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PARISIAN indie-rock songwriter Solange Moffi has been playing guitar since her teens and she’s been known to her family as Madame So since the age of two. Now it’s the name of her band.
Her music, she says, is “punky” and influenced by icons like Madonna, PJ Harvey and Debbie Harry as well as indie-rock bands like The Lemonheads. Besides her big love of indie, she’s influenced by jazz and “anything unexpected,” with folk singer Liz Phair her heroine.
“I don’t like music to be perfect,” she says, “So when it comes to jazz, my favourite singer is Billie Holiday. It’s all about the emotion.”
Solange’s studies brought her to London but she found she was having “too much fun” partying in Camden, meeting musicians and seeing how they worked and this soon informed her decision to play professionally.
She’d already been writing prolifically but, seeing three-chord wonders earning prestigious support slots, she felt spurred on.
This was around 2010 – up to that point, she lacked belief that she could become a musician and so writing about music was the next best thing.
“I play guitar,” she says, “and some people are uncomfortable that I’m black, look the way I do and make the music I do.
“If I looked like Debbie Harry, with blond hair and red lipstick, they would be at ease with it.”
It was a struggle to form a band and she became frustrated at the “flaky musicians” she encountered who only ever wished to recreate their favourite groups. “I never met like-minded people,” she says.
“So I came to the conclusion that I am a solo songwriter with a band.”
Unafraid of tackling injustice and stereotyping head-on, Solange is partial to the “killer lyric.”
The rip-off nature of the music biz comes under fire on her song Sell-by Date and on another number she challenges stereotyping close to home.
“Her folks think she is demented/Her folks think she’s been abducted/By the white white white noise,” is her take on being a black woman listening to white music.
Last year, Madame So was hailed by music collective Loud Women as a great discovery and the girl-gang, feminist ethos of many of the bands in its stable are lauded by Solange.
“Women are really underrepresented in music. But we’re musicians in our own right,” she says and she values the platform that Loud Women gives.
“Women and girls need to play instruments,” she stresses, “write really good songs and get to stadium level.”
Her song Black is Beautiful appeared on a recent Loud Women compilation CD. On the song’s video, she sports a T-shirt with the words Angry Black Woman because, as a woman, “you are entitled to be angry and, if you’re black, you have many more reasons to be angry.
“If you’re both, you shouldn’t have to apologise. Some people are scared of your sensibility and how it’s transmitted sometimes but that’s their problem.
“That’s what I like in the punk aesthetic and the power of words. I don’t mind using my words as weapons sometimes to make people uncomfortable. We really need to take it to another level.
“The enemy with a dick will want it to stay underground forever. I don’t want that.”
- Madame So appears with comic Simon Munnery and legendary punk poet Attila the Stockbroker at a fundraiser for the Morning Star on May 13 at The Constitution pub, 42 St Pancras Way, London NW1. Tickets, £10/£5 unwaged on the door or phone (020) 8510-0815 to pre-book.
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