Ife Samms: Female Musician Empowerment; Girl Band Power

Leading GBP (Girl Band Power) for the past few months has certainly been a handful. Throughout this time, I have wanted to invite my band members into the song writing process, and although it seemed difficult for them to grasp at first, I hope that this time together was an eye-opening experience for all of them. As this has been a project with the goal of female-musician empowerment in Japan, I hope that these young women were able to find encouragement in their art, and expansion in their views of their roles as band members. This intimate time making music with these four women has opened my eyes to not only the time that truly goes into leading a band, but the dedication and love that the challenge inspires.

While I was at Binghamton University, I lead as the vocalist and bassist of a funk band called the Funkophiles. This funk band was a different animal than the type of band Girl Band Power has been. Funk, as a branch off of jazz, is heavily motivated by improvisation from its members, making rehearsals quite easy and straightforward. However, GBP’s members are comprised of musicians who have not been exposed to improvisation or to songwriting in a band setting. Although this posed a challenge, I took this as an opportunity to expand my own individual part-writing and arranging abilities, outside of rehearsal time, in order that I might relieve pressure from GBP’s members to write their own parts. Language, too, was a challenge, as I was given the chance to use Japanese to explain musical concepts for the first time. I was surprised, though, that our band members would always speak to me politely; as the second oldest member and leader, I felt their respect through the language they used with me.

Due to challenges like these, Girl Band Power certainly has not been a walk in the park. As a member, I have taken on the roles of keeping in contact with members to plan rehearsal times, booking the studios, creating and sending song files for our original pieces, as well as creating and sending the files’ accompanying sheet music. This band has been a full-time job, and with school, it has been difficult to keep up. Thank God, I have somehow been able to stay on top of the band goings-ons (while promoting our April 17th first-and-last concert) and have been encouraged that although the challenge of this band has touched all of its members, it has pushed us to reach a new level of artistry as musicians, and a new level of perseverance and hope through it all. To see the dedication that musicians in both America and Japan bring to the table is not only a testament to the power and passion music inspires, but it also illustrates to me the universal nature of music—it can be shared across countries and cultures without losing its strength.

Those who read this post will most likely join a community already established in Kyoto; however, even to those who will experience a CIP in general, I believe that the notion of “perseverance and hope” is an important factor in learning all you can learn, and in seeing the positive end to something that, at times, can be very trying. I am very grateful for this opportunity to lead a girl band as my CIP (in Japan of all places), and I am thankful for all of the encouragement and support I have received from friends and teachers, alike. This has been a life-changing, life-inspiring experience I will never forget. From here on, I look forward to our April 17th concert; I am ready to put it all out there, have a wildly fun time, and take home what I have learned, using it as another propelling and motivating stepping stone in my future as a musician for God (Love).

One thought on “Ife Samms: Female Musician Empowerment; Girl Band Power

  1. I think the way in which you created and managed Girl Band Power is extremely impressive and inspiring. You mention the way in which music exists as a culture transcending entity, “the universal nature of music,” but I was wondering whether there were any major differences in the way Japanese and American artists approached their music.

    I look forward to your Friday concert.