What’s a ‘girl band’ anyway?

Belua took to the stage for the first time a year ago, a momentum which eventually led to the release of their first single at the beginning of the month. The song, ‘Change’ is just one of the tunes that audiences will have the opportunity to hear live at the Fengaros Festival’s village stage on Friday evening.

The presence of four dynamic women on the stage captivates the audience’s attention for the emphasis on the music they produce – as opposed to their appearance – oozes artistic determination and infinite potential. Seeing four female musicians on stage is somewhat exceptional, yet to their eyes that’s not the essence: it’s a type of attention they have no control over.

“We don’t like the concept of the ‘girl band’; it doesn’t even make any sense. What’s a girl band anyway? Is it a genre? Is it a specific sound? Is it a look? What is it?” demands band member Mikaela Tsangari.

Admittedly, “there’s a different sensitivity when you have four women in a room rather than four men, so maybe that’s what the vibe is holding onto but musically I don’t want people to describe us as a ‘girl band’ because I believe it’s completely irrelevant to the music,” she adds.

Complementing this notion, their dissimilar nature, both musically and professionally appears to be key to their collective identity, both on stage and musically, while the coincidental nature of their coming together could reveal the easy-go-lucky approach to where they’re heading.

Having rehearsed together for just a month before their first appearance at the 2014 Fengaros Festival, band guitarist and vocalist Mikaela Tsangari deems the group’s meeting as “a karmic one”.

Karmic combination

“Me and Zara [Der Arakelian – lead singer] were supposed to perform on our own at the festival, and then by this karmic meet-up, Marianna [Moumtzi – drums] came by the studio and listened to one of the tracks. She liked it and the next day she came to rehearsal… the next night I found Afroditi [Nicolaou – bassist] and asked her if she wanted to come, the next day she came to the rehearsal… it was a five-day thing, we jammed, and we’ve been playing together ever since,” says Tsangari.

As a result of their collective dedication, in just a year, the group has played four prominent gigs in Nicosia, Larnaca and Limassol, created 16 original songs, and recorded their first single, ‘Change’.

Defining their music is somewhat ambiguous, as Tsangari says, their songs are a result of all their combined influences which is perhaps what makes them unique. “What brings us together is our sound, and although the production side is a mutual effort, there always needs to be someone who takes the lead, who initiates… you can’t have four different opinions being dominant all the time, you need one person to say this is good or this is bad and take things in one direction – not four.

“Because I have experience in production and recording, the girls trust me and they like the result… they accept my guidance, but for most of the things we play, each of us comes up with it separately,” says Tsangari.

Defining them as a pop-rock band may be adequate, yet Tsangari is hesitant to put a tag to their work. “(Our genre) kind of varies from one song to the next, especially depending on who wrote it… our sound is pretty set, it’s only one guitar, one bass, one drum and two voices and we don’t really do much with effects and different sounds within the band so it always sounds consistent…
“You get the really bluesy ones [songs], the really stoner ones, you get the really pop ones,” reveals Tsangari.

“As a band, we’re influenced by each person’s influences and these all come together; that’s why the mix is so strange, all four of us have an input and all four of us carry different influences, so it comes together as this really weird mix of simple music.”

And as far as what their songs are essentially about (a process which is predominantly undertaken by Tsangari and Der Arakelian), it’s ‘circumstantial drama’ that inspires.

“We’re not going to claim that most songs have really deep-set lyrics, but we also use the music to bring out what we really want to say,” says Tsangari.

Referring to the opening line of their single, ‘Change’ for example, “it came up from watching [TV show] House of Cards, and Kevin Spacey said something. I heard it and wrote it down and then went to the studio and wrote the song: it just came out.”

“The nature of a promise is that it stays immune to change,” say the lyrics of ‘Change’.

Tsangari sees the single as 2’56” of solid proof that they have something in hand.

“I think the result is lovely, what we have going between us is working and we should keep it up,” she adds, as she reveals that they are working towards releasing a full album by January 2016.
“Not wanting to be called a ‘girl band’ or not wanting to sound feminine, we’re proof that you can have four ladies work on something on their own and succeed,” she concludes.

Belua will be playing this evening at the Fengaros Festival’s Village Stage at 8pm in Kato Drys village.

***Published in the Cyprus Weekly

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About Melissa Hekkers

I am freelance journalist and author, who has frequently been featured in mainstream news outlets and other publications in Cyprus. Recently, I've been focusing on developing my writing, promoting my own books and teaching creative writing to children and adults. My most recent publication (2020) - Amir's Blue Elephant- pushes the boundaries of creative non-fiction, and recreates the moments that marked me the most, whilst volunteering in refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece, and during her ongoing involvement with the refugee community in Cyprus. In 2018 I published My Capre Greco Mandala which is the third in a series, an interactive colouring book about the biodiversity of the Cape Greco peninsula in Cyprus. My Akamas Mandala, the second in the series, is a colouring book inspired by the variety of endemic plants found on the Akamas Peninsula. In 2016, I published My Nicosia Mandala, the first of the above series, an innovative, interactive colouring book about the historic fortifications of the old town of Nicosia. I also focuses on silenced communities in Cyprus: I writes about migrants and refugees, both as a reporter and a features writer; I profile them and teach them creative writing skills. In 2007, soon after graduating with a Communications degree, I published my first children’s book in both English and Greek entitled Crocodile, which won the Cyprus State Illustration Award. In 2012, I launched my second children’s book Flying across Red Skies (in English and Greek), using an experimental approach to literature, for which I was nominated for the Cyprus State Literary award. My third, similarly well-received children’s book was Pupa (Greek and English), published in 2014. In between the last two books, I published my first free-verse poetry book entitled Come-forth. In 2019 she was contributing author to the anthology Nicosia Beyond Barriers: Voices from a Divided City, published by Saqi Books, London