María José Llergo wins the Noise Award;  Zahara appeals to #MeToo in music

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María José Llergo wins the Noise Award; Zahara appeals to #MeToo in music

The Noise Prize, awarded by the music press – the few that remain and who also bother to vote – celebrated its 9th edition this Thursday at the Sala Salvaora Brown in Madrid. The old Polana – Chueca plenary session – was the scene of this event, finally starring women. The production was modest and this time only one band performed: the one that would win but was cleverly hidden. On other occasions, several groups were able to have their 10 minutes of exhibition. But we already know that music is not the oven for buns. And nowhere less in the press.

The good thing is that the “petit committee” format allowed more important things to be talked about than in other events that seem marked by self-censorship, good vibes or brands.

If on other occasions the Noise Award was awarded to Rosalía (2 times, the 1st of them she got to perform, Sala El Sol), Triángulo de Amor Bizarro (2 times), Niño de Elche, Derby Motoreta’s Burrito Kachimba, Maria Arnal i Marcel Bagès and Rocío Márquez and Bronquio, this 9th edition went to María José Llergo for ‘Ultrabelleza’. She was not the only nominee to attend, Tulsa, Havalina or Xoel López were also there, but Llergo’s set was prepared for her to perform 5 songs after collecting the award. A bit like Arcade Fire’s year at the Grammys. “I don’t usually wear a tuxedo, but I wore it for the occasion,” the winner escaped. Neither the rest of the nominees nor the journalists who voted knew it was going to be.

In her acceptance speech María José Llergo, who accepted the award from Rocío Márquez y Zahara, had some words for the women who have influenced her and for the composition and production work of women in the studio: «I would not be collecting the prize if you had not paved the way with your career, your struggle and your example. You are references for me. I’m about to cry. This award symbolizes more than an industry award. It’s a battle. That I am winning this award symbolizes that women have a space. That we are heard. And we are not heard for having a beautiful voice that sings what others write. We are heard because we have a beautiful voice that sings what we feel like saying. To form my voice I have had to first listen to that of many others before. Many others who were not lucky enough to be awarded as I have been here today.

He especially praised the qualities as a producer of Zahara, who had been chosen to present the gala to the 12 nominees. With her notes on a stand, she had special words of affection for Havalina’s farewell, for women without references due to ageism through the album that Tulsa has made, or for María José Llergo’s album, in which she collaborate. Appealing to Björk’s historic words about machismo in the assumption of credits, Zahara wondered if she had to put a camera in the studio to demonstrate her qualities.

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There were more interesting reflections in his speech, despite the jumble of background noise (the music press meets rarely and there was a lot to comment on). Zahara recalled that those of us who were there were there “despite the industry” and for the love of art. He proposed that journalists and artists walk together because we are “the most precarious” of the entire chain. He thanked the press for being the ones who finish turning the songs “into cultural fabric.” But above all he celebrated that a single award was given without subcategories, which has made it difficult to break down genres. And he was excited by the variety of the nominees, who on some occasions could have fit “into 5 different genres.” “You couldn’t do this before,” she recalled, perhaps when she was pigeonholed as a singer-songwriter, or worse, “girl with a guitar.”

He also took two steps forward to approach the pit and ask for investigative work in music on #MeToo like the one that the newspaper El País has carried out for months around Carlos Vermut. The author of ‘PUTA’ began by criticizing that 44% of men feel that “they have come too far in promoting equality and now feel discriminated against.” «They call us whores for having an active sexual life. Or they call us whores and that’s it. The most viewed videos on porn sites are gang rapes. In 2022, 2,870 rapes were reported in Spain. One rape every 3 hours. We are only talking about those reported. “You have no idea how many violations are happening right now and will never see the light.”

And he continued: «I take advantage of this scenario to ask two things of the journalists who are here today. Cases like Vermouth in the cinema, now everyone knows it, but this is no exception. I ask you to please investigate and help bring to light the amount of abuse that has been committed in this industry. But the second thing I ask of you is that you don’t ask us women. Women are fed up. We have had enough to have suffered those abuses. It’s time to ask the men the questions. Those men who were also there, watching a dressing room door close, knowing what was happening inside and saying nothing. “The #MeToo of music would be wonderful if it started with men saying: ‘I was there too and I didn’t say anything.'” His words were received with applause from those in attendance, at that moment finally in stony silence.

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The Noise Prize also has to deal with more mundane, although achievable, objectives: establishing itself and having credibility in the sector itself and then transferring it to the public. Last night we missed quite a few reference points for everyone. On the one hand, the PAM has to improve its advocacy, institutional and internal communication work. Tomás Mayo, from the Board of Directors, recalled in his speech that many of those who started in Periodistas Asociados por la Música as music journalists no longer even work due to the precariousness in the sector and the absence of media. They have gone over to the other side, essentially that of promotion or management.

The artistic direction of an award for which many do not remember to vote can also be improved. The award to Llergo is well deserved and each nominee had their reason for being, but the absences have been very notable. Ralphie Choo -after appearing in the international press- and Sen Senra were not nominated despite dominating the specialized lists (but then who voted?). Representatives of jazz, metal, urban music or electronic music are also missed. Jota revisiting the Zulueta catalogue, with the collaboration of Aramburu, will be studied in museums. Bogotá is burning, without exactly being a saint of my devotion, they had to be there because it has been their year. A nomination for Aitana would have brought visibility to the award: let’s call it strategy. Lola Indigo? Belén Aguilera? If Quevedo’s album – the most popular in Spain of 2023 – seems so bad to us, maybe we can nominate Morad instead? To Soto Asa? To Espineli? One of Zahara’s demands also went along those lines: “we must listen to the youth and shake up structures.” Let’s solve all this, let’s finally be the Mercury or the Premios Feroz; Let’s survive like this.

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Simon Müller

Simon Müller is the driving force behind UMusic, embodying a lifelong passion for all things melodious. Born and raised in New York, his love for music took form at an early age and fueled his journey from an avid music enthusiast to the founder of a leading music-centered website. Simon's diverse musical tastes and intrinsic understanding of acoustic elements offer a unique perspective to the UMusic community. Sporting a dedicated commitment to aural enrichment and hearing health, his vision extends beyond just delivering news - he aspires to create a network of informed, appreciative music lovers. Spend a moment in Mueller's company, and you'd find his passion infectious – music isn’t simply his job, it’s his heartbeat.