Discrimination agains women has generally declined in different professional fields, but it still coexists in established practical methods. Culture, specifically music, has lacked feminine figures that represent the collective in this area since its existence. Clarisa Guerra belongs to a sevillian band, and has experienced firsthand the problems that result from the sexism that creates profit for the music industry.
Night falls in the San Luis neighborhood. Under the church that gives its name to the area, a cou-ple observes its predominantly Baroque details. Because of their blonde hair and fair skin, they look like foreigners. The shadow of the temple is reflected in a half-destroyed, yellow building on the opposite sidewalk, while the sound of the cars mixes with the jazz music emanating from a bar. It is high season in the city, and thousands of tourists like them invade the streets prevent-ing the transit of the locals. Going down the street, one of the longest in the historic center, the couple collides with a young girl who seems impatient. Clarisa Guerra has left home with just enough time to get to her appointment. Five is the number of minutes it takes to cross San Luis and get to Arrayán street. Seven, if we add the two minutes she uses to pause and buy food for her cat in the nearest shop. She goes down Ar-rayán to the famous Feria Market to appear in the Pitacasso, one of the most modern bars in the area. Surrounded by illustrations and white walls, she sits at one of the tables inside, sheltering her-self from the cold of this April night.
The waitress approaches smiling.
– What would you like to drink?
–Do you have any grape must without alcohol?
Clarisa has just turned 35, and apart from a journalist and an artist, she is currently an expecting mother. “This is the greatest thing that can happen to you,” she says, stroking her con-spicuous seix-month belly. “But drinking beer and playing in a group is cool, too,” she laughs. Her group, Hi Corea!, completed by three men, Isidro, Carlos and Berni, received the news of her pregnancy as an anecdote that would not affect their performance of the quartet’s rehearsals and concerts. It’s been six months since she has heard from them. “At the beginning, we did not think it would affect anything. But without speaking, there has been an administrative silence that has burned the band. It was the trigger,” says Clarisa. Hi Corea! found themselves among the most relevant groups in the Sevillian scene, getting to perform at major festivals, such as Monkey Week. Despite the passion and seriousness that the band transmitted publicly, something was starting to go wrong. “The band is not a job for us. I’ve al-ways taken it seriously, but we have not given our everything, and that makes a difference.”
Guerra plays keyboard and sings in Hi Corea! She is part of the tiny number of women in any of the local bands. Without realizing it, she has managed to change the role of women in the mu-sic industry.
She was born in Zaragoza. Or, so say her so-cial media. “I have it on Facebook for the jokes, but that was a coincidence. I am practically a Sevillian,” she says, her first laugh escaping. Her self-taught attitude has led her to create several projects without stepping inside a single con-servatory, following the current trend of young emerging bands. She has taught classes with Roque, the drummer of Pájaro, another Sevillian band. “Music has made me come together with people who like the same thing as me.”
Despite the rise of mixed bands, locally and nationally, the force projected by the discrimina-tion of women in music is evident. During the month of April in Seville, more than half of the groups that performed in the most important halls of the city were composed entirely of men. The music industry has been living with this dis-crimination for years. The association Women of the Music Industry (MIM, in Spanish) has held conferences about the presence of women on stage in different cities of Spain, like Murcia, Barcelona or Mallorca, crying for “gender equality in the music industry.” On the other hand, the problem is persistent in different areas. It seems simple that women devote themselves to other aspects of music. This is the case of communica-tion, where women predominate. This is not the case in the technical or production areas.
“The statistics are there. The problem is palpa-ble and visible,” says Clarisa. “We do not talk about talent, this happens because of different circum-stances such as education, role models, or culture.”
The circumstances that she experienced when she was a teenager, during the 90s, were based on the triumph of different male figures such as Miguel Bosé, Oasis or Nirvana. At the same time, The Brown Cacas, Clarisa’s first project, was born. “We called ourselves that because we were really bad,” she says, as she lets out a guffaw and takes a sip of her apple and grape must. Thousands of male idols proliferated stuck to the walls and inside the closets of girls her age. On the other side, were the girls who wanted to form a group like them. But only of women. “I got into mu-sic to be different, not because I focused on any woman,” says a restless and worried Clarisa. “All I heard were boys, effeminate, but men. There was only one group of women that I liked. They were called Vixen, which means ‘slut’ so imagine the environment. The youngest of three siblings, she listened to all kinds of music at home, always in-fluenced by the males of the household. “There is a biga ge difference between us. I listened to what they listened to.” When the youngest of the fam-ily decided to join her friends, without knowing how to pick up a guitar, her family underwent a transformation focusing on the new facet of the girl. Her older brother has been one of her big-gest fans since then:
–Why don’t we hear you on the Top 40, Clarisa?
–Oh, if only it were that easy!
These comments, sprinkled with innocence, created a singular idea of success. “When I played with Brown Cacas, we heard things that probably wouldn’t have happened if we had been men.” Since then, the problem was so global that it was difficult to be accepted in the industry. “We were tired of being ‘girlfriends of.’”
–Clarisa, listen, the Hinds are on the radio!
–What a coincidence!
The local waitress sings and dances “New For You,” a song from the latest album of The Girls From Madrid, the group of reference in the new wave. “I wish we had been able to do 1% of what they have done. At that time, with my first group, we could only use MySpace,” says Clarisa laugh-ing. The quartet has been ridiculed since its birth as “four women who do not know how to play.” Something similar happened here when The Brown Cacas emerged from some friends getting together without having even basic knowledge of how to play a guitar. “I think it’s good that they do whatever they want, that is positive discrimi-nation too, that the talent is highlighted, but you like whoever you like.” From the creation of The Brown Cacas to current groups like Hinds, a slow but positive evolution can be observed. Some-thing is changing. “I’m not a follower, but one day I read a comment on Facebook where some-one told them ‘less beers and more playing.’ One of them answered from her personal account ‘eat my pussy.’ It was a very good answer. Let them do what they want,” says the keyboardist.
The rise of feminism in Spain has captivated most women in recent years. Clarisa, from her restlessness, doubts the validity of her testimony in spite of her old profile, of which there are still superficial and visible remains of her vindicative point of view. Since the creation of Hi Corea!, she has been just another person in the group: carrying instruments, sleeping in hotels with her bandmates, contributing ideas. S he has never missed another women member at all. Nor has she received any discriminatory comments. She defines herself as a non-radical person. “I’ve nev-er done anything to protest the role of women in music. But, it’s true that we could have done more from the group,” she says.
Clarisa Guerra has decided to guide her ambitions according to her preferences at every moment. When she was a teenager, she lived the most rebellious phase of music. Now, instead, we meet another person, without apparent motiva-tion to protest. “I’ve always been very focused on music, but at the moment of pregnancy my mind has changed. Nobody has changed me. And now, I don’t want to go into a venue and go crazy, I want to go to yoga or swimming. Honestly, that’s what my body wants.” Two realities united in the same person who has achieved being free in mu-sic, guiding her path where she has wished.
It’s nine o’clock at night and fatigue can be seen in the face of the “practically Sevillian.” She’s too nice to admit or say it, but she needs to rest, go home and forget about music for a while, and continue with her work as director of Commu-nication in Commite Department Inc. She puts on her coat and leaves the glass of must half full. She returns along the same road, Arrayán Street, while remembering how she got this job, which now occupies her whole life. “I love the company where I work, they hired me when I was already pregnant and I thought, ‘dude, you are cool.’” She stops suddenly and points to a door at the same time as she takes the keys out of her backpack.
–I guess you’re staying here.
–Until they kick us out of the neighborhood. Have you seen how prices are going up?