5 bold and inspiring tracks for making every day International Women's Day

Amanda Parris has made you a mixtape, and it's all about the best Canadian women in the game.

Amanda Parris made you a mixtape, and it's all about the best Canadian women in the game

Horsepowar's "Queen" is on Amanda's IWD mixtape. Dare you not to dance. (Horsepowar/Facebook)

I'm old enough to remember listening to music on boom boxes, and before iTunes, Tidal and Spotify, we made mixtapes. Compiling them was one of my favourite things. I'd record a variety of songs onto a cassette tape, make a design on the paper insert and give it away to someone as a gift.

So in celebration of International Women's Day, which happened this week, this is my IWD mixtape. Traversing musical genres and gathering sonic inspirations from across the globe, this playlist illustrates the bold experimentation, political assertiveness and layered musical textures that female Canadian musicians are sharing with listeners.

The Sorority, "Ladies First"

On International Women's Day, The Sorority dropped the song and video for "Ladies Night." A tribute to the 1997 classic by Lil' Kim, Left Eye, Angie Martinez, Missy Elliott and Da Brat, the song is a '90s throwback celebration, but it's also an unapologetic call to arms that had me lifting my hands to the air on my first listen.

The Sorority is made up of Toronto rappers Haviah Mighty, Keysha Freshh, Lex Leosis and pHoenix Pagliacci, a collective who came together for an all-female rap cypher last year. And in 2017, they've pushed the collaboration further. This song delivers fiercely political bars, voicing their solidarity for Black Lives Matter and calling out the industry for the continued marginalization of their talent. Featuring cameos from Canadian hip-hop legends like Michie Mee, Eternia and DJ Mel Boogie, "Ladies Night" is also a salute to the women who paved the way for The Sorority.


Lido Pimienta, "La Capacidad"

Feminists taught the world that the personal is political, and Lido Pimienta's music is a haunting soundtrack to this premise.  

Rather than using her music to preach, the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist seduces listeners with her synth-pop sound, lacing contentious issues through hypnotic beats.

Born in Barranquilla, Colombia and now based in Toronto, Pimienta identifies as Afro-Colombian and Indigenous with Wayuu ancestry. Her music is a fusion of these various identities.

Her songs are inspired by issues such as water protection, but also experiences such as the end of her relationship with the father of her child. Her latest album, La Papessa (which translates to The High Priestess), is an epic personal journey that is inextricably political.


Han Han, "World Gong Crazy feat. DATU and Hataw"

An operating room nurse by day and a rapper by night, Han Han has people talking. The Filipina-Canadian musician combines her rhymes with funk, hip hop and tribal-gong music from the Philippines to create a fusion that sounds unlike anything else.

Rapping in Tagalog and Cebuano, I have no idea what she's saying, but her flow is so addictive that it hardly matters. Han provides no translation for us English-only speakers, unapologetically representing for her mother tongues.

Her music video for "World Gong Crazy" with DATU and Hataw is a visual stimulant. Packed with powerful imagery, it deservedly went viral last year and was nominated for Best Music Video at the Berlin Music Video Awards.


M.I.Blue, "Silver Kettles"

I stumbled onto the sound of Blues (a.k.a. M.I. Blue) while listening to Clairmont the Second's album Quest for Milk and Honey, and was immediately captivated by the raspy and hypnotic voice featured on his song "Temporary."  

An online hunt commenced, and I found her project Black Tea and Mint on Soundcloud. With lines like, "You taste like cigarettes and despair and you sound like shattered glasses and pointless love affairs," I fell in love.  

In an interview with the blog Mwami, Blue said that Black Tea and Mint is "a project meant to be listened to in an isolated environment with a spliff in one hand, a cup of tea in another."

Whether you follow her advice or not, listening to her sound — which flows through jazz, soul, hip hop and the blues — is definitely an experience. See her April 22 at Toronto's Music Gallery. She's part of Cosmic Soul, a show curated by 88 Days of Fortune.


Horsepowar, "Queen"

The first time I saw Vancouver-based rapper Horsepowar perform, she was up against a restless and highly distracted audience that had talked through the previous performers without a second thought. However, when it was her time to take the stage, she demanded attention from every single individual in the room — and she got it.

With undeniable charisma, playful yet passionate lyricism and Desi-inspired beats, Jasleen Powar (a.k.a. Horsepowar) makes music that you want to share with everyone who hasn't already heard it.

Horsepowar's obsession with Hindi films is the secret weapon in her music, as pulsating Bollywood samples thread through her rhythms. I dare you not to dance while listening.