It’s not news that the electronic music
world is male-dominated. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a festival lineup
that’s headliner isn’t Martin Garrix, Kygo, Calvin Harris, or David Guetta. And
these headliner spots are well-deserved, don’t get us wrong. But because these
guys already get to relish in fame and glory, we’re turning the spotlight to
We’re rolling out the red carpet for the women of electronic music. In a three-part series, we’ll pay homage to the women of electronic music past, shoutout the gals currently smashing the scene, and put a few up and coming ladies on your radar.
In the first part of this three-part series, we’re giving much-deserved credit to the musically-inclined women of the past whose efforts shaped the world of electronic music, paving the way for the female (and male) artists of today.
A pioneer of electronic music, Delia Derbyshire made epic strides in her field throughout the 1960s and 70s. Referred to as the “unsung heroine” of electronic music, Derbyshire made most of her musical magic in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It’s there that she composed sounds and songs for over 200 radio and television programs, her most famous being the ‘Doctor Who’ theme song. With BBC colleague Peter Zinozieff, Derbyshire founded Unit Delta Plus, an organization to create and promote electronic music. Her work creating music was extremely laborious, recording her own sounds and people’s voices on tape, then meticulously slicing, looping, and creating these otherworldly and ethereal songs that were groundbreaking for the time.
A synthesizer sensation, Wendy Carlos was a force to be reckoned with in the late 60s and onwards. She’s best known for her work in film, scoring Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. She also scored Disney’s Tron. She gained most of her notoriety in 1968 when she released the studio album Switched on Bach on which she performed Bach pieces on a Moog synthesizer. This work landed her three Grammy awards. Having met Robert Moog during her years at Columbia, she became instrumental in the development of the Moog synthesizer, an early version of the electronic equipment that is still used by the masses today. In 2005, Carlos won a Lifetime Achievement award from the Society of Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States “in recognition of lifetime achievement and contribution to the art and craft of electro-acoustic music”.
All hail Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco. This woman redefined the dancefloor during the late 70s. Her hit “I Feel Love” gave birth to a new kind of electronic dance music. Donna Summer and her producer Giorgio Moroder proved to be an unstoppable pair, dishing out hit after hit. Summer has received five Grammy Awards, 6 American Music Awards, sold over 100 million records worldwide, has had 42 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in 2016, she was recognized by Billboard as the 6th most influential dance artist of all time.
Björk is one of the most unique and innovative songwriters and musicians. Her eclectic style draws influence from all genres of music, blending them all seamlessly. She filled the 90s with her orchestral instrumentals, industrial sounds, and electronic sound effects. Her journey in music started from the young age of 11 and she has since sung in rock bands and had an illustrious solo career during which she continuously topped charts. Her quirky personality and daring style have been influential in the club scene.
M.I.A. hit the 2000s like a ton of bricks. Her in-your-face political and rebellious dance anthems were more than just fun beats to dance to. M.I.A. recorded her own demo tapes with singles “Lady Killa” and “Galang” that she then uploaded to MySpace. It’s there she was discovered and signed to XL Recordings. She was an underground sensation. She sung about major issues but gave them a killer dance track. She’s hip hop, she’s dancehall, reggae, electro, jungle, and world music. She has collaborated with the best in the biz (most famously Diplo). Her middle-fingers-up attitude broke stereotypes and has been an inspiration for women and artists worldwide.
Stay on the lookout for part two of our Femme EDM: Women of Electronic Music series.