Eastern European songs, Turkish psychedelia, Greek melodies: Ladies on Records does not only bring back old tunes, but also helps us hear things beneath the songs that have stayed hidden until now.
I found one of the mixes of Kornelia Binicewicz on a Sunday morning, featuring hits of famous Hungarian musicians Kati Kovács and Sarolta Zalatnay, too. After hearing these, I simply had to look her up and it turned out Kornelia is a DJ and music festival curator from Kraków – now lives on a turkish island close to Istanbul – who studied cultural anthropology and who researches the female musicians of the sixties, seventies and eighties in her main project. This Eastern European retro mix was also a part of this, but Kornelia’s mixes also include the songs of Turkish, Greek and Middle Eastern culture, and her repertoire keeps expanding. Interview.
You started your DJ career as a cultural anthropologist. How did this exciting shift take place?
It started in quite a naïve and funny way: I began to perform with 3 of my friends (musicians), who also loved strange, forgotten, cheesy, underestimated music recorded on vinyl back in the sixties and seventies. We created a DJ quartet called Easy Cheesy and made pretty obscure and unpredictable vinyl parties in Poland. That was the very beginning. After a while, it turned out that I was chasing for the music created mostly by women. That is how I established Ladies on Records – a record collecting project focusing on female music from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.
How do you think people think about female artists and musicians in general? Have you experienced any misconceptions or stereotypes?
Female singers in all the music genres are usually loved and immensely admired, but very often in a shallow way. They are also objectified and treated as a decoration and crowd-pleasers. Their messages are rarely heard and not treated seriously. Pop music, no matter where it is from, is a reality of pleasure and uncomplicated emotions. But does that mean that those artists didn’t have their political views, social traumas, or were exposed to cultural obstacles? The goal of Ladies on Records is to dig into music and life stories, searching for hidden or unspoken issues. It also highlights the new music created and performed by women all around the world.
Where does your interest in female musicians come from? What do you think your source of inspiration was?
I always had a kind of inclination towards music created and performed by women. I perceived it as empowering and inspiring. I have been collecting records of female singers and musicians unconsciously, I guess. I was coming back from any digging sessions with a pile of records, of which 70 percent were always the ones presenting female music. It came to me naturally. I was encouraged to focus on women’s music after seeing Sheila Burgel – a record collector from the USA. I admired her massive collection of ’60s girl-pop and her female pop knowledge from the past decades. I felt like I had a soul sister out there. I decided to shape my unconscious fascination into something more organized. That is how I established Ladies on Records in 2015. I created Ladies on Records to push myself into further digging and musical travels to discover beautiful female voices.
That is why the first and the most in-depth project I worked on was “Turkish Ladies.” I could not find enough records and explore the music staying in Europe. I needed to go to Turkey and dive into the reality of music and culture to explore, understand, and share with others. This is my goal with Ladies on Records exactly, and I would like to explore female music from all corners of the world: the Middle East, Africa, Mediterranean Region, Eastern Europe…
You must have encountered a lot of exciting stories in the course of your research.
Music and stories are interconnected for me. Behind every song, there is an artist who has a story to tell. The story is not only hers. It is a story of the world she represents, the cultural and social universe she is coming from. Meeting the artists and listening to their stories, their testimonies are among the most rewarding elements of my work. I am trying to see what they see, listen to the music as they do, and look back at their lives with their memories and mindset. That is a real journey.
What future do you envision for Ladies and Records?
I believe that Ladies on Records’ mission is to bring some balance in the music industry worldwide. I want to raise awareness about the cultural and social limitations and prejudices women faced and still face in the creative industries. But also empower women nowadays and support their efforts to fight for justice, equality, and recognition.
Compilations, released on vinyl are still the most beautiful results of my work. I hope to curate more of them. But I also focus on music curation in a world of digital music, storytelling, curated mixes, vinyl sessions, DJ sets. I want Ladies on Records to grow as a curatorial enterprise and as a platform supporting women in their struggles.