I tend to get along way better with men than with women and therefore choose these bands.

Anyway, now I started thinking about it. So, thank you for that, Rike. (I just noticed that that sounds sarcastic. I do mean it, though. I am always grateful when someone makes me think.) Suddenly I notice that there is a shocking shortage of women playing instruments and writing songs. It has gotten better in the last ten years. There are a number of super successful female artists. However, most of them are solo artists. I talked about this to my brother who got me into music and has played in rock bands for most of his life. Together we noticed that while there are a lot of female solo artists, it is still rare to see them in the common band setting. My brother then ventured a guess as to why that is. Apart from the obvious (very male dominated world, chauvi-jokes and so on) he said: “Maybe at 16 or 17 girls have better things to do than to hang out in fucked up rehearsal spaces and drink cheap beer”. I just thought: “Oh, I love doing that.” I loved it when I was 16 and I love it now.

Well, I don’t know what the reasons are but this is not a blog about the underrepresentation of women in music and virtually any other part of the public life. So, I will just say this: Ladies, please join me on stage! It is great up here. Playing guitar and singing is much cooler than just making out with a guy who plays guitar. I should know, I’ve done both.

And I leave you with a magnificent band of talented women:

“handhaben” or handle foreign words with care

21 Apr

First off, let me say something about Anglicisms. I don’t mind them. Language is a dynamic thing that changes naturally over time. In this globalized world it is a given that we adopt words from other languages, most likely English, since it is everywhere. Having said that, there is a word that is becoming more and more popular with Germans and it makes me cringe every time I hear it. It somehow doesn’t sound right and it bugs me that people use it when we have a lovely German word that would totally do. I am talking about “handhaben” – to handle.

It is not a sexy word, I know. It is kind of like a kitchen pot; not something you would put on display but without it you couldn’t make soup and that sucks. I like soup.

On closer inspection “handhaben” is actually kind of pretty. Let’s say, it is like the one pot in your kitchen that you got from your mom when you first moved out and it has that funky orange color that was so hip in the 70s. The word can be loosely translated as ‘to have a hand’. I get that people are confused by it. It has a somewhat unusual shape for a German verb but it isn’t anything German grammar couldn’t handle (haha).

Now, in recent years Germans have started to say phrases like this one: “Das kann man dann auch viel besser händeln” or “Ich weiß nicht, wie ich das händeln soll“. Seriously, it weirds me out. For one thing, I just realized that I have no idea how to spell the Germanized version of it. I did it phonetically in this case. It sounds ugly to my ears and there is one more reason why we should abstain from The Fancy English word in this case: It is very easy to confuse it with another essential German verb: “handeln” – to act.

In the end we have incidents like a (then) famous German girl band performing at some benefit (think Live Aid only less cool) and calling out to the audience: “Handle with care”. What they wanted to say was ‘act with care’ or rather ‘act responsibly’ and we go for the full circle here when I will now tell you how to say that in perfectly beautiful German language: “Handle mit Umsicht!”.