Queers Make Music
Edited by Ste McCabe, March 2011, Manchester
Interview with Zorras by Ste McCabe
Zorras are a multi-national performance/poetry/music/megaphone band based in Edinburgh. They have a whole lot of passion and integrity, and a live show like nothing else.
1. Where do you come from? Who are you? Where are you going?
A Venezuelan, an Argentine and a Canadian meet in Scotland and form a poetry-music-video fusion band. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, no?
Sandra Alland was born in Scarborough, Canada, to Scottish and French-Canadian parents. Y Josephine is a mixed-race Venezuelan from La Guaira, but is also rumoured to occasionally possess a mysterious and shiny Belgian passport. Ariadna Battich was born in Argentina and is of Italian ancestry – she hardly mentions the Italians, so we suspect a bloodline of anarchists.
Zorras are caped crusaders who have been fighting to protect decency in Scotland since 2007. Not that kind of decency. Sandra writes poems and stories, and plays both the micro- and mega-phones. Y composes, sings and plays guitar, electric bass, cajón and other bizarre percussion. Ariadna works with Sandra to make slides and films for Zorras’ performances; she also stage manages and makes sure we don’t wander off into the hills unattended.
We have no idea where we’re going. Visas keep getting in the way, and – despite our combined shitload of supposedly privileged nationalities – Kafka-esque things keep happening and Home Offices only acknowledge our non-privileged nationalities. All we know for sure is that we can legally get to Manchester, so we’re playing there in April.
In the more figurative sense of where we’re headed, we’re working on a new CD and show.
2. Tell us a bit about your musical background.
Sandra has grade 8 classical piano, but sucks at playing. She also played clarinet and tenor saxophone at school; she failed miserably at that, too. This is why she is a writer. Luckily, having mastered music theory, she can count.
Ariadna studied classical music for over five years, played the piano, gave a few (bad) concerts, tried the violin… and eventually decided to dedicate herself to visual arts. She still holds the dubious title of “music teacher”.
Y was a regional rock star in Venezuela, where she mainly sang. Since leaving South America, Y has sung, composed and played percussion in bands in Aruba, Spain and the UK. She is especially known for her voice and her ridiculous skill on the cajón (a box-like drum that originated in Peru and is also used for Flamenco in Spain). She has never properly studied anything, anywhere.
3. Why do Zorras make music?
Originally Sandra and Y made music to flirt with each other. But seriously. We make art because we’re compelled to; it’s like a reflex, an instinct. We also make art to counteract the assholes who harass us every time we leave our flat – and to help other people overcome shit in their lives. Art is one of the best defenses against apathy and despair: at its best it makes people laugh, think, and maybe even hope for change. Oh yeah, and we do it for the money.
4. You run very brilliant nights in Edinburgh called Cachín Cachán Cachunga! Tell us about the ethos of the night and why you feel events like yours are important.
Edinburgh is not as pretty as the postcards suggest, especially if you’re queer, trans, brown-skinned, disabled and/or a migrant. Who knew? So yeah, we started Cachín Cachán Cachunga! (with dancer Lily and filmmaker Ania Urbanowska) because there are several “gay” bars in Edinburgh, but there’s nothing much in terms of arts events. Trans people, migrants, and disabled and working class people don’t always feel welcome in Edinburgh’s gay bars, either.
So our focus is on creating community and a safe, accessible space. But it’s also on the art. We wanted to nurture trans and queer filmmakers, writers, dancers, burlesque and drag acts, musicians. Too often our queeps don’t get the same chances for developing and showcasing their work, simply because of prejudice. So we wanted to offer a space where they could try things out, experiment – the only way to get better at your practice.
In Edinburgh there’s just us and the lovely Queer Mutiny folks, who formed around the same time. Neither group has funding, but we’re both dedicated to creating affordable, accessible shows and social events for queer and trans people – in a hostile city. On a very basic level, these kinds of nights are important because they give our communities the energy to keep on fighting.
5. Tell us a Zorras moment that sticks with you.
We played in Glasgow and the band that invited us (bless their wee souls) promised us a “fee”, which turned out to be 10 quid between three of us. Our train fare was £25. We were super-broke, selling our furniture on GumTree etc. But us being us (and Ariadna being in the toilet), we spent our 10 quid on beer. But by the time we were paid it was time to run for the last train to Edinburgh, so we shoved our hard-earned two lousy cans of beer in our pockets and ran for it.
Well. Some jerk security card had read up really intently on the recent (and stupid) changes in Scottish drinking laws, which include no drinking in the streets. (The public hadn’t even been told yet, seriously.) So she decided to stop Y and demand her beer (for some reason, Sandra and her white skin were allowed to pass by without problem). Y calmly proposed drinking the beer before leaving, but the woman loudly chastised her as if she were a child and took away her beer because she “tried to sneak it out!”
The (big fucking company’s) producer, who had just told us how AMAZING we were, was standing right there and did nothing to defend someone who had just artistically kicked ass in her establishment. Unknown to Sandra and Ariadna, Y was humiliated, and perhaps more importantly, deprived of her beer. We went back home thinking, “Well, that fucking sucked. We will never work there again, and all because of that over-eager security guard with the fake tan.”
The next day the producer invited us back, as if nothing had happened. Maybe it hadn’t? We told her we were on tour, just in case.
6. Life is beautiful? (we don't like simple yes or no answers!)
Y really loved that film, but Sandra thinks it’s rather questionable to make a romantic comedy about the holocaust.
7. Do you identify as a queer band? Do you think this is a positive or negative description?
We’re most definitely a queer band. We’re a queer crip black-and-white North-and-South-American multilingual multisexual migrant Scottish geek feminist trans-loving class-hating gender-confused arepa-eating fighting machine. Ahem, band.
8. What does the future hold for Zorras?
This is our favourite question. It’s the question we ask the Tarot cards every night. In the next month the future is offering us a Cachín Cachán Cachunga! on 2 April with Glasgow’s punk trio Scragfight, Canadian poet & filmmaker RM Vaughan, London poet Anna Le, American drag legend Diane Torr, and Canadian-Pakistani filmmaker Sharlene Bamboat. And we get to play Manchester 8 April at Debt Records Presents. After that, your guess is as good as ours.
Contact Ste McCabe http://www.ste-mccabe.co.uk/
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