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Fem Belling on getting rid of music genres

Chapel Summer Sessions is about to host the thought-provoking Fem Belling, a jazz musician with a killer voice making music for the ‘now’ generation.

Belling is presenting her show Kon Shes – a group of five friends emphasising the talent of female artists and teaching their audience about a socially conscious movement.

“I wanted to make music that made people conscious of their choices and their decisions,” Belling says. “I wanted to celebrate the female performer, while also contributing to a larger socially conscious voice. The band comprises of 80% women and I called it Kon Shes to alert people and make them think more about women in music.”

Kon Shes is not a feminist rant – it’s designed to make you groove while also opening up your mind to a range of different social issues affecting the world today.

“The show has more of a cool groovy funk jazz vibe, there’s some original music in there that touches on things that we should be thinking about,” Belling says. “I think we need to think about our planet; we’re concerned with who likes who and who doesn’t like who, what’s being represented and what’s not being represented, whose land this is – but we may not even have our land if we don’t start taking care of our planet.

“There’s small things we can do that will lead to big changes. We just have to start thinking that it’s not an attack on us as humans, it’s just something we have to do as humans.”

Belling also wants to elevate Australia’s jazz scene beyond restrictive genre labels of genre for wider appeal. 

“I feel like jazz is not something we should let get dusty and leave it on the shelf –  jazz is whatever is happening now and I want to contribute to that as much I can,” she says. 

“I’ve landed up in the jazz world in Australia and I love it so much, however I really want to make music for everyone. I don’t just want to be a niche market – my music is something I want everyone to be part of. 

“A lot of people when they hear that I sing or play jazz, they’re like ‘jazz is not really my thing,’ and then they listen and they go ‘oh my god, this is fantastic.’ I wonder if we stop putting labels on music, whether more people would be more excited by what we do.

“This is how I see it – people have different styles of fashion, they don’t wake up everyday and put the exact same thing on. So therefore when I sing, I don’t sing in the exact same kind of genre. Some days my music veers towards feeling like this and some days it’s more of a party feel, and some days it’s a little mainstream. I think by saying ‘I am a jazz singer’ – it just stops me from wearing all these fabulous outfits.” 

Belling also wants to tour the world and represent Australia on an international level. While she has already been to a lot of places, she really wants to go to Japan someday. 

“I would love to go to Japan and play at one of their festivals, because I know the people there are just mad about jazz. I also really want to represent Australia on an international stage and take in all these cultures and perform with all musicians from other cultures. 

“This is where it’s at: this is the new world where we can travel, where we can go, where we can be. My goals are to never stop creating music, but I also want to show the rest of the world what Australia has to offer.”

Fem Belling presents Kon Shes at Chapel off Chapel on Sunday February 17. Tickets via the venue website.