Our latest entry of On a Safer Scene is with Koji. Koji’s latest release Crooked in my Mind can be purchased here. We want to thank Koji for taking the time to contribute to this series and to promoting a safer and more inclusive music scene.
“It’s important to have the courage to speak your truth and the humility to listen with an open mind and heart.”
As a touring artist, have you ever noticed any behaviors that you consider harmful in the scene, especially in regards to harassment and/or discrimination?
Before I started touring, I was going to shows to see local and touring bands. There was a nazi skinhead presence at many of my first shows which was very scary as one of the only minorities in the central PA scene. As a touring musician, I’ve witnessed a great deal of discrimination based on gender, race, sexuality, class, religion, etc. Discrimination in music is a symptom of deeper systemic issues facing society.
What do you think needs to change specifically in order to help create a safer music scene for everyone?
Music is a mirror for how people are doing and sometimes what we see is distorted by the lens of consumerism and industry. The ugly parts of music come from a society that values material, power, status and leverage. We have to unlearn those toxic values and demonstrate leadership within our community.
Small gatherings are where we can begin to cultivate the sort of community relationships and powerful ideas that can impact the world outside of shows. It’s important to recognize that music can be a tool for change. The arts are still radical for that reason. Our voices have power and our differences make us beautiful, which is unfortunately what some are trying to suppress.
It’s easy for people to wear hatred, negativity, and cynicism when they’ve been hurt themselves. When we act out of a place of compassion, empathy, and love, we come to know those things as a source of strength. Being aware and spreading awareness of music and humanity’s powerful potential, is the best way to protect it and reach for it.
What role do you believe people should have in promoting a safer and more inclusive music scene?
Everyone can start by recognizing every participant at the show, no matter the role or responsibility, as being equal. Every single person is a whole-human, not a part in a machine.
It’s important to have the courage to speak your truth and the humility to listen with an open mind and heart. Our experience in music can be so much richer if we choose to truly value individuals and community. I think we’d have a healthier, more sustainable community shortly after everyone started asking themselves, “how can I serve the needs of the people who are right in front of me?”
The larger the show is, the more difficult it is to maintain a sense of safe space. The more people in the room who are educated on these concepts and techniques, the more successful the gathering will be.
This Berkeley Student Coop has a concise breakdown of safe space concepts/techniquess: https://www.bsc.coop/current-members/policies-resources/health-safety-2?id=128
Are there any places, scenes and/or venues that you’ve noticed to be a safe space? If so, what are they doing that should be emulated by others?
Safe spaces require a facilitator or facilitators and the cooperation of all the participants. It’s not a static sort of thing! With that said, there are amazing arts communities all over the world that are inclusive and positive!
Are there any particular bands, musicians, and/or organizations you believe are making an effort to help this cause?
Throughout music history, I think many artists have demonstrated a type of leadership that expands human rights and holds space for a very different conversation than that of the mainstream media.
I’ve been very inspired by bands like Fugazi or artists like Nina Simone or Pete Seeger. Most recently, I saw Foundation play their final Pennsylvania show and their empowering message of social justice, equality, and community was truly life giving.
Thanks again for your time. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’ve been deeply impacted by the tremendous good in our community and I am forever thankful for it.