Women’s Music Festival Empowers and Enlightens

Women’s Music Festival Empowers and Enlightens
Amazon Festival

Photo By Kirk Lanier
Members of Big Bad Gina, Jori Costello, Renée Janski and Melodie Griffis.

By Terrah Baker

Big Bad Gina is anchored in women’s music festivals, especially since their success at the national festival in Kansas City, Mo., winning the overall competition; Followed by two national headlined tours, a spot at women’s festivals in Michigan, Iowa and Ohio and Pride festivals across the country. They perform at them, attend and most importantly, believe in their importance.

While the Amazon Music Festival, to be held April 12 in Fayetteville, is open to all music lovers, it is an opportunity to hear women’s voices, stories and experiences, the band and organizers Big Bad Gina said. The emphasis is on providing a platform to hear inspiring music from established and independent female artists.

“The performers are hand-picked for their commitment to social change, environmental activism, messages of love and acceptance, women’s rights and an all-around globally-aware consciousness,” Big Bad Gina members said. “With the state of the nation and world in general, we need strong voices, we need change and we need open minds and hearts that include all people and all beings. And of course, we want to have a great time!”

How it Began

When band member Renee Janski (Ethno-Amazon vocals, gypsy fiddle, and keyboard kinesthetics) was planning her 40th birthday party along with Melodie Griffis (silky soprano voice, bass and guitars) and Jori Costello (singer/songbird, guitar and percussion) it evolved into a festival, because of the large and loyal friends and fanbase the group has gained through their many music and social ventures.

“There were so many musician friends that we wanted to work with that evening, so we gave everyone a set. We began by calling it the Amazon Mini Music Festival; However, we dropped the ‘mini’ when we saw how quickly it grew and how quickly it sold out in its first year,” the group said.

With what they saw as the perfect backdrop and host site, they began the first women’s music festival in Fayetteville. They brought on the crew, called in artists from around the country and invited the audience.

2014 Festival

After the first Amazon festival was a sell-out, the women knew it was just what the area needed, and felt comfortable growing the event. This year, the Amazon Music Festival will be at its biggest yet, and organizer Big Bad Gina is pulling out all the stops to put their event on the map. With the help of their community of musicians and friends, they’ve been able to bring in national acts like Holly Near and Emma’s Revolution, among many others.

Near is one of the big highlights at this year’s show, the women said, because she hasn’t been to Fayetteville since the 1980s, and is highly regarded in the musical and activism worlds.

“She’s a pioneer in the women’s music industry. She is one of our foremothers that kicked down doors and cleared a path so that other women artists like Big Bad Gina could thrive in this business,” the band said.

A highlight for drummers and drum lovers is a workshop with Drum Elder, Wahru Cleveland, who has a “fun, easy approach to learning complicated traditional rhythms.” She will also touch on drum jams, and when and how to jam in a freestyle group setting.

The venue of the festival also changed with the growth, to the GuestHouse International Inn and Suites in Fayetteville.

Plans for future Amazon Music Festivals are on the back burner, the women said, but they plan to work hard to keep it going because “Arkansas deserves a women’s music festival and Fayetteville is the perfect community to host it.”

For more information on the festival, or to purchase your own tickets, visit www.bigbadgina.com/amazon-fest.

Also Coming Up

Big Bad Gine came together as a trio while recording an album for the Goddess Festival, held in Fayetteville each year, celebrating women’s empowerment and the equalizing of the feminine and masculine energy in the world (www.goddessfestival.com). They immediately cliqued in both musical styles and personalities.

“We combine our musical backgrounds to create a sound that is ‘genre-hoppin’, folkin’, rockin’,” the women said.

On March 22 they’ll hold their five year anniversary at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Fayetteville, starting with a potluck at 6 p.m. and a show at 7 p.m. ($10 at the door.)

Win Your Tickets!

The Free Weekly has partnered with the Amazon Music Festival to offer one lucky reader the chance to attend with a friend for free! Just send your favorite female musician and/or activist along with your name and contact information to editorfreekly@gmail.com or 479-387-8794 by March 4. Winner announced March 7.


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