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I Am Woman, Hear Me Groove

"Soul Sistaz" puts a new spin on the old boy's DJ/dance network

On the third Tuesday night of every month, a party goes down in Montrose. Well, to be honest, a party goes down in Montrose every time somebody shows up at a friend's house with a bottle of Boone's Farm and a Dirty Vegas CD, but this is a specific party put on by specific people. In Internet radio station Earthwire.net's makeshift performance space, a few ladies run a show that's more like a music- and refreshments-filled get-together.

"Post-Millennium Funk" (or PMFUNk, for those in the know), a weekly, DJ-fueled, hip-hop/dance romp, holds a monthly night called "Soul Sistaz," where female DJs and vocalists come down and provide vibrant, soulful and often improvised grooves. Friends and friends of friends and friends of friends' mamas show up to mingle, dance, support each other and get wasted off those bottles of Boone's Farm. "We're all just trying to promote the music, and we wanna put out, like, a Houston flavor -- and it's not all male," says Kathi "DJ Scout" Bond, the show's executive producer. "We've got many great female DJs and vocalists, and we all wanted to see them step up."

Last week, the night celebrated its ten-month anniversary with resident deckmaster Tanya "Soul Free" Pelt working the wheels. Vocalist Diva Karina hosted the affair and led a pack of guest singers through some impromptu riffs. "It's very embracing," says special-guest spin girl Gracie Chavez Cardenas. "It's also sort of like a family, living-room vibe here while you're playing. It's kinda nice for a change. You don't see a male MC holding the phallic symbol, spouting out his rhetoric."

This evening has became sort of a clubhouse for gals who make their cheddar in the underground dance game, but finding them is something of a search for Pelt. "I bring on female DJs that can hold it down, which are few and far between," says Soul Free.

Indeed, the pool of female DJs playing on a recurring basis in this town -- never a whole lot -- has recently become even shallower. Sista Stroke, the most visible female DJ around (see "Spin Sisters," February 8, 2001), flew off to Chicago not long ago. National stars like Dayhota and DJ Irene occasionally breeze into town for a gig at Hyperia (2001 Commerce), but the number of locals who regularly spin can be counted on one hand: Free, Chavez Cardenas, DJ Rocky B and Lushus Brown. (But then again, it's not just an issue of women DJs trying to stake their claim in a male-dominated field. With a club scene as fickle as ours has been recently, even male DJs are having trouble finding gigs.)

Chavez Cardenas -- who, by the way, will be opening for UK drum-'n-bass master John B on October 26 at the Axiom (2524 McKinney) -- agrees that deejaying is more competitive now than it was when she started two years ago. There's a vast network of local turntablists who play different genres of music, but not that many places to play. "If you don't have a residency now in town," says Chavez Cardenas, "you're playing in your bedroom again."

But Chavez Cardenas (who's married to fellow Houston spinster Chris "G-Wizz" Cardenas) admits she still has to contend with testosterone-filled rival record wreckers who feel her game is not up to code. "I've had other guys fiddle around with the mixers, thinking that I didn't know what I was doing," she says. "But you know what my satisfaction was? When he was leaving the decks and I was getting on, and he kinda fiddled with some stuff not thinking that I knew what I was doing. I kinda let it slide, because at the end of the night, I had the whole crowd rocking. And I looked over at him and I gave him a nice little wink."

"If deejaying is tougher [for women], I don't wanna see it and I don't," says Soul Free, who is more optimistic about the whole deal. "I don't wanna see it as a sex thing, man. It's there, but you gotta go on the sly on that shit. You can't say, 'Oh, he's just doing that because I'm a girl!' Fuck that shit! You won't win like that."

Recently, the eight-and-a-half-year veteran and card-carrying member of the Rebel Crew has purposely decided to "lay low" on playing many public gigs, concentrating more on completing her marketing degree at UH-Clear Lake. But with her monthly radio stint over at Earthwire, Free and her fellow sistas behind the decks hope to encourage other ladies to come out of their shells and become members of the wicky-wicky sisterhood. "I know there's some girl in a basement somewhere in this town -- scratching, fuckin' going behind her back, fuckin' it up," she says. "So she needs to come by."

Last Call

Well, Halloween's right around the corner, and you know what that means. That's right: It's pimp-and-prostitute ball time again! But while you're waiting for the second annual Pimps, Hoes, Vamps and Vixens Ball to go down on Halloween night over at Spy (112 Travis), you can rehearse your mack at the sixth annual Pimp-n-Prostitute Ball at the R&R Lounge (3512 Travis) October 26. If you attended both parties last year, you'll remember that the P&P Ball at the R&R is slightly milder than the all-out freak show that will likely occur at the Vamps and Vixens shindig. (We can only hope it'll be an all-out freak show again this year since it won't be happening at last year's venue, that now-shuttered temple of hedonism known as Prague.) But that doesn't mean you'll be disappointed by R&R's offing. How can it not be fun when white people act like characters from Shaftand Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song.

 
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