Of the 139 performers playing Movement Electronic Music Festival this year, a mere eight are women. This may not come as a surprise to many, and, of course, it's shitty that this isn't surprising. There is no lack of female electronic music performers out there — Grimes, Anna Lunoe, Ikonika, Inga Copeland, Lauren Flax, and Laurel Halo come to mind, and each of those artists are prolific and perform regularly to packed crowds. As the festival has grown and the millennial P.L.U.R. crowd gets younger and more receptive, Movement's selection of dudes plus also more dudes does look a bit outdated.
Thankfully, two local DJs — Marissa Guzman and Gabi — are featured this year. Both are adept behind the decks, more so than most in the business. Gabi is a resident DJ for Paxahau, and Guzman has attained a following of fans that reaches as far as South Africa.
Six years ago, Guzman quit her lucrative marketing career at Johnson & Johnson (where she was paid six figures) to pursue her lifelong goal of creating music full-time. She made the decision after experiencing a moment of clarity during a spiritual retreat in San Francisco. Her father, Eddie Guzman from the Motown group Rare Earth, had been her inspiration to play music when she was a teenager. But after his death when she was 17, Guzman's mother encouraged her to go to school instead.
"I went to college at Wayne State even though I wanted to do music," says Guzman, who's been singing since she was 7. "I'll never forget sitting in the waiting room of a counselor's office, seeing a Rolling Stone issue that listed the 100 greatest musicians … (I knew) I had to do music." And over a decade later, she would follow through. A friend in San Francisco taught her how to use Ableton software to craft her own music sets. After that, she began playing in clubs. By the end of 2011, she was ready to release her debut, Joy Road (Juicy Lucy), a collection that mixes soulful vocals with rhythms that recall the best of early 1990s house music.
On a remix from producer Pirannahead for her song "Magic Door," an infamous conga beat from Rare Earth's "Happy Song" is featured prominently. "It was a daddy-daughter collaboration, even though he's in heaven," she says. But releasing the album was a struggle. "Every guy in the business wants to fuck you, and every woman can attest to this. I started my own record label (Juicy Lucy) when no one would put out my music because I wouldn't sleep with them."
Guzman has gone on to perform for over 15,000 people in South Africa at Africa Rising with renowned DJ Black Coffee. The concert was made into a DVD, which won Best Dance Album at the 2013 South African Music Awards. The experience was a moving one for Guzman, who's donated 50 percent of Joy Road's proceeds to NextAid, a charity that helped women and children in Africa. She also founded the organization ArtBeat, which supports the local creative arts community.
Guzman's heart, beats, and voice propel Detroit forward in all the right places. She shouldn't be overlooked among the bigger acts at this year's festival. In addition to performing her own live set, she'll be singing with Kerri Chandler on Saturday.
Gabriele Schwarz, who performs as Gabi, dips into the grooves of deep house, a slinky meditative throb that lifts you up high and then gently brings you down. Gabi has mastered that fine art of balancing a crowd by knowing when to push them and when to reel them back in. The self-taught DJ found herself touring all over the world in the last year as a resident Paxahau DJ. After her successful first Movement gig last year, she is in demand.
Schwarz remembers her first pitfalls in joining the business: "I would say 'yes' to everything, I would play for free when I shouldn't have." Today, armed with a manager and the power of Paxahau behind her, Gabi is able to control the reins of what could be her second career. "I have a full-time job," she says. "I'm a social worker." Gabi works for the Wayne County foster system, taking care of children and teenagers who've been led astray by circumstance and parental misgivings. "My teens are really inspiring," she says of her work, although "it's only a few times a year there is a happy ending (to a case.)"
Gabi typically has four or five Paxahau gigs a month to keep her musical momentum moving forward. In the case of her second appearance at Movement, "I didn't even know I would be performing until the lineup came out." She believes it's her choice of music that sets her apart from the rest. "That soul (I play) is sexier and softer."
Gabi's music is a welcome reprieve from the skittering, frantic sounds of techno you'll hear at so much of the fest. The same can be said for Guzman's music. Unfortunately, they're scheduled to perform at the same time on Sunday afternoon. We suggest you flip a coin, as either way, you'll have a blast.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.