This month in this column we begin a real important issue within our Great Rock’n’Roll Culture. Yes folks, we’re gonna focus on all aspects related to Women in Rock’n’Roll. If you are a regular reader of this column, you will already know about the Marshmallows, a fantastic Moscow-based group who are big names on the music scene over here. They comprise three beautiful, charismatic and talented young women, who perform authentic 1950s rock’n’roll.I sat down with two of them, Yulia Chugueva and Masha Nosova, to get their take on what it’s like to be a woman in the Rock’n’Roll World. This month it’s the turn of Masha; next month, Yulia. So, over to you Masha.
Have I encountered any difficulties precisely because I am a woman ? No difficulties at all ! The opposite even – there’s only been positives. Not many men can get out of a fix by playing the foolish-girl card.The historical female rock’n’roll figure who has had the most influence on me is Wanda Jackson, probably. To begin with, because she was one of the first female rock’n’rollers that I got to listen to and second because the way that she performs and her timbre are just impossible to forget. She seems to have been one of the first women to prove herself worthy of the big rock’n’roll stage.
Historically there haven’t been many female figures in Russian rock’n’roll, therefore not many that we can admire as forerunners. You could count them on your fingers. Plus they were all attached to male bands. It’s a cliché for us in Russia, but Zhanna Aguzarova for sure was a real forerunner (the lead singer of the Russian group Bravo in the 1980s and 90s). Zhanna, because she’s a heavenly creation with a fantastic charisma and a voice capable of everything; to make you cry, laugh and dance.
I got into rock and roll six years ago, when Yulia invited me to sing for the Marshmallows. Yes, there was a problem – I had never been part of a group where the main driving force was Girls (same goes for the choir where Yulia and I would sing). Previously, I had only really worked in mixed groups; that was a good experience, especially with regard to learning how to reach an agreement. I would say that I have more of a “male” character to me; don’t like gossiping, scheming and withholding my thoughts, which can be characteristic of female groups !
The most notable event for me in my rockin’ career is that I became a part of rock’n’roll history. I would have never thought that this is what I’d be doing. I mean, it’s a dream come true! Each concert is an important event for me. It doesn’t matter if I’m singing the same song for the hundredth time, I’ll still sing it from the heart and I’ll sing it the best I possibly can. The first concert was especially memorable. I mean, I got to go on stage with my idols! I, some girl with no formal music education, was teaming up with the stars to sing my favourite songs! It was something incredible.
There’s millions of fun stories from my rock’n’roll career as a woman. For example, you’ll never hear a man tell you a story about how he forgot his stockings or shoes at home. Once – I’ll never forget this as I’m very ashamed – I forgot about the concert and would only learn about it half an hour after it had already started, while with a student. My friend had to rush over with my concert outfit, while I had to rush over to the shoe store. It was only once I arrived at the venue that I realised that I had bought two different shoes. At least they were the same shade! Then there was another time, when I was in such a hurry that I didn’t even notice how I had failed to take off a sock before getting into my shoes and going up on stage that way. And no one even told me that I was wearing one sock! Not even the girls – there again we have female friendships!
I have never felt myself harassed in any way in the course of my rock’n’roll life because of my being a woman. Not at all. I realise that I might be less knowledgeable and skilled than some people, but I can’t remember any time when our rock’n’rollers said to me, “You’re a woman – what do you know!” I would have remembered something like that. It’s important without a doubt to have the support of the other female members of the Marshmallows. If we don’t support and look after one another, then how will we exist as a group? No one is holding on to the illusion that we’re “friends forever”. But just imagine that you arrive somewhere to work towards a common goal, but find that everybody there couldn’t care less about you and that you’re just there to perform your function? I really doubt that anyone would enjoy that, man or woman. And in the female universe, the exchange of positive energy between women is an absolute must.
My biggest female rock’n’roll heroes of all time ? I’ve already mentioned Wanda Jackson. My all-time favourite rock’n’roll song performed by a woman is Wanda’s “Rip It Up”. Let’s add Imelda May too, as I really like her vocals as well as her path to success. Same for Janis Martin too, no doubt! Bunny Paul, Brenda Lee and Jackie DeShannon. All women are heroines, but those who have conquered the rock’n’roll stage are just without equal.
I am optimistic about the future of women in Russian rock’n’roll. Of course. I mean, we’re part of that future! And there’ll be more women, that’s for sure !
I know there are still a very small number of men who believe rock’n’roll is man’s music and that the people who perform true rock’n’roll should be men. Well, a hundred years ago nobody could imagine a woman becoming president or going into space. Women can do anything. That’s a fact, not something you can choose to agree with or not agree with. If they don’t like the way that women perform, that’s another thing, but those who say that rock’n’roll is man’s music are still stuck in the Stone Age. While they’re at it, why not say that jazz is black people’s music?
Outside of rock’n’roll, I really like studying languages. Trying now to learn to play the ukulele. I dance from time to time; a little bit of everything.